The University of Chicago News Office
March 28, 2006 Press Contact: Josh Schonwald
(773) 702-6421

University of Chicago Presidential Fellows in the Arts series concludes 2005-2006 season with choreographer-dancer Bill T. Jones

Provocative choreographer and dancer Bill T. Jones will conclude the 2005-2006 University of Chicago Presidential Fellows in the Arts series on Monday, May 22 at 7 p.m. with a presentation on “The Persistence of Questions.” Jones, who was named an “irreplaceable dance treasure” by the Dance Heritage Coalition, will lead a discussion on the questions that he continues to mull as both an artist and thinker, such as the meaning of the dance company, the nature of style and how the discourse of an era influences a company’s work.

Jones has made a career out of raising — and seeking to resolve — questions that are difficult to ask. He is known for challenging perceptions of race, gender and age with choreography that interweaves dramatic text, movement and music. The 10th of 12 children in a migrant worker’s family, Jones choreographed and performed worldwide as a soloist and in duets with his late partner, Arnie Zane, before the pair formed the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company in 1982. The company, and Jones specifically, has cemented a reputation for excellence along the way, demonstrated most recently by the San Francisco Chronicle crowning him “one of the glories of American dance.” Creating more than 100 works for his own company, Jones has also choreographed for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Axis Dance Company, Boston Ballet, Lyon Opera Ballet, Berlin Opera Ballet and Diversions Dance Company. He is the recipient of the 2005 Wexner Prize, the 2005 Samuel H. Scripps American Dance Festival Award for Lifetime Achievement, a 2005 Harlem Renaissance Award and the 2003 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize. In 1994, Jones received a prestigious MacArthur Foundation “genius” Fellowship.

Jones gained fame and notoriety for baring his soul in dances about what it is like to be a black man, a gay man and a man who lost his dance- and life-partner to AIDS. Constantly striving to find new ways to make audiences look at and love the human body and the human condition, Jones has made headlines for dancing naked as well as working with dancers of all shapes and sizes — even those without formal training. In 1995, he directed and performed in Degga, a collaborative work with Toni Morrison and Max Roach, performed at Alice Tully Hall. In 2001, he premiered The Table Project, a community work that cast non-dancers in a piece commissioned by the Walker Art Center. In premiere performances, Jones cast six women and men ages 50 and older and six girls and boys ages 7 to 12 to perform the same movements one after the other. He continued to question how gender and age determine the audience’s perception of a work when he remounted the show in May, now casting community members from Harlem. It is this spirit of innovation that the Washington Post commends as “close to majesty.”

The University of Chicago Presidential Fellows in the Arts Series, now in its second year, brings a cross-section of distinguished artists to the University of Chicago for residencies, offering members of the academic community and the community at large a rare chance to experience preeminent artists in an intimate setting. Past Presidential Fellows include actress, professor and playwright Anna Deavere Smith and graphic artist Neil Gaiman. Earlier this season, writer, producer and co-president of Focus Features James Schamus was joined by director Ang Lee on campus where the pair presented a sneak preview of Oscar-winner “Brokeback Mountain,” and discussed the film with an audience of both students and community members. Saxophonist and composer John Zorn came to campus this winter to perform with his Acoustic Masada quartet. Schamus and Zorn also worked with University of Chicago students in seminars and workshops.

The Presidential Fellows in the Arts Series seeks to showcase the vibrant traffic between artistic theory and practice that takes place at the University of Chicago. Each residency includes both a public presentation and a more intimate educational program for University students and faculty, such as a workshop, seminar or master class. While at the University, Jones will participate in a workshop examining genealogies of black, gay, male dance to students in the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture; the Center for Gender Studies; and the Lesbian and Gay Studies Project. Contributing in the workshop will also be Waldo Johnson, Associate Professor in the School of Social Service Administration and Director of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture, and George Chauncey, Professor in History and interim Director of the Center for Gender Studies. Additionally, Jones will also lead a master class with University of Chicago student dancers.

Tickets for Jones’ appearance go on sale Monday, May 1. Cost is $15 general, $5 students with valid ID. They can be purchased by calling (773) 702-8080, emailing or visiting the box office at 5720 S. Woodlawn Ave., Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Persons with disabilities who believe that they may need assistance may call in advance of the event, (773) 702-8080.

An initiative of the Faculty Committee on Theater and Performance Studies, the University of Chicago Presidential Fellows in the Arts series is made possible through the support of the Arts Planning Council and the Office of the President, University of Chicago. Other events in the series include an ongoing, three-year residency with 500 Clown, a Chicago-based circus arts and improvisation group whose members will teach classes and lead seminars on subjects such as creative writing and adaptation, culminating with a major production in 2008.


WHO: Choreographer and dancer Bill T. Jones

WHAT: Discussion and presentation

WHEN: Monday, May 22, 2006, 7 p.m.

WHERE: Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis Ave.

TICKETS: On sale Monday, May 1, 2006; $15 (general) and $5 (students with valid ID); Phone: (773) 702-8080; Email:; Visit: Box Office, 5720 S. Woodlawn Ave., Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Last modified at 03:14 PM CST on Tuesday, March 28, 2006.

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