Jones was born in Bunnell, Florida, and his family moved North as part of the Great Migration in the first half of the twentieth century. They settled in Wayland, New York, where Jones attended Wayland High School. He began his dance training at Binghamton University, where he studied 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.
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.
Arnie Zane met Bill T. Jones, the man who would later become his lifelong partner, while visiting his Alma mater. The 22-year-old Zane was immediately enamored of Bill T. Jones when he spied him across campus in 1971. During that spring semester, Zane convinced Jones to travel to Amsterdam with him and explore their burgeoning romantic relationship. After living and working together in Amsterdam, Zane and Jones eventually returned to New York, where they lived together until Arnie's death.
Bill T. Jones, right, and Bjorn Amelan found a second chapter in love after both losing their long-term partners. Jones is most identified with Arnie Zane, with whom he cofounded Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. But he’s spent the last 20 years living and collaborating with Amelan, who had a long romantic and professional relationship with famed fashion designer Patrick Kelly before he died. Since they met in Paris on February 16, 1992, the two have successfully entwined their creative work and domestic lives.
"If we get married, it’s for the legal reasons. I don’t feel a need for it emotionally," Bill T. Jones said in 2012. "I love him with all of my heart. Marriage is a public acknowledgment. And doing this is more a part of that. I guess we’re saying, 'I do thee wed -- in the public imagination.'” (http://www.out.com/out-exclusives/2012/01/18/bill-t-jones-dance-bjorn-amelan-couple)
Arnie Zane's Photographs:
In 1990, Jones choreographed Sir Michael Tippett’s New Year under the direction of Sir Peter Hall for the Houston Grand Opera and the Glyndebourne Opera Festival. He conceived, co-directed and choreographed Mother of Three Sons, which was performed at the Munich Biennale, New York City Opera, and the Houston Grand 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 in Minneapolis, MN.
Jones also collaborated with artist Keith Haring in 1982 to create a series of both performance and visual arts together.
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. Narrated by Jones himself, the BBC/VIEW also produced a documentary film, entitled Bill T. Jones: Dancing to the Promised Land, that documents the creation of Jones’s Last Supper at Uncle Tom’s Cabin/The Promised Land and guides us through the life, work, and creative process of Jones and the Bill T. Jones / Arnie Zane Dance Company.
Bill's piece Still/Here explores and contemplates survival, life and art through dance and music. Still/Here is a two-act, evening-length dance-theater piece (premiered 1994) with a visual score made from edited interviews with people who were or are facing life-threatening illnesses.
Choreographed by Bill T. Jones First performed at the Biennale Internationale de la Danse in Lyon, France Music by Kenneth Frazelle (traditionals by Odetta, the Lark String Quartet and Bill Finizio) and Vernon Reid
Jones is the co-creator, director and choreographer of the musical Fela!, which ran Off-Broadway in 2008 and opened on Broadway in previews in October 2009. Jones won the Lucille Lortel Award as Outstanding Choreographer for his work as well as the Tony Award for Best Choreography.
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. He 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, sister Rhodessa Jones and Idris Ackamoor, received an “Izzie Award” in Choreography for Perfect Courage in 1992. In 2001, he received another “Izzie” for his work, Fantasy in C-Major, with AXIS Dance Company. He was honored with the Dorothy B. Chandler Performing Arts Award for his innovative contributions to performing arts in 1991. In 1993, he 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 Yale University. He is also a recipient of the SUNY Binghamton Distinguished Alumni Award.
In 2003 Jones was awarded The Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, one of the richest prizes in the arts, given annually to “a man or woman who has made an outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world and to mankind’s enjoyment and understanding of life.” In 2005 he received the Wexner Prize at the Wexner Center for the Arts at The Ohio State University.
In 2007, he won the Tony Award for Best Choreography for Spring Awakening.
Jones was named a 2007 USA Eileen Harris Norton Fellow and awarded a $50,000 grant by United States Artists, a public charity that supports and promotes the work of American artists.
Jones was inducted into the National Museum of Dance's Mr. & Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney Hall of Fame in 2007.
In 2010, Jones won the Tony Award for Best Choreography for his work in Fela!.
He was one of five recipients for the 2010 Kennedy Center Honors.
Bill T. Jones was the recipient of the 2011 YoungArts Arison Award, which is given annually to an individual who has had a significant influence on the development of young American artists.
Arnie Zane (September 26, 1948 – March 30, 1988) was an American photographer, choreographer, and dancer. He is best known as the co-founder and co-artistic director of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company.
