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How Alicia Moore Spent Her Spring Break

March 31, 2022

Alicia Moore will be graduating from the University of Washington this spring with a double major in dance and mathematics. Although her primary passion is the former, Alicia felt that dance alone was not a good enough reason to attend University — there are other options, after all, if that’s all you want to do. She asked herself, what could only a university teach her — and math was the answer. “I love figuring things out,” Alicia says. “Seeing the pieces come together.”

When Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company brought their latest work, What Problem? to Seattle in March, Alicia had the unusual opportunity to see pieces come together on a stage instead of a blackboard. As a requirement for her dance degree, she needed “crew experience” — i.e., working backstage — so she asked Meany Center Technical Director Tom Burke if she could volunteer to work on a show. He hired her — with pay! — to help with the pre-hang and tear down of What Problem?.

Alicia had also applied to be part of the community cast for the same show — but she realized that the rehearsal and tech schedules didn’t overlap, so if she were chosen, she’d be able to do both.

And that’s how Alicia came to spend her entire spring break both on stage and backstage at Meany Center.

On the first day of rehearsals, she finished her crew shift and immediately went to meet the Company dancers and the 28 other community members who were joining the cast. “It was really exciting,” Alicia remembers. “A community of strangers who didn’t really care for each other at that point.”

One of the first parts they practiced is a section of What Problem? that involves the entire cast moving around the stage lowering and then lifting one another to and from the floor. Alicia recalls on that first day that one of the community members was left lying on the floor the entire time while the rest of the cast just kept walking by. Finally, one of the Company members pointed this out that this person had been left behind. “It was like nobody wanted to be the first person to help someone else,” Alicia said.

Another section of the piece required community and Company dancers to surround Bill T. Jones on stage and “mill” around him as they pushed across the stage. Though it is supposed to look chaotic, it actually requires the group to be acutely aware of each individual’s movements and trajectories. On their first few attempts, the community members seemed to be working against each other. Some elbowed their way to the center; others tried to avoid the scrum and ended up forced to the periphery; instead of threading their way through and past each other, they ended up stuck in a ball of struggling bodies. Eventually, the group had to find a balance between following their personal pathways while making room for others to do the same.

The highlight of the experience for Alicia was working with Bill T. Jones. “What a legend!” she says.

What she particularly admires about Jones is that he knows how to challenge and when to give love. “He really respected the community cast members. He understood that the non-dancers were just as passionate about their performance as the professionals. They just needed a little push.” And both his praise and his critiques were always for the group. “He never called out individuals.”

After the final performance on Saturday night, Alicia went immediately from center stage to backstage, helping to strike the set she had so recently performed on. How does she think about the experience?        

“It was terrifying,” she says. “But I’m glad I did it. It really made me appreciate how vulnerable Bill T. Jones allows himself to be every day to do this kind of work.”