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What do free people nowadays need to know about the world? Choreographer and associate artist Bill T. Jones asked himself this question when he and his dance company started working on his new piece, Curriculum. He took one of his own choreographies, a postmodern piece from 1995 titled New Duet, as the starting point. Through language, looming questions about major topics such as race, sex, popular culture, future and fear find an indirect, poetic way into the work. Jones invites his dancers to experiment with language. Their words – fragmented and random – reflect contemporary debates, creating a raw, challenging counterpart to their precise movements. Each performance has its own dynamics, because the cast and the music will be different each night.
Choreographer, dancer, director and writer Bill T. Jones (1952, United States) studied classical ballet and modern dance at the State University of New York in the 1970s. After having lived in
Amsterdam for a time, Jones and his partner Arnie Zane joined the experimental choreographers’ collective American Dance Asylum. In 1982 they founded Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. Jones created more than a hundred works for his company, and in addition he has had large-scale works commissioned by major companies such as the Boston Ballet, the Ballet de l’Opéra de Lyon and the Staatsballett Berlin. Since 2011 he has been the artistic director of New York Live Arts in Manhattan.
Jones has become increasingly interested in other disciplines, such as literature and musical theatre. He also perceives that as the body changes with age, dance changes and so do, he says, ‘your ambitions as an artist... I think older artists have a wider range. They do more with less, so in that sense they’re more strategic and stronger.’
His relationship with the Holland Festival goes back to 1981, with Valley Cottage, one of the duets that Jones and Arnie Zane had created in The Kitchen in New York. Works such as D-Man in the Waters (1991) and the controversial and confrontational production Still Here (1996) were frequently presented in the Netherlands between 1991 and 2007 by Het Muziektheater as part of their guest programming series. In 2011 the Holland Festival presented his award-winning musical Fela!, and in 2019 the Opera Forward Festival presented the opera We Shall Not Be Moved, which Jones directed and choreographed. This year he is an associate artist with the Holland Festival, where several of his works will be presented, including the large-scale, ambitious Deep Blue Sea.
Jones has received many awards for his multifaceted work, from a MacArthur ‘Genius’ Award in 1994 to Kennedy Center Honors in 2010. He received the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award in 2014 and won a Tony for Best Choreography for his work on Spring Awakening (2007) and Fela! (2010). In 2010 the French government named him an ‘Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres’; he has received honorary doctorates from the Art Institute of Chicago, Columbia College, Juilliard School, Yale University, and other institutions. In 2013 he was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Obama and he received the Human Rights Campaign’s Visibility Award in 2016.
Janet Wong is associate artistic director at the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company. She was born in Hong Kong and trained in Hong Kong and London. Upon graduation she joined the Berlin State Ballet where she first met Bill when he was invited to choreograph on the company. In 1993, she moved to New York. Ms. Wong became rehearsal director of the company in 1996 and associate artistic director in August 2006.
The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company was born in 1982 out of an 11-year collaboration between Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane (1948–1988). During this time, they redefined the duet form and foreshadowed issues of identity, form and social commentary that would change the face of American dance. The Company has performed worldwide in over 200 cities in 40 countries on every major continent and is recognized as one of the most innovative and powerful forces in the dance-theatre world.
The repertory of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company is widely varied in its subject matter, visual imagery and stylistic approach to movement, voice and stagecraft and includes musically-driven works as well as works using a variety of texts. The Company has been acknowledged for its intensely collaborative method of creation that has included artists as diverse as Keith Haring, Cassandra Wilson, The Orion String Quartet, the Chamber Society of Lincoln Center, Fred Hersch, Jenny Holzer, Robert Longo, Julius Hemphill and Daniel Bernard Roumain, among others. The collaborations of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company with visual artists were the subject of Art Performs Life (1998), a groundbreaking exhibition at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, MN.
Some of its most celebrated creations are evening length works including Last Supper at Uncle Tom’s Cabin/The Promised Land (1990); Still/Here (1994); We Set Out Early… Visibility Was Poor (1996); You Walk? (2000); Blind Date (2006); Chapel/Chapter (2006); and Fondly Do We Hope… Fervently Do We Pray (2009) and Another Evening: Venice/Arsenale (2010).
The Company conducts intensive workshops for professional and pre-professional dancers and produces a broad range of discussion events, all born from the strong desire to ‘participate in the world of ideas’.
- Bill T. Jones
- Bill T. Jones, Janet Wong, Bill T. Jones/ Arnie Zane Company
- Robert Wierzel
- Janet Wong
- Liz Prince
- J. Bouey, Vinson Fraley, Jr., Barrington Hinds, Chanel Howard, Dean Husted, Shane Larson, s. lumbert, Nayaa Opong, Marie Lloyd Paspe, Huiwang Zhang
- New York Live Arts