Bill Moyers and filmmaker David Grubin give viewers a rare glimpse into dancer/choreographer Bill T. Jones’s highly acclaimed dance, Still/Here. At workshops around the country, people facing life-threatening illnesses are asked to remember the highs and lows of their lives, and even imagine their own deaths. They then transform their feelings into expressive movement, which Jones incorporates into the dance performed later in the program. Jones demonstrates for Moyers the movements of his own life story — his first encounter with white people, confusion over his sexuality, his partner Arnie Zane’s untimely death from AIDS, and Jones’s own HIV status.
BILL T. JONES, Choreographer:
[dance troupe does a different dance move for each person/idea as choreographer Bill Jones calls off the moves] Devin -"Torn." Don -"Don't tie my hands." Chris -"Reaching up to a higher power, coming up empty-handed, coming back to myself." Bonnie -"Engulfing the whole universe. Grab it up." Bill-"Drink to me only with thine eyes."
WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT, Member of group of people, all with terminal illnesses: [woman stands, arms crossed over her chest, tapping her foot] This is me before I was diagnosed with cancer. I was waiting for my real life to begin. I was kind of in rehearsal or on hold. [she stands, sways gently, mimes holding a baby] This is me now, remembering what it was like to nurse my little boy when he was a baby.
WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT: [man kneels, then rises slowly, hands uplifted] I grow-gelling taller. With energy-expand. [he bows down] And I become ill [he performs a series of martial arts moves, leaping gracefully] But I reach again, finding my energy.
WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT: [stands tall, shapes a large, Earth-globe, waist high, with her hands] The earth is my mother. She protects me. Peace I will find. [workshop participant stands, slowly, gracefully miming a bird inflight] [dance troupe echoes the movement] .
DANCER: [calls out, one by one, the name of a workshop participant and the dance move named for them] [the troupe moves like birds in flight] Cindy -this is "a bird flying in the breeze." [troupe places one hand over an eye, the other hand outstretched] Michael attempting to drop the facade. [troupe stands with hands on hips, in a moving posture of defiance] Mary - do "the Mary."
[a film montage of workshop participants demonstrating the movements that represent their lives -a woman pulling tight on a string; a man with one hand over his eye, the other outstretched; a man hugging himself; a man crouched down, very small, head bowed]
BILL T. JONES: The profoundest questions that I can ask can be answered with other people who are not in the dance world -literally, the issue of life and death. What does it look like? What does it feel like, taste like, smell like?
[a man kneels slowly, hands over heart]
WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT: [man stands, bent over] When I became sick, the pain overcame me. [he straightens and stands tall] And I overcame the pain to stand up straight and face the world. [dance troupe lifts male dancer and carries him gently]
BILL T. JONES: Yes. [workshop participants walk around a room, introducing themselves to each Other]
BILL T. JONES: Bill.
TAWNNI SIMPSON: Tawnni.
BILL T. JONES: Bill. [interviewing] Well, my job is to evoke the spirit of survival. [speaking to group] These are all just places, but there's no reason you couldn't - they couldn't move. [he demonstrates, moving, spinning, dancing] [interviewing] For me, as a person who has to deal with his own possible early death, is looking at people who are dealing with the same thing. I said "Let's go out and deal with the people who know-who are front-line. What do you know? What do you know that I don't know? What do you-what do we have in common that the average person does not? Tell me it. Show me it. And I'm going to take it, I'm going to make it song, I'm going to make it movement. And we'll call it "Still/Here." [dancer interprets the moves of the workshop participants]
WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT: [man mimes flying, then stands very still and speaks] I'm still here. I'm not going to die yet. But sometimes I'm ready to go, like an angel. [he mimes an angel in light]
BILL T. JONES: [speaking to group] How could you conceptualize your lives if you draw it as a line?
DIRECTOR: [to dance troupe] Thirty-three, please.
BILL T. JONES: [to workshop participants] One, smooth line?
DIRECTOR: [to dance troupe] Can I have just a little bit of a downstage cut, off the screen?
STAGE HAND: [knocks on dressing room doors, announcing the start of the performance] Half an hour, please.
STAGE HAND: [knocks on another door] Half an hour, please.
DANCER: Thank you.
BILL T. JONES: [speaking to workshop participants] Walk your life.
BILL MOYERS:, Host September 29th, 1994. Iowa City, Iowa. Opening night at Hancher Auditorium.
BILL T. JONES: Anybody have a little roast beef?
DANCER: Ooh, let's see.
DANCER: That's the best cooked roast beef I've ever seen.
BILL T. JONES: Just the sort of thing before a performance, huh?
BILL MOYERS: For choreographer
BILL T. JONES:, this is the exciting and climactic moment.
BILL T. JONES: [speaking to one of the dancers as he dresses for the performance] How's it going, Gordon?
GORDON: It's going.
BILL T. JONES: Yeah?
