Ensemble performance of Martin Luther King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail

Prayers of the People

Kenyon Victor Adams “little Ray”, Bill T. Jones

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With great regret, the Holland Festival 2020 has been cancelled. more info

‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ In 1963, Martin Luther King wrote an open letter from jail in Birmingham, Alabama, where he had been imprisoned for continuing to participate in peaceful protest despite government injunctions. He was responding to a letter from eight religious leaders who were all urging him to stop ‘disturbing the peace’. Now, more than fifty years after King’s assassination, his still-relevant call for equal rights is brought back to life in Prayers of the People. A ritualistic performance in the form of a church service, in which the audience is invited to participate. 

Following the performance, Bill T. Jones will be moderating the conversation King Today: to what extent are King's battle, and the issues he raised, relevant in the Netherlands today?
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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.

Kenyon Victor Adams is a Brooklyn-based, multidisciplinary artist, creative director, and founder of Advent Projects, an interdisciplinary art studio. His work has explored the notion of fractured epistemologies, and seeks to reclaim or expand various ways of knowing through integrative artistic practices. Kenyon has contributed art and thought leadership at Yale School of Drama, Yale ISM Poetry Conference, Live Ideas Festival, the Langston Hughes Project, the National Arts Policy Roundtable, Louis Armstrong House Museum & Archives, and is a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow of the Hannah Arendt Center at Bard College. He studied Religion & Literature at Yale Divinity School, and Theology of Contemporary Performance at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music. During the 2015-16 academic year, Kenyon served as Artist in Residence at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music. His multi-media performance works, poems, and essays have addressed issues of legibility, race, violence, and national memory.

Adams made his feature film debut as Jason in award-winning director Lee Isaac Chung’s 2010 narrative feature Lucky Life, which premiered at Tribeca Film Festival and was selected for the Moscow International Film Festival, Torino Film Festival, American Film Festival Poland, and others. Kenyon has performed nationally as a vocalist, songwriter, and blues harmonica player.  In 2011, he formed the band Kenyon Adams & American Restless. With director Sarah Peterson and jazz scholar, Willie Ruff, Kenyon helped to stage Long Wharf Theater’s production of Langston’s Hughes’ Black Nativity. Adams has received recognitions including the Yale Institute of Sacred Music’s Director’s Prize, and was named a White House Presidential Scholar in the Arts. 



Kenyon Victor Adams "little Ray"
Bill T. Jones
Kenyon Victor Adams, Julia Easterlin, Walker J. Jackson, Tobias Segura Peralta, Norman Vladimir
text excerpts from
Letter from Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King, April 16, 1963
New York Live Arts