Back at the height of his dance career in the 70’s and 80’s, he was one of the most beautiful men many of us had ever seen.
As late as 2004, the Guardian in London called him “a dancer of extraordinary grace and beauty.” But even then, he had already transcended physicality into the realms of political statement, moral fervor and intellectual contemplation.
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“Part showman, part philosopher,” the International Dictionary of Dance called him.
From his earlier dance experiments to his political frescos of “Last Supper at Uncle Tom’s Cabin/The Promised Land” of 1990 and “Still/Here” of 1994 to his more recent meditations on Lincoln (and Martin Luther King and Barack Obama), from dance to Broadway with “Spring Awakening” and “Fela!
Zane was diagnosed with AIDS a year later, and by 1988 Jones, himself HIV-positive, was on his own.
But the ensemble, to this day still named the Bill T. While together Zane was perceived as more the conceptualist/choreographer and Jones the dancer, though they shared in everything.
Jones was born on the day after Valentine’s in 1952 in Bunnell, Florida; the T either stands alone or for Tass.
His parents, Gus and Estella, picked fruit there, traveling north every summer to Steuben County in upstate New York for the potato harvest.Through HIV and AIDS, which claimed the life of his longtime partner, Arnie Zane, to controversy and anger and acceptance, Jones now sits on top of the world, even if that world still sometimes seems to him unfair and unjust.Now pushing 60, he remains a remarkably handsome man, sinewy and commanding with an angular face that might seem to belong on a coin, or a medallion, or Mount Rushmore.But his two biggest theatrical projects thus far have been his choreography for the musical based on Frank Wedekind’s “Spring Awakening” on Broadway in 2006 and his direction and choreography for the musical “Fela!,” about the Nigerian musician and Messianic politician Fela Anikulapo Kuti, first off-Broadway and then on Broadway, where it’s still running.“I was a child of potato pickers who wept at the Civil Rights Act of 1964, who had pictures of Lincoln, Kennedy and Martin Luther King on the walls,” he wrote.