BILL MOYERS: Two years of work are now behind him. Tonight is the American premier of his most ambitious dance yet - Still/Here. "
BILL T. JONES: [speaking to dance troupe] OK. My heart-I wish I could say I I wish I was out there with you, but you know, I don't. [dancers laugh]
BILL T. JONES: I don't. [performance begins - dancers perform the movements based on original ideas from workshop participants]
BILL MOYERS: "Still/Here" will go on to critical and audience acclaim. Bill T. Jones will be showered with praise. Critics will call this his most important work, a landmark of 20th century dance. But what makes "Still/Here" so powerful goes beyond the dance itself. The creation of "Still Here" is the story of an extraordinary collaboration. The words we hear, many of the movements we see, come directly from people facing sickness and death. [Workshop participants walk around a room introducing themselves to each other]
BILL T. JONES: Bill.
BILL MOYERS: For over a year, Jones traveled the country -to Milwaukee, Austin, Pittsburgh. New York City [introductions continue]
BILL MOYERS: -reaching out to men and women who had never danced before. [introductions continue]
BILL MOYERS: People with cancer, AIDS [workshop participants stand in a circle. reciting in unison the name of each member]
GROUP: David, Garey, Carolyn-
BILL MOYERS: -mortal illnesses of every kind.
GROUP: [in unison] Lisa. Jason, Arnie, Val, Susie, Edie, Andrea, Louanna.
BILL TO JONES: Louanna-all right.
BILL MOYERS: Jones asked them to tell him what they loved, what they feared, what they wanted.
WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT: My name is Val, and the things that I love my husband, my children. God and my family. And the things that I fear are plane crashes. snakes and ongoing cancer treatments.
JAY, WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT: My name is Jay, and I love to make others smile. I love that I'm still needed. And I love to share love. I fear the loss of my friends to AIDS. I fear that my struggle to survive will be too painful. I fear that J will be the last to die. I want more life and freedom. I want to save more lives. And I want.
BILL T. JONES: [introducing himself to Carol] Bill.
BILL MOYERS: Nearly 100 people volunteered to talk and perform for Jones' cameras. Their gestures and stories became the inspiration for "Still/Here" and a demonstration of the healing power of art.
BILL T. JONES: [as Renee is introduced!] Renee.
TAWNNI SIMPSON, WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT: My name is Tawnni Simpson I'm 25 and I think about "Why the hell me? Why do I have cystic fibrosis, but not only why do I have cystic fibrosis-why am I still living and all my friends that I grew up with, with cystic fibrosis and been in and out of the hospital with, are all dead. Why am I living?" That is-I think about that constantly.
BILL T. JONES: [speaking to workshop participant] Edie, right?
BILL T. JONES: Tum your back for a moment. Just lean back, and Susie and I are going to take you-
BILL MOYERS: Jones began each workshop with a series of exercises, gently encouraging the volunteers to trust him and each other. [Bill Jones has the workshop participants take turns leaning backwards as other members catch them and keep them from falling]
BILL T. JONES: Could you two take mine?
WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT: Sure.
BILL T. JONES: My weight? Yeah? If I lean- [he leans back as two women keep him from falling]
BILL T. JONES Whoa.
WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT: We don't want to drop you.
WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT: I'm going to drop you.
BILL T. JONES: Can you put me back? [the group laughs]
BILL T. JONES: I'm waiting for you. [more laughter]
BILL T. JONES: How about you two? You want to-want to share the wealth. here? Yeah? [more laughter!] [Bill Jones motions for another workshop participant to join in]
BILL T. JONES: Guess what I'm thinking.
WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT: OK.
BILL T. JONES: And go for it. [smiling. she drops backwards as Bill Jones holds her up]
BILL T. JONES: Now, there you go. See?
BILL MOYERS: Then, Jones asked them to define themselves without words, to make a single gesture that Jones could later transform into dance art.
BILL T. JONES: [speaking to workshop participants] I want you to give me a picture of yourself, a portrait of yourself. I don't know-maybe it's a picture you saw in a magazine, maybe it's a picture of yourself in your imagination, maybe it's something you want the world to know. And you have these arms and legs and back and head and brain and heart to do it with. Want to try it? That's-that will be-doesn't have to be virtuosic. Just make it true to you. Give yourself some room. Move out.
BILL MOYERS: What do you hope to accomplish at a workshop like this?
BILL T. JONES: I want these workshops to be moving and talking about life and death. I want to see what people come up with from their own humble resources. I want the strong feelings, and now-do you dare enliven them. Let the feeling come out of your mind and memory and just come into your arms.
BILL MOYERS: These are strangers and you said "Open, folks."
BILL T. JONES Yeah.
BILL MOYERS: "Come on in, folks," you said.
BILL T. JONES: Oh yeah. You know, and they read my body language. They look up and down. They say "Is this guy on some sort of a-he's trying to exploit me what's he want?" And I say "What I want is everything."
