‘Every night, we take ourselves to the point of exhaustion forthose people who are not able to do it.’
BIII 1’. Jones: “You want to make love to ma? Make love to me soon. You want to kiss me? Kiss me soon.’
LAST NIGHT ON EATH
The International Festival has put together a particularly impressive contemporary dance programme this year. The success of Mark Morris’ second visit to Edinburgh is already raising the exciting prospect of him developing a long term relationship with the Festival, while the work of a second innovative American choreographer, BILL T. JONES, promises to be one of the highlights of the ﬁnal week. Tamsin Grainger spoke to him about love, life, death and survival.
asked myself what are the issues that
matter to me as a performer and a man,’
says Stateside choreographer Bill T. Jones.
‘lf it was the last night I was alive what
would I be thinking about? I said I’d want
to dance myself into exhaustion and go out singing a song.’
lfl asked myself what best summed up Bill T. Jones. it’d be this sentiment. He is direct, thoughtful, brave, positive and loves to dance. And when he dances. he dances as if it was his ‘Last Night on Earth’.
Born in 195] in Florida, Jones planned to be an actor, entered college on a sports scholarship, but discovered dance and never looked back. At the age of twenty, he met Arnie Zane and formed a collaboration that lasted until Zane’s death from AIDS in 1988. ‘Arnie and I had a long and productive relationship,’ he explains. ‘He was much cooler than I was and didn’t really like to do autobiography on stage, but l did, so that was part of the interest and tension.’ And electricity. Using text. precise lighting design and above all fascinating movements, the duct were striking — Zane was small. compact, white; Jones tall. feline, black.
In I982 Bill T. Jones/Amie Zane and Dancers was born and although the choreographers stuck to their original concerns — issues of race. sex and identity — they were criticised for ‘submerging them in a flashy party atmosphere’. Zane’s death seemed to change that and, significantly, the work to be shown at Edinburgh is all post-1988, making this visit a real coup. Although the duo performed at four English Dance Umbrella Festivals in the early 805. Jones has not been back without Zane and what’s more these are his only British dates.
Soon, one of four pieces on show in Edinburgh, was made the year after Zane died and was Jones’ ﬁrst attempt at coming to terms with his partner’s death. ‘I tried to do something I am not known to do - to distance myself,’ he says. ‘l’ve been known to be a heart-on-the-sleeve soloist.’ Set to the music of Kurt Weill and Bessie Smith, the dance is a metaphor for partnership — life partners as well as a professional dance team. ‘The basic conceit is that Soon is a ballroom act but of course my vocabulary is more rough and tumble.’
18 The List 27 August—9 September 1993