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Choreographer, Broadway luminary Bill T. Jones works with who’s who of every artistic discipline

Jones to talk Sept 12 about collaborating and breaking boundaries in first ever Mitchell Artist Lecture

Visual artist Keith Haring and choreographer and dancer Bill T. Jones
Visual artist Keith Haring and choreographer and dancer Bill T. Jones.
Photographer: Tseng Kwong Chi

Bill T. Jones, choreographer, dancer, theater director and writer, has received many major honors recognizing his artistic vision and cultural leadership, including a 1994 MacArthur "Genius" Award and Kennedy Center Honors in 2010.

Part of the genius of his artistic practice is his willingness and ability to work with other innovators and masters of their craft. The list of people who have worked with Jones is long and varied – a who’s who of every artistic discipline that includes icons of American culture.

On September 12, Jones will inaugurate the Mitchell Artist Lecture Series with a talk about collaborating and breaking boundaries.

"My career has been created to collide, to cooperate, to conflict, to co-inspire, to conspire, to work in tandem, in a word: to collaborate,” Mr. Jones said. “I look forward to sharing the intermingling of these aspects of collaboration in my Mitchell Artist Lecture.”

Presented by the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts, a reception honoring Jones begins the evening at 6p.m. and Jones’ lecture starts at 7 p.m. All activities will be on campus in the Moores Opera House, entrance 16 off Cullen Boulevard.

“Bill T. Jones encompasses everything that the Mitchell Center holds dear – artistic experimentation, activism, and true virtuosity all in one remarkable career,” said Karen Farber, director of the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts.

Some of highlights of Jones’ artistic experimentation and collaborative endeavors include:

  • Co-creating, writing, directing and choreographing Fela, the Tony award-winning Broadway musical produced by rapper Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, moviestars Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson of The Roots and others.
  • Choreographing the Tony award-winning Broadway musical, Spring Awakening, to music composed by singer-songwriter Duncan Sheik and lyrics by poet and playwright Steven Sater.
  • Creating the dance, Secret Pastures, that featured sets by visual artist Keith Haring, costumes by fashion designer Willi Smith, and music by experimental composer Peter Gordon.
  • Directing and performing in Degga, a collaborative work with Nobel Laureate novelist Toni Morrison and Hall of Fame jazz drummer Max Roach.
  • Creating with Grammy award-winner, operatic soprano Jessye Norman, How! Do! We! Do!, described by the New York Times as a “mosaic of song, dance, poetry and the spoken word in a series of tableaux with readings of Frank O'Hara poems forming the narrative thread.”
  • Working with journalist Bill Moyers, a recipient of a Lifetime Emmy Award, and filmmaker David Grubin on a documentary about the making of Still/Here, the dance choreographed by Jones that used video of workshops he conducted with people facing life-threatening illnesses.
  • Founding the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company with his late partner Arnie Zane.

“We are thrilled and honored to have the incomparable Bill T. Jones deliver the first ever Mitchell Artist Lecture,” Farber said. “We are truly fortunate to bring this artist back to the Houston community and introduce his legacy to the many young artists here at University of Houston.”

Mitchell Artist Lecture featuring Bill T. Jones
September 12, 2013
6:00pm reception, 7:00pm lecture
Moores Opera House, University of Houston
Entrance 16 off Cullen Blvd

- By Shannon Buggs