“An improviser by nature, Jones creates most of his work through the natural impetus of his own body, generating movement that is fluidly seductive, athletically vigorous, and dramatically powerful.” —Christian Science Monitor
Renowned for creating emotionally resonant works that bridge personal and social concerns, dance icon Bill T. Jones presents the world premiere of his new solo evening, As I Was Saying . . . on Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday, June 2, 4, and 5, at 8 pm in the Walker Art Center’s William and Nadine McGuire Theater. The program includes Lord Buckley—commissioned by the Walker to inaugurate the new theater and celebrate its decades-long relationship with Jones—named for the legendary 1950s performance/jazz artist whose exuberant rhyming style is viewed by many as an influential precursor to today’s rappers. A response to Buckley’s be-bop monologue/rap The Nazz (about the life of Jesus of Nazareth), Jones’ movement reflects Beat-era jargon and the extravagant twists and hyper-hip rhythms that popularized Buckley’s signature sound and unique combination of storytelling and comedy.
Also featured are the acclaimed Chaconne, a work set to Bach’s haunting D-minor Partita for Solo Violin, performed live by Minnesota Orchestra violinist Helen Chang; and 22, which revisits Jones’ whimsical 1983 talking solo, 21, accompanied live by Daniel Bernard Roumain. Consisting of 22 separate movement gestures, this solo piece is in stark contrast to its predecessor, interweaving a dark folktale with the harsh desperation of the Rwandan conflict. The evening also includes a mix of transitional music, text, and media elements that will make for an unforgettable performance experience.
T. Jones is the recipient of the 2005 Wexner Prize, the 2005 Samuel H. Scripps American Dance Festival Award for Lifetime Achievement and the 2003 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize. Jones began his dance training at the State University of New York at Binghamton (SUNY), studying classical ballet and modern dance. Jones choreographed and performed worldwide as a soloist and duet company with his late partner, Arnie Zane before forming the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company in 1982, which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary season.
Creating more than 100 works for his own company, Jones has also choreographed for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Axis Dance Company, Boston Ballet, Lyon Opera Ballet, Berlin Opera Ballet, and Diversions Dance Company, among others. In 1995, Jones directed and performed in a collaborative work with Toni Morrison and Max Roach, Degga, at Alice Tully Hall, commissioned by Lincoln Center’s Serious Fun Festival. His collaboration with Jessye Norman, How! Do! We! Do!, premiered at New York’s City Center in 1999.
In 1990, Jones choreographed Sir Michael Tippet’s New Year under the direction of Sir Peter Hall for the Houston Grand Opera and the Glyndebourne Festival Opera. He conceived, co-directed, and choreographed Mother of Three Sons, which was performed at the Munich Biennale, New York City Opera, and the Houston Grande Opera. He also directed Lost in the Stars for the Boston Lyric Opera. Jones’ theater involvement includes co-directing Perfect Courage with Rhodessa Jones for Festival 2000, in 1990. In 1994, he directed Derek Walcott’s Dream on Monkey Mountain for the Guthrie Theater.
Television credits include PBS’s Great Performances Series (Fever Swamp and Last Supper at Uncle Tom’s Cabin/The Promised Land) and Alive from Off Center (Untitled). Still/Here was co-directed for television by Bill T. Jones and Gretchen Bender. A PBS documentary on the making of Still/Here by Bill Moyers and David Grubin, Bill T. Jones: Still/Here with Bill Moyers, premiered in 1997. The 1999 Blackside documentary I’ll Make Me a World: A Century of African-American Arts profiled Jones’ work. D-Man in the Waters is included in Free to Dance, a 2001 Emmy -winning documentary that chronicles modern dance’s African-American roots.
In 1994, Jones received a MacArthur “Genius” Award. In 1979, Jones was granted the Creative Artists Public Service Award in Choreography, and in 1980, 1981, and 1982, he was the recipient of Choreographic Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. Bill T. Jones has been awarded several New York Dance and Performance (“Bessie”) Awards: 1986 Joyce Theater Season (along with Arnie Zane), D-Man in the Waters (1989 and 2001), The Table Project (2001), and The Breathing Show (2001). Jones, along with his collaborators Rhodessa Jones and Idris Ackamoor, received an “Izzy” Award for Perfect Courage in 1990. In 2001, Mr. Jones received another “Izzy” for his work Fantasy in C-Major, with Axis Dance Company. Jones was honored with the Dorothy B. Chandler Performing Arts Award for his innovative contributions to performing arts in 1991. In 1993, Jones was presented with the Dance Magazine Award. In 2000, the Dance Heritage Coalition named Jones “an irreplaceable dance treasure.” Jones has received honorary doctorates from the Art Institute of Chicago, Bard College, Columbia College, the Juilliard School, Swarthmore College, and the SUNY Binghamton Distinguished Alumni Award.
In 1995, Pantheon Books published Jones’ memoirs, Last Night on Earth. In 1989, Station Hill Press published an in-depth look at the work of Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane, Body Against Body: The Dance and Other Collaborations of Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane. Hyperion Books published Dance, a children’s book written by Bill T. Jones and photographer Susan Kuklin, in 1998. Jones is proud to have contributed to Continuous Replay: The Photographs of Arnie Zane, published by MIT Press in 1999.
Tickets to Bill T. Jones’ As I Was Saying . . . are $35 ($28 Walker members). Tickets are available at walkerart.org/tickets or by calling 612.375.7600.
Sponsored by Accenture and Microsoft.
This commission is supported by the William and Nadine McGuire Commission Fund. The performance is supported in part with funds from the Bush Foundation, the Walker’s Doris Duke Fund for Jazz and Dance, and the National Endowment for the Arts, which believes that a great nation deserves great art.
For audio and video clips of this and other upcoming Walker performances, visit calendar.walkerart.org.
Conversations with Al McFarlane
Tuesday, May 24, 5–7 pm FREE
Blue Nile Restaurant and Lounge
2027 Franklin Avenue East, Minneapolis
Jones lends his eloquent voice to an open discussion with visual artist Hend Al-Mansour, theater director Wendy Knox, and other members of the creative community who will share their views on the artists’ role in creating work that embraces civic engagement and encourages social change. Moderated by Insight News editor Al McFarlane, the forum will also address other pressing social issues that face both the country at large and the Twin Cities. Copresented with Insight News, KMOJ, KFAI, and the Blue Nile. A reception follows the forum. Reservations requested.
Wednesday, June 1, 7–9 pm FREE
William and Nadine McGuire Theater
The McGuire Theater was built specifically to open up artistic processes; build authentic bonds between visiting artists, audiences, and communities; and provide essential support for artists in their creation of new work. In this special open rehearsal, Bill T. Jones discusses the nature of his own creative process and the artistic, cultural, and historical issues that inform his latest dance work, Lord Buckley. In addition to showing excerpts from his work-in-progress, Jones introduces members of his collaborative team, including Daniel Bernard Roumain (composer/violinist), Robert Wierzel (lighting designer), and members of his company who join him for a Q and A session following the presentation.
Dance Master Class
Friday, June 3, 6:30–8:30 pm
$15 ($10 Walker members)
William and Nadine McGuire Theater
Janet Wong, rehearsal director for the company, conducts a modern dance class based on the company’s own classes. Students will be introduced to material and concepts from the repertoire and will explore group dynamics, group consciousness, weight sharing, level changing, and a movement vocabulary specific to the Jones/Zane style. Limited to 30 participants. Intermediate to advanced/professional level dancers only. Reservations recommended.
For reservations to the Conversations and Master Class, please call 612.375.7600.