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Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company

It Was ‘Cool Central’: Bill T. Jones Leads a Trip Through His Archive

The New York Times takes a trip through the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company archives, which were recently acquired by the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

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It Was ‘Cool Central’: Bill T. Jones Leads a Trip Through His Archive

The dancer and choreographer talks about his collaborations with Arnie Zane, Keith Haring and Robert Mapplethorpe — and the time the Vatican denounced him.

By Michael Cooper

“There are a lot of emotions in these stories,” the choreographer, dancer and director Bill T. Jones said one evening this summer as he rummaged through some of the hundreds of folders and document boxes that make up the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company Archive, which had just been acquired by the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

There were the outlines of a pathbreaking dance career that took Mr. Jones from the outer edge of the avant-garde to the cover of Time magazine to Broadway to the artistic leadership of New York Live Arts in Chelsea — and time capsules of New York’s recent artistic history.

As he rifled through document boxes — part of a collection that includes photos, production notes, costume designs, film and audio materials, and even T-shirts — Mr. Jones, 67, told some of those stories contained in the archive, whose acquisition was announced by the library on Tuesday.

He spoke about the politically charged, beautiful dances exploring race and sexuality that he made with Arnie Zane, his partner in art and life, who died of AIDS-related lymphoma in 1988. About his interactions with other artists at the intersection of the avant-garde and the New Wave in 1980s New York, including Keith Haring and Robert Mapplethorpe, and the toll taken by the AIDS crisis. And, somewhat reluctantly, about one of the great controversies of his career: how “Still/Here,” his monumental 1994 meditation on mortality, was dismissed as undiscussable “victim art” by The New Yorker critic Arlene Croce.

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