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. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . called no mean, which is still in existence in Chicago. It was a sort of your basic utopian idea of everything's possible from the beginning, except the hard realities of fundraising sort of made it very tense those first couple of years. And I was quite young and I didn't last that long with that because I was eager to dance and do a lot of different things. So I started my own studio and did performance. Every since I was 19 or actually 18, I was choreographing.
So it was always a part of what I was doing. Dancing and choreographing was the same for me. So I started my own studio and that lasted about a year. And then I felt I just needed to go to New York where there was a lot more opportunity to meet people, to work with other people, to meet just a lot of different people in the dance world and have exposure to people who had been working for many years and had been successful at it and learn as much as I could about it. So in 76, I moved to New York and was going to, had in mind just to study with Merce Cunningham and various other teachers there that I was interested in and continue choreographing and try to keep a small company going or try to start a small company in New York. But what happened was that I joined Merce Cunningham's company and stayed with him for about three years
and we traveled all over Europe and Canada, US and it was quite a major experience for me. I eventually left his company and started again with doing my choreography and with a small group of dancers. This was in 1980. So for the last six years, it's been just trying to pull together dancers when I can to create new work and tour. He obviously enjoys it immensely and must be very talented in the area since he seems to be making lots of progress. I have mixed feelings about what it means for him
is in his life. I know that a dancer moves around a lot. It would be very difficult to have any kind of a family life. He travels extensively. His life is very un-rutinized, so to speak. So that was a concern about whether or not he could ever have a, quote, normal sort of life. But that doesn't seem to be a problem with him. So we're happy about it as far as he's concerned. I don't have any problems with him being a dancer. I'm proud of the fact that he does well. So life is 10.45, right? I was changing the 10.25, and they all get in.
They've got so many kids at that school. This is the age boys. I'll sort of take 15 minutes for them to come in. Oh, OK. So we can still be warming up or something. Yes, I thought that obviously. Now I'd like to introduce to you Jim South. Thank you. Like Lou said, I'm Jim South. And these are my dancers that we're going to be working with today, and you're going to get to watch. Let me explain a little bit what exactly we're doing and what you're going to see. This is a dance company, and that means that we travel all over the world, all over the United States, and perform very much like what we're going to do today and tomorrow night. Everyone lives in New York City. And that's where our home base is. But we didn't all come from there. I came from Alabama. I used to live here in Tuscaloosa. And Dennis here comes from Oklahoma.
And Emily comes from Brooklyn. She grew up in New York. Patrick comes from where it's upstate New York. And Annette comes from Pennsylvania. And Denise comes from Boston. So it's people from all over the country. Right now, the dancers are warming up. And to make a long story short, and reason why I think it's important to come back to Alabama is to bring back what I know, to a situation where there may be, you know, a couple of kids in the same position that I was in, who didn't know what there was available, simply because there wasn't enough around to give them a flavor of what it could be. So I felt like I had a kind of obligation to do that, to try and spread my knowledge a little bit, and a place where I felt like it was needed.
And not to force it, or be a missionary, that's not really my interest. I just want people who have always supported me, my friends, my family, and other ways to understand what I've been doing for the last 10 years, in far away places, in Europe, in France, and Italy, and New York. Well, it was just different, you know, from a lot of things that you do see in dancing, and I enjoyed it a lot. It's hard work, I know, because it's hard for me to go to one class a week, so I can understand what it's like to go to one class every day, but I think it's neat. They didn't need the music, they just kept on, you know,
it's like they know what they're doing, you know. Well, part of the residents seem part of being here and is going into the schools and trying to bring some sense to the students at an early age of what it's like to be a dancer, what it's like to live that kind of life. And part of the things, one of the things we do is explain what we do, what the difference between our kind of dance and, say, modern ballet dance, or jazz or tap, or all the different disciplines of dance there are,
and the thing that most people can relate to is what they see on TV, which is generally the kind of jazzy thing, or street dance, or disco dance, or even classical dance. Now, actually, by now everybody's seen pretty much everything, but the difference of what we're doing is, it's kind of a blend of all of those disciplines into a more contemporary form, which includes, you know, a pedestrian kind of movements, expanded into dance movements, so you might see a jogger next to someone leaping. And I think that's important to get to bring the students in to point out that kind of difference, that something that they do every day, like walking down the street, or gesturing to a friend, or shaking hands, or something very simple that they might do, is part of vocabulary that becomes an art form. I thought it was good because they were moving.
