Bill T. Jones 2003 Recipient

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Bill T. Jones, dancer, choreographer, and director, is one of the most innovative and powerful forces in the modern dance world. He co-founded the award-winning company the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company in 1983.

Jones’ partnership with Arnie Zane began in 1971, ending only with Zane’s death in 1988. Throughout the 1970s, Jones and Zane created and performed innovative solos and duos. They were recognized as “new wave” or “post modern” choreographers whose large-scale, abstract works such as “Secret Pastures”, “Freedom of Information”, and “Animal Trilogy” advanced the experimentation of the art world in the 1980’s.

A visionary innovator, Jones is known for developing a unique dance vocabulary combining movement with live music, video, and text. He used a recording of Dylan Thomas reading poetry of “Ballad” (1996) and set “Ur Sonata” (1996) to Kurt Schwitter’s primitive sound piece from 1928. The groundbreaking trilogy of duets – “Monkey Run Road” (1979), “Blauvelt Mountain” (1980), and “Valley Cottage” (1981) – which Jones co-choreographed and performed with Arnie Zane, was infused with the electronic scores of Helen Thorington. Jones used Gretchen Bender’s video environment in “Still/Here” (1994), and created a virtual dance, in collaboration with Paul Kaiser and Shelley Eshkar for Ghostcatching (1998).

Some of Jones’ landmark works redefine what is considered proper content and context for dance performances. For Still/Here (1994), Jones culled material from workshops he devised that drew on the experiences of men and women touched by a life-threatening illness. The Table Project (2002), a simple eight-minute dance performance ritual constructed to a Schubert adagio, has been performed to great effect by six middle aged male non-dancers, followed by six adolescent girls, heightening the spectator’s awareness of changing perspectives.

Over the years, Jones has maintained his collaborative spirit. In 1995, working with Toni Morrison and renowned jazz drummer Max Roach, he directed and performed in “Degga”. In 1999, Jones teamed with Jessye Norman for “How! Do! We! Do!”, and in 2002, the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company toured nationally and internationally with an evening of works made in collaboration with the Lincoln Center Chamber Society and its Orion String Quartet. In “Another Evening” (2003), Jones and his company performed with the Grammy-Award winning jazz vocalist Cassandra Wilson.

Jones has also gradually expanded his repertoire into opera and musical theatre. In 1990, he choreographed Sir Michael Timmpet’s New Year under the direction of Sir Peter Hall for the Houston Grand Opera and the Glyndebourne Festival 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. In 2008, Jones co-created, directed and choreographed the Broadway musical Fela!, for which he won a Tony Award for Best Choreography.

In a career stretching across four decades, Jones has created more than 50 works for his own company, and many commissions for leading modern and ballet companies around the world. Among his recognitions are the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship, three choreographic fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Kennedy Center Honors, two Tony Awards, and three New York Dance and Performance (“Bessie”) Awards, including one received with Arnie Zane for their 1986 Joyce Theater season. In 2000, the Dance Heritage Coalition named Bill T. Jones “An Irreplaceable Dance Treasure” and in 2014 he received the National Medal of Arts.

Selection Committee

John Hanhardt – John Hanhardt is a Consulting Senior Curator of Film and Media Arts at the Smithsonian American Art Museum where helped to acquire the complete archive of artist Nam June Paik. Previously, he was the Senior Curator of Film and Media Arts at the Guggenheim Museum spent over 20 years at the Whitney Museum of American Art as curator of film and video and Head of the Department. He made the film and video selections for all of the Whitney Biennials from 1975 through 1995. Hanhardt also established the Film Department and Film Study Collection at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

Hanhardt serves on the board of directors of Electronic Arts Intermix and has been a trustee of the MacDowell Colony. He is also a respected teacher and author, teaching at institutions including Columbia, MIT, Middlebury College, Art Institute of Chicago, Rhode Island School of Design and Williams College.

Bill Ivey – Bill Ivey is a consultant to Vanderbilt University’s initiatives in Canada and Southeast China. He was the Harvey Branscomb Distinguished Visiting Scholar and the Director of the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise and Public Policy at Vanderbilt University from 2002 to 2012. He was also a Senior Fellow at the Center for Arts and Culture, a Washington D.C. think tank and chairs the board of the National Recording Preservation Foundation.

Ivey has served as Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, and is credited with restoring Congressional confidence in the work of the NEA. His Challenge America Initiative has to date garnered more than $25 million in additional Congressional appropriation for the Endowment.

In addition, Ivey has been director of the Country Music Foundation in Nashville, twice-elected chairman of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, and a four-time Grammy Award nominee in the Best Album Notes category.