Bill T. Jones strikes again at New York Live Arts

At New York Live Arts, Bill T. Jones causes a disruption in Luciana Achugar's OTRO TEATRO



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Luciana Achugar

Luciana Achugar

In Luciana Achugar’s epic homage to desire, OTRO TEATRO, dancers—who mix with the audience for much of the work—create the score with moans, sighs and wails. On Thursday night at New York Live Arts, one voice sounded awfully familiar: that of choreographer Bill T. Jones, the executive artistic director of NYLA, who was watching from the back. Apparently, his unwarranted audience participation worked Achugar’s last nerve; during the performance, she marched up the theater’s stairs and hissed, “It’s your theater; it’s not your fucking piece!” She muttered a few motherfuckers and then resumed moaning herself.

This isn’t the first uncomfortable situation to arise with Jones in recent days. In her InfiniteBody post, “How about a little less Bill?,” Eva Yaa Asantewaa documents, disturbingly, a “Bill Chats” discussion that Jones moderated in March. For “When did the avant-garde become black?” Jones turned a serious panel into a performance, acting, as Asantewaa points out, “showy and rude.” She adds: “Cryptic shout-outs to the soon-departing Carla Peterson—‘I'm doing it right now, Carla!’—sound just ill-tempered. These behaviors don't actually advance discussion of complex issues.”

No, they don’t—but they sure indicate what Peterson, NYLA’s artistic director under Jones, has been going through. Recently, she announced plans to leave the NYLA to direct the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography at Florida State University. It’s got to be bad when you’d rather live in Tallahassee, Florida, than endure another day trying to run an arts institution with Jones.

Users say

Pat C
Pat C

Well, in his case, I think Ms Achugar asked for it. I saw this piece opening night and next to me, behind me and one seat over in front of me were three of her audience plants, moaning and cavorting and pounding and shouting. At one point it was so unrelenting and annoyingly loud I shouted "enough already." If you place people in the audience I assume you are asking the audience to participate because we are whether we want to or not. At one point one of the plants began to climb her sweaty hair and body over me. There was nothing pleasureful about this, let me tell you. If the choreographer thought we would all sit there like passive patsies, she was mistaken! Jones may be an arrogant hypocritical bully, but, in this case, perhaps his behavior was warranted. I remember when his company was performing in the Lincoln Center Festival in a show being held at LaGuardia high School Concert Hall maybe ten or so years ago. He was so rude to the mostly black security guards the chairperson of the dance department wrote him a letter pointing how the hypocrisy of his rhetoric versus his behavior. He never responded, of course.

Lemmy C
Lemmy C

I have a friend who works there and it sounds like he's just as much of a jerk when he's not in the theater--hijacking staff meetings to lecture on his personal experience of race, his own importance and other therapeutic subjects. The rest of us go to a shrink. Bill T. Jones has a staff and his own theater to help him work through his issues.

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Editor: Marley Lynch (@marleyasinbob)

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