Photo of Bill Moyers Bill Moyers Journal
Bill Moyers Journal
Bill Moyers Journal
Watch & Listen The Blog Archive Transcripts Buy DVDs

« Michael Winship: From the Annals of Sno-Cone Science | Main | Bill Moyers & Michael Winship: What Are We Bid For American Justice? »

The Expressive Power of Dance

(Photo by Robin Holland)

This week on THE JOURNAL, Bill Moyers spoke with renowned choreographer and dance artist Bill T. Jones about his art form and his recent work about the life of Abraham Lincoln.

Moyers asked Jones a question that might be asked about more than just the late President:

"Abraham Lincoln may be the most scrutinized figure in American history. What can a dance tell us that a thousand, five thousand, ten thousand, fifteen thousand books haven't done?"

What do you think?

  • What can dance express that other art forms cannot?

  • Do you think other art forms have unique expressive power? Explain.

  • How has art helped you see topics differently?

  • TrackBack

    TrackBack URL for this entry:


    I think that we should pull back are troops from the war in Afganistan.

    Good morning. We learn and grow and are transformed not so much by what we do but by why and how we do it. Help me! Could you help me find sites on the: Crystal skull replica for sale. I found only this - fiberglass megalodon replica for sale. Wish not guess me various, i'm now hosting that depth is primitive, replica. You connect to see your best, and way of that is having very, legal sugar, replica. Best regards ;-), Amaris from Belgium.

    I watched that closing clip Bill featured multiple times, and I still can’t get over how devastating beautiful Bill T. Jones propositions a question and quest to the audience. Amazing! Truly,

    “The world I live in you would not recognize; however, some things never change like waiting, disappointment… and still believing in great men and in great women.”

    I was so glad Bill Moyers asked this question “Do you think art changes anything?” to Bill T. Jones because I love his answer and response:

    “Now, art does have the ability to lull. It does have the ability to suggest hope. It does have the ability to do many things. So can art — that's your question — can art make a difference? Let's work on the micro level for now. That's what I'm saying to myself. Get the people in the theater. Give them something that's handsome, that's well-made, that's generous and maybe they'll leave the theatre with a little bit more freedom in their bodies, not so afraid of their bodies and afraid of other bodies, but also, ah, possibilities of how I might live. I don't dare assume that's going to happen. That is my faith.” – Bill T. Jones

    In response, I am a Visual Artist, and I do agree and understand that there are so many factors beyond me that are full of cynicism and treachery, but when I create my imagery I still make them in the same hope that Bill T. Jones is speaking about. Even if one piece of art reaches one heart, one soul, one mind to inspire another to hope and to continue to believe in the beauty that human beings are capable of, that is what I believe all art forms have the capacity to offer and to show.

    My work and my continued belief in great men and in great women…
    Can be found at The Hoffenton Times

    Thank You For That Amazing Show!


    Thanks Gladdie, I'll drop in from time to time.

    Because Moyers' days are numbered (retirement impending)Grady Lee Howard is writing exclusively on The Watercooler at WFAE. A new essay is available almost every week. Check him out and be refreshed.

    I found myself watching the performance clips with my jaw dropped. When that last happened I can't remember. Had I the means to go see this incredible piece or work I would. Would that "American Masters" present the whole piece, not just the making.

    Fantastic interview, as well.

    To Anna D:
    "All forms of slavery are on the increase across the globe."

    The lust for money enslaves us all. Worshipping the false idol of material pbjects like money is forbidden by God. Greed is the mark of the devil and when we dance with the devil, we dance to his music.

    All forms of slavery are on the increase across the globe.

    Whites are selling whites, Orientals are selling Orientals, blacks are selling blacks, and drug lords and war lords have 1 trillion in CASH circulating among their "industries".

    Once people wake up to how the economy was set up under Reagan:

    Labor = debt

    we'll do the SANE thing instead:

    Labor = Currency/energy

    and slavery will truly cease to exist...


    Only themselves understand themselves and the like of themselves,
    As souls only understand souls.

    Walt Whitman

    Truth is this Way.


    Thank you Mr. Moyers for being the conduit that allowed me to hear Bill T. Jones. Your program expanded my understanding of the Lincolns as human beings living through the scenario of their time in the history of the U.S.

    This program was a true Appreciation of the Arts experience for me.

