Bill T. Jones finds strength from real-life tragedies
By Valerie Gladstone, Globe Correspondent | February 8, 2008
"How do we live with the disturbing and incomprehensible news items we encounter every d
The choreographer Bill T. Jones asks this question in a recent phone conversation, recalling
Company gives its Boston premiere Wednesday through Feb. 16 at the Institute of Contemp
"I thought how most of us are never fully able to express our horror at the barrage of terrible
For "Chapel/Chapter," Jones draws upon three real-life tragedies: the random murder of a f
That last story hit particularly close to home: It happened to one of his company's dancers,
naturally to Scott to tell him of the traumatic childhood event.
"I sent Bill an e-mail," Scott says, "because I'm better at writing than talking. There was som
happened is that a friend at camp and I went for a walk early one morning and without sayin
family problems - but still. I was there. I witnessed his suicide. I'm not sure I even have the e
"Quite a bit after I sent that e-mail," Scott continues, "Bill brought it up in a rehearsal and as
complicity. And although it's not explicit, also on redemption. To go over my story again and
In a recent phone conversation about the piece, Jones launches into a discussion of nothin
political or ethical statement," he says. "I simply want to look at our moral paralysis. I don't h
fantasies and secretiveness. We all bear witness. 'Nothing human is foreign to me,' " as the
Exploring sensitive and timely subjects has become a modus operandi for Jones, now 56. A
choreographed some of the most profound and thrilling pieces of our time, taking on racism
and AIDS in "Still Here," and patriotism in "Blind Date." But he can be lyrical as well, in such
Broadway hit "Spring Awakening."
Over the course of the 70-minute "Chapel/Chapter," the three stories are repeated, rearrang
taken from court transcripts, newspaper articles, and jailhouse interviews. Bringing all these
Throughout his career, Jones has closely collaborated with dancers, composers, writers, an
exercises to engage my dancers," he says. "This time, I asked them to spell out phrases wi
seemed like a lighthearted game but it was actually deadly serious. Slowly they developed a
Because of the subject matter of "Chapel/Chapter," Jones wanted to establish a religious to
choreographer at New York's Aaron Davis Hall, he presented the work for the first time in D
Gatehouse, once a pumping station for New York City water. A more hallowed atmosphere
courtroom and a sacred place," he said. "The Gatehouse turned out to be perfect."
For more than 15 years, Jones has called on his partner, the sculptor Bjorn Amelan, for ma
effective. The stage resembles a basketball court, divided into 10 gray squares with a semic
same red fabric that covered the walls floor to ceiling.
"We had no idea then," Amelan says, "that the piece would have a life after the Gatehouse.
then. In Boston, we can't duplicate the original concept but we will drape the sides of the sta
chapel, with a nave and altar."
Janet Wong, the company's associate choreographer and videographer, originally added to
In Boston, they will be projected on the stage's back wall. "I didn't want the audience to be d
the movement. The theater will still be covered as much as possible with red fabric. I can te
A smile in his voice, Jones says, "They get into the spirit with me - Bjorn, Janet, the lighting
"It makes me bolder, more honest," he continues. "A good leader knows he doesn't have al
being a group having ongoing discourses with our audiences, but that's where we are now."
© Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company