At first, no, I thought it was going to be so slow because they started out that way, and then real close to the end, they went so fast or I was going to really keep up with them. These are fraternities. This fraternity room, these are all fraternities. University is a big fraternity sorority. It's a big social scene here. This is where everyone comes to get married. To meet their future husbands and wives. And learn football. Most dancers, in fact, don't support themselves solely from dancing, and that's just a fact of life. In fact, a lot of people in the company that I have now have to wait tables or teach kids, or do computer work, anything secretarial work,
anything that they can do to get some extra money so that they can spend their time rehearsing and dancing. Yeah, I have to work at a computer company, which is a real drag, and it's very boring. And it's hard because you have to rehearse all day long, and a lot of times when we're rehearsing with two or three people at one time and taking class. It's real tiring. And then to go work at night on top of it. But there's just not a lot of money and dancing in this kind of dancing. And you just have to do something to supplement. And New York is so expensive to live in. And then when I was 16, I was just in the right place at the right time, and I got asked to audition for fame, and I auditioned, and I got a part. It's a dancer, and I worked with Louis Falco, who choreographed the film.
And it was a lot of fun, and it really opened me up to a whole other way of dancing, a whole other kind of performing. It was hard because doing film, you have to do things over and over again. But it was a lot of fun. And it was also a lot of fun to get paid. A lot of money. It's such a young age. But I think the kind of dedication that dancers have is what keeps them going. They just love to do it, and the more they do it, the more they love it. So they're willing to have a less affluent lifestyle. Coming to New York, it's just difficult to just dance and waitress and dance and waitress. And after a while, you begin to feel you need to develop other parts of your life. And so I took on a teaching job about five, five, six years ago. It was part time, but it took up a lot of my time and energy,
and it took me a little bit away from dance for a while, but once I got used to it, it really ultimately helped me, my dancing. I've always been able to find a way to earn my living and dance at the same time. But it takes a lot of work. Coming up on the left is the President's Mansion, which is survived from the Civil Wars. The University was burned during the Civil War. And the President's wife went to the... I forgot who the general was. Went and begged him not to burn the President's Mansion. It was one of only three books. Three books left on campus. One of the students asked today if this was...
if we did pieces that had sets, and they were asking about the costumes and that sort of thing. And I didn't really go into it very much, but often, in fact, we do do works that have more elaborate sets and that are less strictly dance, but more sort of theatrical collaborations, where the set and the props and the costume become information. For instance, a movie and a ballet that I worked on with a designer named Frank Moore. It's called Beehive. And the costumes are... are these very stylized elegant sort of B outfits with this yellow B hat and B eyes and yellow and black fur pants. It's sort of very stylish cocktail,
Beehive outfit. And there's no way you can not be seen as a B. And the whole ballet has that feeling about it. It's very colorful and very, sort of wild and vibrant in that sense. And that's fun to do because there's no confusion about it. There's no confusion of everything in the performance, the set, the costume, the music, the dance, every gesture, informs one view from one idea, which is all these people, bees, acting out their life. It's like just accepting the fact that these creatures live in this way and walk this way and behave in this way. And so what we wanted to do was create something that had no recognizable naturalism in it. It was a totally created, man-made, artificial environment from top to bottom, from side to side frame. So every shot was set up very, very carefully.
Sometimes we would take eight hours to set up one shot with lighting and get the movement down. But the shot was only 20 seconds long. And then we'd have to go through the whole same process the next day to get the next shot, which was 10 seconds long. And then they'd cut back and forth. And it was shot out of sequence. So we did the end of the movie first and the first of the movie in the beginning and the middle. And so it's all mixed up and cut together. And that whole process took from beginning to end about two years because of my schedule, I kept touring, having to go away on tour. And financially, it was just impossible to go straight through because of making a film like that was incredibly expensive. I was in a lot of competitions where dance aligns.
