Florida State University’s School of Dance faculty member and Urban Bush Women Artistic Director, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar recently had the pleasure of being involved in award winning artist, Taylor Mac‘s, newest performance, 24-Decade History of Popular Music. Zollar had the opportunity to choreograph around 30 numbers for the back up singers, including the Tiny Tim’s number with the help of School of Dance’s Visiting Assistant Professor, Loren Davidson. Zollar even had the enjoyment of performing in this amazing experience, as she danced in a swing number around 4:30AM!
Working with Taylor Mac was a life changing experience. His team of Co-Director Niegel Smith, Music Arranger Matt Ray (arrangements for 246 songs), Costume Designer Machine Dazzle, MacArthur winning Set Designer Mimi Lien, and Pomegranate Arts Producer Linda Brumbach and Production Stage Manager Jason Kaiser (on rollerskates at 7:00am for the disco scene) where leading the magic along with 150 performers including a marching band, puppets, burlesque dancers, acrobats…created a space of spectacle, politics and beauty for all of us to examine our humanity and the courage to face a world we urgently want to make better. I am forever changed!
– Jawole Willa Jo Zollar
Taylor Mac’s performance was, “21½ hours and two centuries’ worth of singing, dancing, and jiggling”. It included 246 songs, which spanned over 240 years. The performance had various different numbers which included a swampy rendition of “Amazing Grace” and a production of “The Mikado” that glowed in the dark to a funeral procession for Judy Garland’s corpse.
An entire day of all that prowess, energy and virtuosity would have been astounding. But Mr. Mac is also a devastatingly intelligent artist of conflation. Spending 24 hours filtering 240 years of predominantly American music — battle hymns, black spirituals, war ballads, minstrel tunes, works songs, Tin Pan Alley, Broadway musicals, Motown, Top 40 and lesbian-feminist punk done up in Afro-beat, the blues and Laurie Anderson sci-fi — through the prerogatives of a drag show is daring.
The 24-Decade project was, at least in part, about becoming who we Americans want to be, by recognizing who we have been. It’s about artistic confrontation, reinterpretation and personal transcendence. The scope of the project allows you to consider the centuries of artistic ghosts we live with. (Mr. Mac’s tagline was “radical faerie realness ritual.”)
But the show, which was co-presented by Pomegranate Arts, got its power from Mr. Mac’s larger, subjective moral force. He keeps most of the decades humming with queerness and problematized whiteness, inventing characters and ghosts in his stories to dramatize the issues of the day. Early on, he made a stirring case for the British homophobia of “Yankee Doodle,” and lets you think its standing as an American staple is an early example of American re-appropriation
View the full article on The New York Times website.