A Broad Way
Jones’ debut choreography on Broadway, for which he was awarded a Tony and Obie, for the musical Spring Awakening (2006) brought virtuous and rebellious energy to a popular audience. But it is with both Fela! (2010) and We Shall not Be Moved (2017) that Jones’ theatrical vision bends two more conventional genres with long lasting impact.
Fela! reflects on the journey of self-discovery and political radicalization of the iconic and controversial Nigerian musician Fela Kuti, the creator of Afrobeat. By telling Fela’s story, how he was highly influenced by his contact with black musical traditions and the Black Panthers during his trip to America in the 1960s, Jones creates a powerful source of self-discovery for audiences by connecting them to the historical richness of African-American music and political movements.
In 2017, Jones directed We Shall Not Be Moved, an opera written by Marc Bamuthi Joseph and composed by Daniel Bernard Roumain. We Shall Not Be Moved is a theatrical fantasy which imagines a future for the five children murdered in Philadelphia in 1985 by the police in the aerial bombing of the Move (a black liberation movement group founded in 1972 by John Africa). Under Jones’ direction, the creative team completely re-imagines and actualizes what is possible within opera, and invites the question of what kinds of radical re-imaginings and transformations are still necessary to finally end the consistent horror of police brutality against African Americans.