(September 26, 1948 - March 30, 1988) USA
Bill T. Jones
(February 15, 1952 - living) USA.
The second son of an Italian-Jewish family, Arnie Zane was born in the Bronx, New York. He graduated from Binghamton University (SUNY) with a degree in theater and art history. Not long afterward, Arnie began pursuing an interest in photography. Though he is best known for being a dancer and choreographer, Arnie began his career as a photographer. He was immensely interested in the human body, particularly its gestures, its movement, and its essence.
He met Bill T. Jones, the man who would later become his lifelong partner, while visiting his Alma mater. The story goes that the 22-year-old Arnie was immediately enamored of Bill T. (a freshman studying dance and theater at SUNY) when he spied him across campus in 1971. During that spring semester, Arnie convinced Bill T. to travel to Amsterdam with him and explore their burgeoning romantic relationship. After living and working together in Amsterdam, Arnie and Bill eventually returned to New York City.
Arnie's interest in dance began when he and Bill took Lois Welk's contact improvisation class at SUNY/Brockport. Welk's improvisational workshop stressing the physical interdependence between dancers, fascinated Arnie 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.
Arnie's photographic interest in the body and his interest in visual design shaped his approach to choreography. He and Bill would utilize their physical differences (Arnie was short and white, and moved with an agitated energy; Bill was tall and black, and moved with a generous grace) to create an image that was beautiful in its oddity. Their pieces would fuse Bill's power and grace with Arnie's quick and wiry movement. Indeed, the still pictures of their dances together are especially striking and memorable.
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.
Arnie and Bill 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) (for which Helen Thorington composed the sound scores). In 1984, Zane and Jones achieved box office success and created Secret Pastures .
Arnie died at the age of 39 of AIDS-related lymphoma at his home in Valley Cottage, N.Y. Following his death, Bill choreographed Absence , a piece that evoked the memory of his late lover and partner Arnie Zane.
In 2011, the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company merged with Dance Theater Workshop to become New York Live Arts. The move was prompted by a need for financial security, with the dance company coming in as the more financially secure organization of the two.
Bill T. Jones was born in Bunnell, Florida, the tenth of 12 children born to Estella (née Edwards) and Augustus Jones. His parents were migrant farm workers and later worked in factories. In 1955, when Bill was three, the family relocated to Wayland, New York. Bill was a track star in high school and also participated in drama and debate. After his high school graduation in 1970, he began to attend Binghamton University via a special admissions program for underprivileged students.
At Binghamton, he shifted his focus to dance. Bill first took classes in west African and African-Caribbean dancing. Soon he started skipping track practice to go to those classes. It immediately appealed to him, as it was an environment that was not about competition. Bill's dance studies at Binghamton also encompassed ballet and modern dance.
During his 1971 freshman year at Binghamton, Bill met and fell in love with Arnie Zane, a 1966 graduate of the university who was living in the area honing his skills as a photographer. The personal connection they forged evolved into a personal and professional relationship that lasted until Arnie's death. About a year after meeting, the pair spent a year in Amsterdam. On returning, Bill and Arnie connected with dancer Lois Welk, who introduced them to contact improvisation, an emerging dance technique popularized by Steve Paxton that emphasizes intertwining partnering and shifts of weight and balance between partners.
Bill created a number of solo pieces during this period and was invited to present in New York City beginning in 1976, performing at The Kitchen, Dance Theater Workshop, and the Clark Center, among other venues. Bill's works during this period, such as Floating the Tongue (1979) and Everybody Works/All Beasts Count (1975), combined Bill's elegant style of movement with spoken passages that explored and improvised on his reactions and memories evoked by the dancing, ranging from episodes in his life to digressions on social issues.
In 1979, Bill and Arnie felt that their collaboration with Welk and Becker had reached its conclusion. They were also interested in living in an area more supportive of both the art they were making and their identity as an interracial gay couple. They moved to the New York area in late 1979, settling in Rockland County, where they soon bought a house.
Bill's Still/Here (1994) is an evening-length work exploring the experience of receiving and living with a life-threatening medical diagnosis, rooted in Bill's responses to being diagnosed HIV-positive.It was well received on its 1994 international tour. Bill also collaborated with artist Keith Haring in 1982 to create a series of both performance and visual arts together.
Bill T. Jones is married to Bjorn Amelan, a French national who was raised in Haifa, Israel and several countries in Europe. The two have been together since 1993. Amelan was the romantic and business partner of noted fashion designer Patrick Kelly from 1983 until Kelly's death from AIDS complications in 1990. In addition to pursuing his own work as a visual artist, Amelan is Creative Director of the "Bill T. Jones Arnie/Zane Dance Company" and has designed many of the company's sets since the mid-1990s.
Jones and Amelan live in Rockland County, New York, just north of New York City, in the house purchased in 1980 by Jones and Arnie Zane. Despite Bill's long association with New York's performing arts and cultural life, he has never resided in the city.
Few have shaped contemporary American dance as profoundly as Bill T. Jones. Beginning in the 1970s, Jones and his late partner, Arnie Zane, tackled issues of racism, sexism and sexual identity while also experimenting with video, spoken narrative and other multimedia elements.
Bill T. Jones received the 2016 International Humanities Prize from Washington University in St. Louis. Granted biennially, the prize honors the lifetime work of a noted scholar, writer or artist who has made a significant and sustained contribution to the world of letters or the arts.
Over the years, Jones has created more than 140 dances for the acclaimed multicultural troupe, which he continues to lead, as well as commissions for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Boston Ballet, Lyon Opera Ballet, Berlin Opera Ballet and many others. He also has choreographed extensively for theater, including the Broadway hits Spring Awakening (2006) and Fela! (2009).
Bill's many honors include a MacArthur "Genius" Award, the Dorothy and Lillian Gish prize, a pair of Tony Awards and numerous New York Dance and Performance (a.k.a. "Bessie") Awards. His memoir, Last Night on Earth was published in 1995. Body Against Body: The Dance and Other Collaborations of Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane , which the two men wrote together, was released in 1989.
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