The second son of an Italian-Jewish family, Zane was born in the Bronx, New York on September 26, 1948. Zane graduated from State University of New York at Binghamton (SUNY) with a degree in theater and art history. Not long afterward, Zane began pursuing an interest in photography. Though he is best known for being a dancer and choreographer, Zane began his career as a photographer. Zane was immensely interested in the human body, particularly its gestures, its movement, and its essence. Critic Jeffrey Green has characterized Zane’s portraits as “breaking down boundaries of race and age”. Zane's exploration of these themes is evidenced in his famous pictorials of a dancing Bill T. Jones. He met Jones, the man who would later become his lifelong partner, while visiting his Alma mater. The story goes that the 22-year-old Zane was immediately enamored of Bill T. Jones (a freshman studying dance and theater at SUNY) when he spied him across campus in 1971. During that spring semester, Zane convinced Jones to travel to Amsterdam with him and explore their burgeoning romantic relationship. After living and working together in Amsterdam, Zane and Jones eventually returned to New York.
Zane’s interest in dance began when he and Jones took Lois Welk’s contact improvisation class at SUNY/Brockport. Welk’s improvisational workshop stressing the physical interdependence between dancers, fascinated Zane and sparked his passion for dance. The three (Zane, Jones, Welk) collaborated and formed the American Dance Asylum which was heavily influenced by the work of experimental dancers of the time, namely Yvonne Rainer and other members of Grand Union. Zane’s photographic interest in the body and his interest in visual design shaped his approach to choreography. Zane and Jones would utilize their physical differences (Zane was short and white, and moved with an agitated energy; Jones was tall and black, and moved with a generous grace) to create an image that was beautiful in its oddity. Their pieces would fuse Jones' power and grace with Zane’s quick and wiry movement. Indeed, the still pictures of their dances together are especially striking and memorable.
Arnie Zane, 1987, by Robert Giard (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/dl_crosscollex/brbldl_getrec.asp?fld=img&id=1124099)
American photographer Robert Giard is renowned for his portraits of American poets and writers; his particular focus was on gay and lesbian writers. Some of his photographs of the American gay and lesbian literary community appear in his groundbreaking book Particular Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers, published by MIT Press in 1997. Giard’s stated mission was to define the literary history and cultural identity of gays and lesbians for the mainstream of American society, which perceived them as disparate, marginal individuals possessing neither. In all, he photographed more than 600 writers. (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/digital
After touring internationally for two years as a modern dance duo with the American Dance Asylum, they formed the Bill T. Jones-Arnie Zane Company in 1982. The next year, their company would appear at the Next Wave festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Over the years, the Bill T. Jones-Arnie Zane company has garnered much admiration for its creation of its own brand of postmodern dance which has become known for energetic dances set to narrative texts and postmodern music.
Zane and Jones choreography often explored issues such as racism, religion, sexism, and the nuclear age. They created the trilogy: Monkey Run Road, Blauvelt Mountain (both 1979), and Valley Cottage (1980). In 1984, Zane and Jones achieved box office success and created Secret Pastures. In Secret Pastures, Zane played a mad scientist who creates a fabricated man (Jones). Zane and Jones also collaborated on Ritual Ruckus (How to Walk an Elephant) for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1985.
Zane received his first award in the arts for photography when he received a Creative Artists Public Service (CAPS) Fellowship in 1973. He was also the recipient of a second CAPS Fellowship in 1981 for choreography, as well as two Choreographic Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts(1983 and 1984). In 1980, Zane was co-recipient, with Bill T. Jones, of the German Critics Award for his work, Blauvelt Mountain.
Zane died on March 30, 1988 at the age of 39 of AIDS-related lymphoma at his home in Valley Cottage, N.Y. Following his death, Jones choreographed Absence, a piece that evoked the memory of his late lover and partner Arnie Zane. Absence addresses the varied feelings associated with mourning. After a 1989 performance of Absence, writer Robert Jones described the piece as "a shimmering, ecstatic quality that was euphoric and almost unbearably moving." Tobi Tobias, dance critic for New York, said that the work took "its shape from Zane's special loves: still images and highly wrought, emotion-saturated vocal music."
Arnie Zane's Photographs:
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
CreateSpace Store: https://www.createspace.com/4910282
Amazon (Paperback): http://www.amazon.com/dp/1500563323/?tag=e
Amazon (Kindle): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MZG0VHY/?tag=e
Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher
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