Bill T. Jones has never been one to flinch at challenges; instead, he specializes in them. Most recent example: “Blind Date,” which receives its world premiere at Alexander Kasser Theater at Montclair State University, September 21, 23 & 24. In it, Jones again artistically pricks our political, spiritual and social consciousness and consciences.
Using an original score by the Company’s music director Daniel Bernard Roumain and an ever-changing multi-media set by Bjorn Amelan with projected film images by Peter Nigrini, and lighting by Robert Wierzel, the 90-minute dance/theater piece asks alternately bold, sensitive and subtle questions about patriotism in an increasingly dangerous world. What does it mean to be patriotic? Whom does patriotism serve? The meaning of honor, sacrifice and duty are explored in this time when spiritual self-righteousness and nationalistic fervor replace 18th century ideals of reason and humanity. Drawing on the multi-cultural and international backgrounds of his dancers, Jones probes their past and present experiences and changing ideas about surviving in our current environment, poetically and theatrically transforming and endowing them with universal relevance.
After its New Jersey engagement, “Blind Date” will be seen at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, November 18 & 19, followed by shows at the Hopkins Center at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH, January 12 & 13; Flynn Theatre for the Performing Arts in Burlington, VT on January 15; University of Massachusetts Amherst Fine Arts Center in Amherst, MA on February 2; Quick Center at Fairfield University in Fairfield, CT on February 4; Alverno College in Milwaukee, WI on March 4; Overture Center for the Arts, Madison, WI on March 7; Northrop Auditorium, Minneapolis, MN on March 10; Benedum Center, Pittsburgh, PA on March 25; Newman Center for the Performing Arts, Denver, CO, March 31; Vilar Center, Beaver Creek, CO on April 2; and the McCarter Theatre, Princeton, NJ on May 16. (Please see attached schedule for tour dates of other repertory.)
This has been a banner year for Bill T. Jones. In addition to being personally awarded three major honors––the 2005 Samuel H. Scripps/American Dance Festival Award, Harlem Renaissance Award and the Wexner Prize––his company recently received a $210,000 grant from the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone to help it to expand its staff while it seeks a permanent performance and rehearsal facility in Harlem. In July, the Company moved its administrative offices from 853 Broadway to 120th Street and Lenox Avenue as a first step in that direction.
The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company was founded by Jones and Zane in 1982, eleven years after the two artists had begun collaborating and working as a duo. Since that time it has been honored with innumerable awards including several New York Dance and Performance Awards (a.k.a. “Bessies”). In 1999, it was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance in London. The Company, one of the most well-traveled in the world, has been represented in and the subject of many documentaries, most recently “Free to Dance,” produced by the American Dance Festival.
In addition to this year’s honors, Jones was the recipient of the prestigious Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize (2003), a MacArthur Fellowship (1994) and a Dance Magazine Award (1993), among others. In 2000, The Dance Heritage Coalition named him “An Irreplaceable Dance Treasure.” Jones has received choreographic commissions from Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Boston Ballet, Berlin Opera Ballet and the Lyon Opera Ballet, where he was also resident choreographer for four years. His memoir, “Last Night on Earth,” was published by Pantheon Books in 1995.