'I speak many languages, all English, but African-American is my mother tongue. It is a constant, as loyal as my face, invisible to me without the aid of a mirror. In this case the mirror is history, both personal and public.'
– Bill T. Jones, Last Night on Earth
Bill T. Jones a powerful presence in the international contemporary dance world who has transcended aesthetic and political compromises, turning the act of making theatre into a pure voyage of experience.
A unique and trans-discursive figure, Jones has consistently challenged the choreographic process as well as the process of thinking about dance, by questioning the impulse to create art in the context of the society in which he lives – a society nourished by its own history, literature, consciousness, amnesias, and mistakes. His identity as a dancer-choreographer cannot be separated from his importance as an experimental storyteller and eloquent, often critical public figure.
In her analysis of the notion of style, Susan Sontag suggested that will is an important element of the double essence of the work of art, which is simultaneously an object and a function, an artifice and a living example of our consciousness, an individual creation and a historical phenomenon. Over the years, Jones has managed to give material existence to this will through his work, rendering it visible and accessible to the public, maintaining the audience’s interest through his storytelling, historical inquiring, choreographic articulation but also, to use Sontag’s language, through the 'intensity, authority, and wisdom of his will'.
For the first fifteen years of his career as a dancer and choreographer, Jones is Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane. In this case, the and stands for much more than a simple conjunction; it represents a robust bridge where exchange of ideas, cultural influences, as well as shared artistic explorations and practices took place. When the two artists founded the Bill T. Jones / Arnie Zane Dance Company in 1982, they extended their choreographic adventure to collaborations with other artists. Dancers were, and still are, selected as citizens of a diverse, almost utopian society, as well as for their talents and training.
Since the early 1990s, Jones has embarked onto an ambitious and distinct multi-layered dance-theater adventure. In doing so, he has created some of the most powerful, written-about, and highly praised theatrical works.