(b Bunnell, Fla., 15 Feb. 1952)
US dancer, choreographer, and company director. He discovered dance while in college on a sports scholarship (State University of New York at Binghamton) and there met Arnie Zane, a photographer who was to become his partner and collaborator. Together they studied dance and became co-founders of American Dance Asylum, based in Binghamton in 1973. Jones was tall, black, and graceful, Zane was short, white, and pugnacious, and on stage they formed a dramatically arresting partnership. Their early works together included Monkey Run Road, Blauvelt Mountain (both 1979), and Valley Cottage (1980). In 1982 they formed Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company for which they created many works, including Secret Pastures (1984), which had settings by the graffiti artist Keith Haring. In 1983 Jones was commissioned by the Ailey company to make Fever Swamp; Jones and Zane collaborated on a second Ailey work, Ritual Ruckus (How to Walk an Elephant), in 1985. Following Zane's death from Aids in 1988, Jones (who openly acknowledges being HIV-positive, too) has continued to run the company and to deepen his reputation as a provocative and controversial choreographer. His work deals with issues such as homosexuality, racism, and death. His 1994 full-length production Still/Here, which explored the experience of coping with terminal illness, generated a heated debate in the dance world after the critic Arlene Croce branded it ‘victim art’. Blind Date (2005) dealt with issues of patriotism in a world dominated by the war on terror and Iraq. Jones has also choreographed works for several other companies including Lyon Opera Ballet, Berlin Opera Ballet, and Boston Ballet and was associate choreographer of Lyon (1994–6). He has also worked with opera companies, choreographing Tippett's New Year in 1990 for Houston Grand Opera and Glyndebourne Festival Opera; he also conceived, co-directed, and choreographed Mother of Three Sons for the Munich Biennale, New York City Opera, and Houston Grand Opera. As a stage director, he directed Derek Walcott's Dream on Monkey Mountain for the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis in 1994 while his choreography for the Broadway musical Spring Awakening won a Tony award in 2007. In 2009 he directed and choreographed the Broadway musical Fela!
For his own company Jones has choreographed well over 100 works, which include Soon (mus. Weill, Bessie Smith, 1988), D-Man in the Waters (mus. Mendelssohn, 1989), Last Supper at Uncle Tom's Cabin/The Promised Land (mus. Jules Hemphill, 1990), History of Collage Revisited (mus. Charles Amirkhanian and ‘Blue’ Gene Tyranny, 1990), Broken Wedding (mus. Klezmer Conservatory Band, 1992), Die Offnung (mus. John Oswald, 1992), Love Defined (mus. Daniel Johnston, 1992), Last Night on Earth (mus. Kurt Weill, Bessie Smith, 1992), War Between the States (mus. Ives, 1993), Bill and Laurie: About Five Rounds (with Laurie Anderson, 1996), Sur la place (mus. Brel, 1996), We Set Out Early…Visibility Was Poor (mus. Stravinsky, Cage, Vasks, 1997), How! Do! We! Do! (with the singer Jessye Norman, 1999), Black Suzanne (mus. Shostakovich, 2002), Phantom Project (2003), Reading, Mercy and the Artificial Nigger (mus. Daniel Bernard Roumain, 2004), and Another Evening I Bow Down (mus. Roumain, 2006). Author of autobiography, Last Night on Earth (New York, 1995).