There's a lot of dance aligns. But they're performing now on the good last spot. Where they're performing now. Tallahassee. Tallahassee. What we're planning to do here, this Saturday night, is three works that I've just premiered in New York and they're called the Mozart pieces because they're set to do Mozart symphonies. Three symphonies, short symphonies. One is 20 minutes long, one is eight minutes, which is a solo that I'll be doing. And one is half an hour long. So it's a lot of Mozart, but it's nice. And it's a good length. But anyway, what I was trying to do in that work, it's the first time I've really done in a big way,
worked with classical music. The work I've done in the past has been much more contemporary, using contemporary composers, and a more contemporary vocabulary, as opposed to a classical vocabulary, although there certainly are classical influences in it. The thing that interests me about Mozart is that he's so timely. He's always present. It's always something that people relate to, and it's very high-energy music. And it's so clear mathematically and structurally that it's something you can relate to always. I feel, and to create a work or works that are about now, the 20th century, that's working with an 18th century voice, it's like a collaborating with the past. But the way we did it,
like the way we fleshed out the detail of it, and how we felt about it, what we could do with the interaction between us, if that was what we did. It's a pretty unusual dance style. It does involve a lot of different kinds of training, but after a while it starts to feel very comfortable and make a lot of sense. One of the really wonderful things about working with Jim is that it's made for you, and what it was made for us. The works themselves, the three pieces, the subtitled Urban Glance, which is about kind of going through an urban situation, people going fast, moving slow, and it's sort of like you see them in the way that you would like traveling in a car, say. You sort of see something happen, you know, we're here and you see something happen,
and you just sort of get enough information to see that there's a charged situation, but you don't really get enough information to know exactly what's happening. So it's like people passing on the street, and you sort of wonder a little bit about this story, or you see someone standing, thinking, and you sort of make your own story about what they're thinking about. So it's like glancing, just sort of going across the surface of a lot of different subjects. The other piece is called Between Lives, and it's a solo, and it's sort of a cartoony work where I play like the frightened child, the angry father, and the scolding mother, and the sort of pretentious teacher, and the lost child, and all, it's sort of a schizophrenic dance, where this character keeps changing for a moment to moment. But overall feeling, I think, is to show the complexity of everyone's personality,
which is at any moment you go into one of those sort of archetypal characters, roles, but it's done in a sort of cartoony way, which I don't know why I do that, but it just seems to get it out very strongly, very clearly. The last piece is much more classical. It's called Pastoral, and it's really just about youth, and there's like a heavy character, which is an older character, dressed in black, and then there's two young couples who are sort of outplaying, just running and dancing and jumping and playing, and this character, heavy character, keeps sort of coming in and putting a damper on the situation, and then it's this lighter character, a woman character who's much more sort of gracious and graceful,
and sort of always is giving permission to dance, to sort of be light, and be what you want. So it's like a bit of attention there, and then finally, she brings him around in some way to sort of see that, sort of a subtext going on, but basically it's a pretext for dancing, and it does have a more of a classical field in the other work. I think that every dancer, when they get to be around 30, goes through a kind of difficult period, your body changes, your whole outlook on life changes, and you have to start thinking about, well, do you want to keep this sort of gypsy life going, or do I want to try to settle down, and do something else, or do I want to keep dancing? And recently I sort of went through something like that, where if I had continued working the way I was working, the way I was working my body, I wouldn't have lasted very much longer. I had to completely rethink what I was doing,
and change that, so that I could continue. And that took several months of really hard concentration, and serious personal research with my own body of how to keep going. And I think, you know, I probably had to do that in a couple of years, again, just to go through that, and decide if I want to keep doing it. Good night. Thank you. Thank you for all your help. I like your aid somewhere, and I can travel somewhere.
I have to add out now. Thank you.
Jim Self Comes Home
Producing Organization
University of Alabama Center for Public Television and Radio
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WQED (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
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Program Description
Jim Self, originally from Alabama, comes home to visit from New York to perform at the University of Alabama theater production. He brings with him several of his fellow dancers and colleagues and shows them around Tuscaloosa and the University.
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Editor: Holt, Tony
Editor: Sandige, Jon
Producer: Connell, Bill
Producing Organization: University of Alabama Center for Public Television and Radio
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Identifier: cpb-aacip-73297aa702d (Filename)
Format: Betacam: SP
Duration: 00:05:30:25
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Chicago: “Jim Self Comes Home,” 1986-07-24, WQED, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 16, 2024,
MLA: “Jim Self Comes Home.” 1986-07-24. WQED, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 16, 2024. <>.
APA: Jim Self Comes Home. Boston, MA: WQED, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from