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Bill T. Jones Tackles History Through Contemporary Dance

Jeffrey Brown profiles American artistic director, dancer and choreographer Bill T. Jones. He has created more than 100 original works for his own company, in addition to countless others around the world.

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  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Bill T. Jones has long been recognized as one of this country's leading contemporary dancers and choreographers, known for his mix of athleticism and willingness to take on big subjects from the world around him.

  • BILL T. JONES:

    Something that really was full of idealism and hope and activism, I'm always interested in.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Why?

  • BILL T. JONES:

    Oh, why? There's no reason to live without it, right?

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    The 10th of 12 children, Jones grew up in rural Florida and Upstate New York. He began to study classical ballet and modern dance at the State University of New York at Binghamton, where he met Arnie Zane, who would become his personal and professional partner.

    In 1982 they formed, the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, which continues to perform around the world, most recently in two works Jones created about the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Tackling history through dance, it's characteristic of Jones. But, these days, he's eager to extend his reach further.

  • BILL T. JONES:

    How do I find an audience that does not come to contemporary dance?

    Coming from the African-American tradition I come from, or, let's face it, growing up — being born in '52 and growing up in the '60s and '70s, a lot of the most important things said in the culture in those years came through popular musicians, about equality, about men and women, about the meaning of life, consciousness. All those things came from people who were selling records or on "The Ed Sullivan Show," or at least they came to me, right?

    So, who is a kid is out — where is the Bill T. Jones out there right now who is — wants to know what is beautiful in life, what's worth doing in life? Am I ready for him or her?

    Let me see you this way.