On World AIDS Day, December 1, 2005, I interviewed dancer/choreographer Bill T. Jones for an article on art and patriotism I’m writing for the March 2006 issue of Walker, our members’ publication. That night, he was scheduled to perform at a UN commemoration at the Church of St. John the Divine in New York, and he admitted he was “feeling a lot of emotions right now and everything is so urgent and very tender right now in those places where art comes from.” A brief excerpt on his performance planned for that night:
I’ll do a work that’ll start off telling a story about my mother, when we were migrant workers back when I was a small child. There was a notion that older people had then that, when a mother had a young child and she was traveling with it–we were traveling, caravan-style, from state to state–when they passed over a body of water, you should always call the child’s name because its soul would get left on the other side of the water. Well, I remember being three, four, five years old and hearing in the middle of the night, in these crowded cars, some young woman calling her child’s name. “ Come on, Billy. Come on, Gus, come on.” And my mother encouraging them to do so.Now that story, told tonight, about calling the names of those whose souls we want to bring with us, has another kind of resonance. Is it political? Is it poetic? For me, it is all of the above, but ultimately it’s about a spiritual struggle.
Jones visits the Walker March 10 to perform Blind Date, a work that’s a bit more politically direct. For more, see my earlier post on Jones’ notion of patriotism and the “toxic certainty” that’s one of the defining characteristics in America today.