Jones, Bill T.
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).
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Jones, Bill T.(1952– ) choreographer, dancer; born in Steuben County, N.Y., or Bunnell, Florida. He is the son of migrant farmers and sources differ on his place of birth. He attended the State University of New York: Binghamton (1970–72), where he studied dance. By 1973 he cofounded, with Arnie Zane, Lois Welk and Jill Becker, the American Dance Asylum. He and his companion and dancing partner, Arnie Zane, formed the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane & Company (1982), and created many coproductions, such as History of Collage (1988). After Zane died of AIDS (1988), Jones continued to create controversial and acclaimed dance works, notably Last Supper at Uncle Tom's Cabin/The Promised Land (1991). In addition to choreographing and dancing with his permanent company, he did some teaching, writing, and opera-directing as well as fundraising to keep his company alive.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.