Bill T. Jones Celebrates the Joy of Oliver Sacks

A multimedia tribute to the polymath Awakenings author

Uchizono will also perform her 1999 piece State of Heads, reworked for a quartet. "We're changing some of it to emphasize the Sacksian characteristics, the things he talks about. My physical vocabulary lends itself to those ideas." She drew inspiration from a comment from one of Sacks's patients, who had a habit of stopping dead while traveling across a room: "It's not as simple as it looks. I don't just come to a halt; I'm still going, but now I have run out of space to move in. . . . "

Other dance elements in the festival include a ballet score by Tobias Picker, played by the Orchestra of St. Luke's, accompanying a solo dance performance by Daniel Hay-Gordon choreographed by Aletta Collins, and a panel called "Minding the Dancing Body," at which philosophers Colin McGinn and Alva Noë will discuss the intellectual foundations of dance with Jones and choreographer Miguel Gutierrez.

Sacks, says Weschler, "turned out to be extremely important in the revolution that happened at Gallaudet [the country's leading university serving deaf and hard-of-hearing students] 25 years ago, when they tried to hire a president who didn't speak American Sign Language: Oliver chronicled that for The New York Review of Books." So Weschler has programmed Harold Pinter's play A Kind of Alaska to be performed on April 20 and 21. Based on Sacks's work, it appears in two versions: the Atlantic Theater Company production with actors who speak, directed by Karen Kohlhaas, and another rendered entirely in ASL, directed by Kim Weild. "If you're going to do a sign-language version of the Pinter play, you have to translate it. I didn't want supertitles: the audience of hearing people should be able to focus on how beautiful the sign language is."

Festival sessions run five full days, and include panels on weight lifting, exercise, and long-distance swimming (all Sacks passions); disembodiedness; musicophilia and music therapy; ferns, cycads, and cephalopods (he was an old-fashioned botanist); chemistry (his original intellectual playground); stereoscopy; writing; neurology; and the Tourette's, Parkinson's, and deaf communities, all of which regard him as a hero. Plans are also afoot to live-stream keynote sessions at newyorklivearts.org, and all of them will be recorded.

Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, through April 7, Joyce Theater, 175 Eighth Avenue, joyce.org

Live Ideas: The Worlds of Oliver Sacks, April 17–21, New York Live Arts, 219 West 19th Street, newyorklivearts.org/liveideas

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