(William Tass Jones), 1952–, American dancer and choreographer, b. Bunnell, Fla. A gay African American, he has experienced dual prejudices and has often brilliantly transformed his anger and autobiography into an art of movement. Early in his career Jones became known for highly confrontational, sexually and racially charged dances that obliterated boundaries between the public and private. He and Arnie Zane were life and dance partners from 1971 until Zane died of AIDS (1988). A significant figure in contemporary modern dance, Jones has continued to direct the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company (est. 1982). Since the late 1980s the HIV-positive Jones has taken mourning and mortality as constant themes, as in Absence (1989), Last Night on Earth (1992), and his best-known work, Still/Here (1994), a lengthy multimedia exploration of death, dying, and survival in the face of terminal illness. Later work includes The Breathing Show (2000), a solo piece danced by Jones that includes music, speech, and film, and the multilayered Reading, Mercy and the Artificial Nigger (2003), an ensemble work based on a story by Flannery O’Connor. Resident choreographer of the Lyons Opera Ballet since 1993 and at City College (1998–2001), he has also directed opera and theater.
See his memoir (with P. Gillespie), Last Night on Earth (1995).