Bill T. Jones, a multi-talented artist, choreographer, dancer, theater director and writer, has received major honors ranging from a 1994 MacArthur “Genius” Award to Kennedy Center Honors in 2010. He was inducted into the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 2009 and named “An Irreplaceable Dance Treasure” by the Dance Heritage Coalition in 2000. His ventures into Broadway theater resulted in a 2010 Tony Award for Best Choreography in the critically acclaimed FELA!, the new musical co-conceived, co-written, directed and choreographed by Mr. Jones. He also earned a 2007 Tony Award for Best Choreography in Spring Awakening as well as an Obie Award for the show’s 2006 off-Broadway run. His choreography for the off-Broadway production of The Seven earned him a 2006 Lucille Lortel Award.
Mr. Jones began his dance training at the State University of New York at Binghamton (SUNY), where he studied classical ballet and modern dance. After living in Amsterdam, Mr. Jones returned to SUNY, where he became co-founder of the American Dance Asylum in 1973. In 1982 he formed the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company (then called Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane & Company) with his late partner, Arnie Zane. In 2010, Mr. Jones was named Executive Artistic Director of New York Live Arts, a new model of artist-led, producing/presenting/touring arts organization unique in the United States that was formed by a merger of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company and Dance Theater Workshop.
In addition to creating more than 140 works for his own company, Mr. Jones has received many commissions to create dances for modern and ballet companies, including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Boston Ballet, Lyon Opera Ballet, and Berlin Opera Ballet, among others. In 1995, Mr. 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.
His work in dance has been recognized with the 2010 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award; the 2005 Wexner Prize; the 2005 Samuel H. Scripps American Dance Festival Award for Lifetime Achievement; the 2003 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize; and the 1993 Dance Magazine Award. His additional awards include the Harlem Renaissance Award in 2005; the Dorothy B. Chandler Performing Arts Award in 1991; multiple New York Dance and Performance Bessie Awards for his works The Table Project (2001), The Breathing Show(2001), D-Man in the Waters (1989) and the Company’s groundbreaking season at the Joyce Theater (1986). In 1980, 1981 and 1982, Mr. Jones was the recipient of Choreographic Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, and in 1979 he was granted the Creative Artists Public Service Award in Choreography.
Mr. Jones was profiled on NBC Nightly News and The Today Show in 2010 and was a guest on the Colbert Report in 2009. Also in 2010, he was featured in HBO’s documentary seriesMASTERCLASS, which follows notable artists as they mentor aspiring young artists. In 2009, Mr. Jones appeared on one of the final episodes of Bill Moyers Journal, discussing his Lincoln suite of works. He was also one of 22 prominent black Americans featured in the HBO documentary The Black List in 2008. In 2004, ARTE France and Bel Air Media produced Bill T. Jones-Solos, highlighting three of his iconic solos from a cinematic point of view. The making of Still/Here was the subject of a documentary by Bill Moyers and David Grubin entitled Bill T. Jones: Still/Here with Bill Moyers in 1997. Additional television credits include telecasts of his works Last Supper at Uncle Tom’s Cabin/The Promised Land (1992) and Fever Swamp (1985) on PBS’s “Great Performances” Series. In 2001, D-Man in the Waters was broadcast on the Emmy-winning documentary Free to Dance.
Bill T. Jones’s interest in new media and digital technology has resulted in collaborations with the team of Paul Kaiser, Shelley Eshkar and Marc Downie, now known as OpenEnded Group. The collaborations include After Ghostcatching – the 10th Anniversary re-imagining of Ghostcatching (2010, SITE Sante Fe Eighth International Biennial); 22 (2004, Arizona State University’s Institute for Studies In The Arts and Technology, Tempe, AZ); andGhostcatching – A Virtual Dance Installation (1999, Cooper Union, New York, NY).
He has received honorary doctorates from Yale University, Art Institute of Chicago, Bard College, Columbia College, Skidmore College, the Juilliard School, Swarthmore College and the State University of New York at Binghamton Distinguished Alumni Award, where he began his dance training with studies in classical ballet and modern dance.
In addition to his Company and Broadway work, Mr. Jones also choreographed Sir Michael Tippet’s New Year (1990) for Houston Grand Opera and Glyndebourne Festival Opera. HisMother of Three Sons was performed at the Munich Biennale, New York City Opera and the Houston Grand Opera. Mr. Jones also directed Lost in the Stars for the Boston Lyric Opera. Additional theater projects include 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.