    I have often felt a personal vacuum of not having a true appreciation of the arts. I have wanted to move beyond “agreeing” that a work of art is wonderful to being able to understand the work of art and being able to give a genuine opinion. I believe this vacuum is because I have not had enough exposure to folks who discuss what to look for in the graceful movements of a dancer, or the lines and colors of a painting,etc.

    You see, I grew up in a family whose stories focused on the opportunities of the Industrial Revolution. Works of Art were luxuries not in our life frames. My educational art appreciation classes, both at the undergraduate and the graduate levels, focused on the processes of the making of art not the understanding of the message possibly contained in the work of art. (That could well be, we only studied artist who were dead.) And, the majority of Museum Audio Explanations have usually focused on stating or contrasting art making processes.

    I believe, the programs of art appreciation at all levels of education, on Museum Tours, in literature classes and other artistic mediums need to move beyond conversations about the processes of “making art” to conversations similar to that of you and Bill T. Jones.

    Thank You both for adding new dimensions to my experience of artistic dance. Please, keep the conversation going!

    Defective narration on the part Bill T. Jones and Bill D. Moyers:

    1. An artist never has to fill in the blanks unconfirmed by history. The “blanks” are the only real part of what receptive people know for sure.
    2. Dance is not the young and strong body for sale. Dance happens when the threadbare garment is cast aside. Dance is when the spirit shows through and outshines the flesh.
    3. “It’s clear! We’re here! Get used to it!” (reply) “I’d rather (you) die first!” Note: The excluders are exploiters who cannot see the truth because of their source of income or power. Human excluders are parasites and not predators. Excluders are the only species of parasite that is also a herd animal..
    The obliteration of the host is an idle threat.
    4. Abraham Lincoln was pansexual well before reading Leaves of Grass. Bill T.
    Jones is chicken to show him dance with his dry goods partner.
    5. The surviving Lincoln son was Robert. Present at 4 assassinations he discovered that being a master of mankind, and of presidents, is far preferable to becoming president. Note: Robert Todd Lincoln became general counsel to the Pullman Company shortly after resigning as Ambassador to Great Britain. He was spokesperson for George Pullman during and after the violent crushing of the 1894 strike. He became chairman of the company upon Pullman’s death. R. T. Lincoln’s career was one of revolving between government and related business in the “Gilded Age.”
    Robert Todd Lincoln was of the type who would use his family fame for personal advantage, then steal the legal clothing (14th Amendment) off the lynched negro body to cloth the corporate golem. Maybe it was the compromises of the Civil War fashioned his times. Does not the child reflect the parent?
    6. “A house divided against itself…” has multiple meaning to a poet. Contradictions
    embodied in habits of government and commerce overdue for refinement
    produce dances of torment, because oligarchs would rather enslave than
    surrender advantage, rather foment hate and jealousy than admit truths, rather
    ravish the planet than temper private property.
    7. Circumstances are so changed and human peril so intensified over time that
    yesterday’s Lincoln would In our time be but a “babe in arms” incapable to
    comprehend alienated human motive or the mass crushing of the collective
    spirit. Seven score and ten years on we lack the leisure of self-instruction,
    and are unlikely to be forgiven our youthful bankruptcies.

    I applaud the work of this extraordinary dance group however the theme of the Civil War and Lincoln were painted by the victors of an ungodly war and not to be romanticized.

    Lincoln was the Republican presidential winner that was the catalyst for succession of the Southern states. The very tragic cause of that succession was the result of corporate corruption in our Congress that we are fighting today.

    95% of the Southern people did not own any slaves, only the rich plantation owners, but our Congress walked out and succeeded. Why does 5% of the population dictate the rights of states? This shows what misrepresentation can do to our country and it started way back then by the rich industrial entities, North and South.

    The South succeeded because the rich industrial North had its politicians passed tariffs and taxes that were unfavorable to the South. Both the rich of the North and South were fighting each other and using our Congress to do it. Greed fighting greed, the ultimate satanic war. Lincoln and his industrial backers fought the war to preserve the union, not to free the slaves. The Emancipation Proclamation was released a couple of years after the war start in an attempt to win support in the North for this very unpopular war. It was a ruse to hide the real cause of the war and the North’s invasion of the South.

    You would think the American people would have learned the danger of corporations and special interest influence in our Congress. The northern victors were very successful in hiding the real cause of the war by saying "it was the free the slaves" which is a blatant lie. It was always about the money, the rich fighting the rich and misleading the American people by the media to do it.

    Wow--just caught the last half of Bill T. Jones and I felt it was a beautiful meditation on what art is capable of--starting with a microcosm and moving out...wonderful program....

