Against Silence

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In Jones’ works after Zane’s death, dance becomes a vehicle to navigate the process of mourning by re-enacting his story of loss, again and again, experimenting with different choreographic strategies, and new narrative forms. In those works such as Absence (1989), and D-Man in the Waters (1989), Jones explores concepts such as pain, anger, loss and fear of mortality with choreographic agency.

Jones’ solo Last Night on Earth (1992), relies on modes of accumulation and repetition used in the past. His dancing, expansive and lyrical, alternates with more graphic gestures, drawing on his own body almost a memory map with his index finger, pointing out to his mouth, eyes, genitals – repeating “It’s not my enemy.” The sentence applies to his body, sexuality as well as to his memory, exorcising his fears but most importantly, reasserting himself into the public sphere as someone active and vital, sexually desirable. 


But it is with Still/Here (1994) that through his 'sociological imagination', Jones manages to translate a collection of individual stories by creating an intersubjective space, and positioning them into a wider historical context. Still/Here, by moving the experience of loss from the private onto the public sphere was able to provide an empowering, counter-narrative to that proposed by the dominant homophobic culture of those years. 

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In 1992 Jones conducted The Survival Workshops, involving a wide group of volunteers confronting illness. Movement became the central axis of the project: the space where negotiations between thought and emotions, the present and the remote future, could occur. The workshops, seeking to recirculate the physical vitality that illnesses tend to erase, documented by video artist Gretchen Bender, were transformed for the stage through a montage. Fragments from the more detailed narrations were extrapolated and repeated to evoke empathy. The video documentary, like the workshops, used movement as a substitutive instrument to facilitate the inability to coherently verbalize hardship. The deconstruction of gestures, shared by the participants which became unsentimentally formal in the dancers’ hand, was still powerfully touching. 

The dance critic of The New Yorker, Arlene Croce’s unethical choice of writing an article on Still/Here while refusing to see the performance, unleashed a storm of controversy turning Still/Here into a scandal, that paradoxically helped position dance in a more central site of culture discourse.