Jones, Bill T.
(William Tass Jones), 1952–, American dancer and choreographer, b. Bunnell, Fla. A gay African American who has experienced dual prejudices, he has often brilliantly transformed his anger and autobiography into dance. He early became known for highly confrontational, sexually and racially charged dances that obliterated boundaries between the public and private. He and Arnie Zane were life and dance partners from 1971 until Zane died of AIDS (1988), and Jones has continued to direct the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company (est. 1982). Since the late 1980s Jones, who is HIV-positive, has taken mourning and mortality as themes, as in Absence
(1989), Last Night on Earth
(1992), and his best-known work, Still/Here
(1994), a multimedia exploration of death, dying, and survival. Later work, which also reaches beyond dance's traditional parameters, includes The Breathing Show
(2000), a solo piece that includes music, speech, and film; the multilayered Reading, Mercy and the Artificial Nigger
(2003), an ensemble work based on a story by Flannery O'Connor; Blind Date
(2005), with segments that explore war, urban poverty, and repressive sexual mores; and Chapel/Chapter
(2006), a powerful interpretation of three contemporary stories, two involving murder, that reflect his social and moral concerns. He has also directed opera and theater, e.g., the modern-dance show Serenade/The Proposition
about Abraham Lincoln and the Broadway musical Fela!
about the father of afrobeat music (both: 2009). In 2011 Jones's company merged with Dance Theater Workshop to form New York Live Arts; Jones became executive artistic director of the new organization.
See his memoir, Last Night on Earth (1995).
See his memoir (with P. Gillespie), Last Night on Earth (1995).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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