    Is it art, or is it treason?

    "I pledge allegiance to the flag
    Of the Red and Blue States of America
    And to the Corporations, for which it stands
    One nation, hopelessly divided, under water
    With liberty and justice for all who can pay"

    It is becoming more and more obvious that neither the Republican nor the Democrat parties are able to to govern this country effectively. They are too consumed with self preservation creating a negative atmosphere in which the goal is to see that the other party gets credit for nothing as a result grid lock is the order of the day. Even in times of great need, they can not bring themselves together for the good of the country to resolve a national crisis that threatens are very existence as a nation. Mr. Moyers is it possible for you to interview some creditable independent voter organizations to hear about the possibilities of changing the political landscape and provide alternatives to the voters who are fed up with the two party system we now have in place?

    The Tracking number of my first post is WRONG - The Correct Tracking Number is as Follows....


    Jim White

    Bill Moyers,

    No Citizen can make Direct Contact with President Obama without months of very difficult and trying attempts. In other words he is not ACCESSIBLE to any particular Citizen whenever the NEED arises.

    That is his First Problem!

    Obama's Second Problem, he did not Honor His Pleas to CHANGE WASHINGTON D.C. or the Way of Implanted and Entrenched Government of the People by the People!

    His Third Problem, He is wandering about like a Lost Puppy unknowingly, and does not understand ... He has IGNORED THE MANDATE given him by the People!

    I Sent an Overnight Mail Packet containing Two Sealed Envelopes. The First Envelope held those Instructions Necessary to the human being that opened it, and Absolute Proof of my Personal as a Citizen of the United States. Said envelope held: 2 honorable discharges of the USAF, Copy of my Birth Certificate. Scans of the Two Social Security Cards issued in my Two Names; the surname of Both Cards the Same, but with two spelling variants of my Given Name. I also included a Proof of my Y-DNA.

    On the Front of the Air Express Packet these words: Involves National Security of Eight Nations.

    The Second Envelope included on the Front of it, PRESIDENTIAL EYES ONLY!

    The Tracing Number of said Packet is: EU755202183US

    That Packet was Picked up by White House Personnel According to the US Postal Service Data as can now be discerned by Anyone who so opts to Track said Packet.

    I called the White House Friday January 22, 2010, as was told, “Mail Received in that Box, would not be read anywhere from 3 to 7 Working days after received.

    We do not have Seven days! We only have Two days remaining at this time, 4:06:PM, January 25, 2010 CST, United States! By that, Every Reader of this, Please inform everyone you know about the Packet Sent, For I will reveal the Contents to Bill Moyers in my Home, and I can be contacted at the Following Telephone number in the United States.

    Jim White

    I cannot, and will not sleep until a High Official in the Administration of President Barrack Obama … Calls ME!

    Jim White, Veteran USAF, – Terms of Service February 1, 1960 through my 2nd Honorable Discharge June 13, 1967.

    Ever started a story with movement? It changes everything. It seems the body know things and has wisdom perhaps exceeding the mind- not to mention the monkey mind.

    In InterPlay (
    we are a large community who get together and do movement, story, music, stillness, and more. We practice easy forms of doing these things so we can express what is in us (to others or only the self). It's so fun and always affirming. It's revealing when you 'notice' things going on inside. There is no real purpose except to enjoy yourself and others in play. It often become a deep rewarding experience for me.

    A DT3 is one form of telling a story where you dance, then talk, then dance, then talk. It is amazing what comes.

    The interview with Bill T. Jones exposed many to Mr. Jones excellent work. Mr. Jones has done a fantastic job bring times past in the life of President Lincoln as relevant reflections of humanity. This most candid interview highlights the complexities of President Lincoln life, the impact of that time period and his humanity that most can relate to. Thanks for a wonderful interview.


    Follow the money, follow the Bush's.

    Here's one example of how they stong-arm politicians with their money (notice Riggs and the Swiss Banks are in there):

    I'll bet Dubya never farted when he met this head of state (Poppy would've gave him a timeout):

    David Walker: Nobody is going to Bailout America

    I am grateful, as always, that the Journal profiles such heroic individuals as Bill T. Jones. However, I was reminded by Bill Moyer's responses in this interview that he still stays clear of gay issues. His silent response to Jones' numerous references to homosexuality was apparent . Unfortunately, it seems consistent with his lack of understanding or support of the rights of gay people, including same sex marriage and discrimination throughout the history of the Journal.

