Inspiring presentation kicks off University's Bill T. Jones series

Writer: Tara Kemp

Contributing Writer

The University hosted artist, choreographer, dancer, theater director and writer Bill T. Jones in “An Evening with Bill T. Jones” on Jan. 23 as part of the first of many events in a series on campus to honor his lifetime achievements. Much of Jones’ presentation discussed his creative process in making the program, “Body Against Body,” with his partner Arnie Zane. 

The University will have the special opportunity of viewing this show when his company visits campus on Feb. 11. The program is comprised of three reconstructions of his earliest works.

“I think what I most admire about Bill T. Jones is the way he refuses to compromise his integrity as he searches for truth through his art. He cuts through the superficiality that pervades our culture and presents, through dance, the raw reality of the human experience. It is such a refreshing perspective in this age of appearances,” said Matthew Heintzelman, assistant professor of biology.

Although originally a track sprinter in high school, Jones fell in love with dance quickly upon being introduced to the art. His earliest works were created in collaboration with his partner, Arnie Zane, using methods such as contact improvisation to create duets that portrayed ideas of the counterculture.

“Nothing gets made unless something is being pushed against,” Jones said.

His works support this notion, pushing against expectations and social norms of the time. The works, different from popular pieces, are rooted in repetition, appropriation through small gestures and the poetry of being natural and real.

Jones’ honors include a 1994 MacArthur “Genius” Award, the 2003 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, a 2007 Tony Award for Best Choreography for “Spring Awakening,” a 2010 Tony Award for Best Choreography for “Fela!” and being awarded Kennedy Center Honors in 2010.

Many members of the audience were moved by Jones’ words.

“Bill T. Jones was especially inspiring in the way that he pursued his dreams despite the expectations of his family and society to lead a more conventional life. The clips that we saw of his pieces were very emotional and powerful. I am excited to see his company come and perform here in February,” said Melissa Dunne ’15, a member of the Bison Girls Dance Team.

Jones received a standing ovation at the night’s close.

Other Bill T. Jones upcoming events include a discussion and demonstration around Jones’ autobiography, “Last Night on Earth,” Jan. 31. There will also be a screening of “A Good Man,” an American Masters documentary about Jones’ creative process at the Campus Theater on Feb. 7. 

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