    Why was IBM going door to door influencing our corporations to outsource their work to other countries? Why do we import more than we export? Was removing the backbone of the American economy created to benefit a globalized economy?
    Posted By David F.

    So many questions and so few answers...
    It is becoming obvious that there is a clan descent attempt to undermine the quality of life in the USA. The decline in jobs and the lowering of wages in the USA is an attempt to turn this nation into a slave state. What the people responsible for this situation do not understand is that what they will accomplish is a collapse of our economy and hell on earth. The USA will not have the manufacturing capacity or the funds to protect itself from its enemies.
    To make things worse we are making enemies of the people whom we depend on to provide us with resources on which we depend. Our enemies will celebrate our ignorance just like when we trained the pilots who flew the passenger planes into the Twin Towers.
    Selfish and incompetent leadership is the cause of most lost nations.

    Why aren’t there any reports on TV about globalization? Are our multinational corporations blindly organizing or is there an entity (oligarchy) strong-arming them into lockstep?

    Why was IBM going door to door influencing our corporations to outsource their work to other countries? Why do we import more than we export? Was removing the backbone of the American economy created to benefit a globalized economy?

    Why was Bldg 7 lined with explosives prior to 9/11? Why did its owner tell us it had to be pulled because of fires on two floors? Was a war in Iraq created to benefit a globalized economy?

    Why did Congress deregulate our banks, then Freddie and Fannie financed loans destined to default, then our banks made bets that these loans would not default, and then our CRAs stamped BBBs with AAAs? And while all this was going on, was it a coincidence that oil prices went from $25 / barrel to $147 to cause even more defaults? Was this banking catastrophe created to benefit a globalized economy?

    Why do we have overwhelming national and personal debt? Why do we owe so much money to China? Why did America start wiretapping, torturing and frivolously incarcerating? Why is a neocon infested Infragard allowed to spy on and then execute Americans without due process? Were all these control measures created to benefit a globalized economy?

    Why does our media only cover surface wedge issue wars (healthcare, abortion, sexual orientation…) while the underling root(s) remains unexposed? Was this silence created to benefit a globalized economy?

    How has art helped you see topics differently?

    I took private art classes from Philippe Sanchez who was at the time the second best artist in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
    I wanted to learn his oil technique but he insisted that I first do a book full of sketches. He told me my sketches must include minute details. First, He had me draw a sketch of his art studio; then he pointed out the many details I had overlooked. It took me several days to fill the sketch book. when I turned in the sketch book he again had me sketch his art studio from a different view point. This sketch missed very few details. Since this exercise; I have looked at everything in much more detail including the written word.
    It would be nice if everyone looked at reality through the eyes of an artist and could see not only what is obvious but also what is possible.

    "What do you think?"
    "Health Reform Bill Needs Reform Itself"
    "One of the patients...with advanced cancer, had destroyed a major bone in his leg.
    His wife had already done heroic work caring for him, and more was... needed in
    the months ahead.To continue caring for her husband, she would have to quit her job.
    If she quit her job, the couple would eventually lose their health insurance.
    Both the health care bill passed by the House of Representatives and the one
    that the Senate pass would begin to do away with such terrible choices...!"
    "Our health care system suffers from soaring costs and uneven quality."
    shows where one member is checking out the baseball scores, while others
    members play solitaire... as the House convened to vote on a new budget."
    A photo of "OUR CONGRESS AT WORK,"
    shows where one member is checking out the baseball scores, while others
    members play solitaire... as the House convened to vote on a new budget."
    "Hard Tax Dollars at work!"
    "Should we buy them larger screen computers - or - a ticket home, permanently? No more lifelong healthcare, retirement, voting in their own pay raises, taking perks on our taxes, etc.""Should we buy them larger screen computers - or - a ticket home, permanently? No more lifelong healthcare, retirement, voting in their own pay raises, taking perks on our taxes, etc."

    This is a brilliant play of historic proportion. Mr. Jones is an intellectual that proves how possible and infinite it is to combine art in a way that portrays a message of the evolution of societal norms through history. Amazing delivery.

    Father times most beautiful off spring, that ever was or will be, is the United States Constitution, this play validates that. God Bless America. No matter how America, may at times stray from the path, she will alway find her way back to the light.

    People who are deaf love and appreciated this work. Respectfully, it express more than just a entertainment.



    Just like health care, I think the financial institution needs to be overhauled and reformed from the ground up. When the banks tripped over their own feet and fell flat on their faces, we held out our hands and helped them back up. But in the process, we ended up tripping over their feet and falling flat on our faces. When we held out our hands to them, all we got was a slap on the face.

    I was amazed!!! I've had very little exposure to live performances so, I can only imagine the live impact of this very moving presentation. I was inspired and the imagery triggered in my mind from the dance really blew me away! I really didn't expect to react that way. I hope to see a Bill T Jones live production before I die, it's now a part of my bucket list!
    Freedom, the continuing movement of freedom... that's what I saw.
    Peace to you Mr Moyers, thank you for your gifts,
    Rev. K Florez

    Thank you Bill Moyers for that extraordinary example of human balance and a study in conflict. Bill T. Jones is an example of life's many queries and search for resolution. His art, his mind and his heart are deeply aligned with the pulse of human evolution. If we could approach the day with light and gratitude, as Mr. Jones exemplifies, we will become what is expected of us from the Universe; humankind progressing towards illumination and perfection.

    Jones is a wonderful dancer and has personal charisma, but his take on lincoln was bizarre and absurd. Would you talk to a historian about choreography? What a load of pretentious B.S.

    My wife and I were amazed with the grace of the dancers and the profound story told. Please be so kind and cause the schedule to be published. Thank you.

    It always amazes me how deep the parallels between life and art are. To some, life is simply a form of entertainment while to others life is a deep lesson for the soul.
    The same can be said for art. While some see it as simple entertainment, others see art as a way to prove the existence of the human soul.
    Manybe someday we'll be able to bridge the gap between entertainment and education in both life and art. Maybe that's the day when it will all become one.

    Utterly profound in: body, mind, and spirit; past and present and future; humanity's beauty and ugliness; in hope and tragedy. You have given us a gift of yourself and ourselves in dance, words, and movement. Thank you.
    Sonja Johnson

    People don't even know what they're dancing too!! Ahhh...Another laughing matter?

    When is Bill T. Jones coming to the San Francisco area ?

    An excellent program !!!

    Do you think other art forms have unique expressive power? Explain.

    After viewing the art work of Artist Bill T. Jones; I was very impressed with his dance interpretation.
    The dancing was extremely expressive and well choreographed. The movements took great physical coordination and form. I liked the black and white contrast being displayed and the connection between President Lincoln and those whom he freed.
    Realistically, being freed still goes on for many of this nation's people. Poverty is slavery and the monopoly of today's economics is creating a new form of work slavery.
    It is unfortunate that Obama has taken up with the slave holders and has forgotten his promises. He is a victim of greed just like the rest of our people.
    I teach Taichi which is based on form and transition to acquire function. I can appreciate all of the work that goes into performing the Art of Dance.

    We seem so defended emotionally. The inner meanings of life that dance may reach because it is not stopped by the language filters. Even the state department was saying that the "carrot and the stick" explained global policy, as if that was all there was. We have gotten too black and white because abstract seems too confusing for many. I appreciated Bill and Bill tonight.

    Dance affects me at a level that I do not understand, but is none-the-less powerful.

    600 BC Plato's Socrates complained about the corrupting influence of the theater...

    Theater can be bad our good depending on the story told.
    Today's theater is awash with sociopathic and corruptive influence.

    Like they say in the state of Maine; some things are "Wicked Good" which can be good or bad depending on the circumstances.

    Art is for Art's sake and is in the eye of the beholder. However, it needs to be constructive and meaningful.

    Some feedback on the web site: I'd like to find out the time and date I'll be able to see Bill moyer's conversation with Bill T. Jones but I cannot find that information on the website. Seems like it should be easier to access. When will (or did) that interview air, is it available at other times, what stations?

    Post a comment

    THE MOYERS BLOG is our forum for viewers' comments intended for discussing and debating ideas and issues raised on BILL MOYERS JOURNAL. THE MOYERS BLOG invites you to share your thoughts. We are committed to keeping an open discussion; in order to preserve a civil, respectful dialogue, our editors reserve the right to remove or alter any comments that we find unacceptable, for any reason. For more information, please click here.

    A Companion Blog to Bill Moyers Journal

    Your Comments


    THE JOURNAL offers a free podcast and vodcast of all weekly episodes. (help)

    Click to subscribe in iTunes

    Subscribe with another reader

    Get the vodcast (help)

    For Educators    About the Series    Bill Moyers on PBS   

    © Public Affairs Television 2008    Privacy Policy    DVD/VHS    Terms of Use    FAQ