I ask them "What are you feeling right now? How do you-tell me about your life right now in one, simple gesture. "
In Iowa City, I started like 50-I said, "Bill, I hope this means something to you. I hope that it works today. I hope." And then, a young woman whose name was Tawnni, dealing with cystic fibrosis, said "I-I'm reaching out to help others, but being held back by my illness." [he demonstrates in dance -reaching out, bur being held back]
TAWNNI SIMPSON: I'm helping-
BILL T. JONES: You were helping, but then you were
TAWNNI SIMPSON: And I'm-
BILL T. JONES: -withdrawing.
TAWNNI SIMPSON: Withdrawing.
BILL T. JONES: I like that. That-a choreographer looks for that, right? Build hoping. Tawnni?
TAWNNI SIMPSON: Yes.
BILL T. JONES: Wanting to offer help, but having to withdraw to protect yourself. You accept that?
TAWNNI SIMPSON: Yes.
BILL T. JONES: One gesture. [he demonstrates the sweep of one hand] They can reproduce that and gain confidence. Once they gain confidence, then I know that they are thinking and feeling. So I ask them "What do you mean by that movement?"
WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT: [stands tall, one hand overhead in a stirring motion] Stir it.
BILL T. JONES: Stir it?
WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT: Stir it.
BILL T. JONES: Stir it. [he echoes her motion]
WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT: Yes.
BILL T. JONES: What-stir what?
WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT: Everything.
WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT: What's up there-the air.
BILL T. JONES: Oh-stir it. Just stir it.
WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT: Stir it-yes.
BILL T. JONES: Stir it.
CAROLINE, WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT: [woman places both hands to her head, fingertips to temples] Only if I-if I knew enough or if I understood enough, maybe I could accept mortality. If I could just get the right perception. If I could just find the thing-
BILL T. JONES: [echoing her movement] So your movement is a question.
CAROLINE: Yeah, it's a struggle. I'm struggling between knowledge and mortality, and-
BILL T. JONES: That's-you said it, right?
BILL T. JONES: Caroline -"struggling between knowledge and mortality."
WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT: [woman expands hands outward, forming a large circle] An open-an active search for healing. How's that?
BILL T. JONES: Very clearly they were telling me about themselves, and they were telling me about the way they viewed themselves in the world-some of their conflicts.
GROUP: [speaking in unison as they echo her movement] Open and active search for healing.
WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT: [woman uses her hands to draw a large box surrounding her] Before the illness, I felt closed in, or I walled myself off from other people. I didn't let them in my space. [she bends over, protecting her midsection] And then, I found out what I had [she uses a pushing-away motion with her hands] and I didn't want it. But I had to--[she uses an expansive open motion to draw a large circle around her with both hands] and I began to open myself up and found all these wonderful people out there, [smiling, arms uplifted] and there was joy. And I will get through it.
BILL T. JONES: Yeah! All right.
BILL MOYERS: Would it be fair of me to ask you to do what you ask of them, to imagine a gesture that would-would express the moment you decided you were going to become a dancer.
BILL T. JONES: [to himself] What's that? Yeah.
[interviewing] You've got to see a 19-year-old athlete who suddenly has discovered dance-it would probably be something like-[his arms fly open and he lifts one leg, preparing for a joyous leap] that; That's what it all was about. The ecstatic moment. What I had seen Martha Graham do, what I had seen them all do.
BILL MOYERS: Or make the moment you heard the first applause when you danced.
BILL T. JONES: Oh, man. First of all-
BILL T. JONES: [he spins in a circle, finishing with arms raised. waist high] This was the gesture. That was it. It was at Wayland Central School in 19-oh, early '60s and I played the part of Marcellus, the Buddy Hackett role in the Music Man. They were going to get a choreographer, but they never did. They said "Just make it up and we'll get one." They never did. It was opening night, and I did everything I'd ever seen James Brown do, right?
I improvised. [he demonstrates as he speaks] I jumped; I strutted around. And they loved it. My little home town-people stood up. And I thought "My God." That's what the gesture was. [he spins] This-[he comes full circle, arms outward in a "ta-da" gesture] -and that. And that.
[he demonstrates again] This. And that.
BILL MOYERS: I can see that. You didn't have to say a word and I would have gotten that. [both laugh]
BILL T. JONES: Oh yes-yes.
BILL MOYERS: What that gesture says is "joy."
BILL T. JONES: Oh, yeah.
BILL MOYERS: How do you hold onto that joy when you are dealing with-in all these workshops, with the wounded, the inflicted, the afflicted, the-you know, the terminal?
BILL T. JONES: Look at them. Look at-look at them.
BILL MOYERS: Oh, touché. -
BILL T. JONES: You know-when they come in, you know, those people-today, how many times have you seen "But I'm going to fight it." You know what I mean?
BILL MOYERS: Yeah.
BILL T. JONES: [he raises a fist] This-you know.
Then you think "OK. Is it-is it so much self-deception?" No, no. They're allowed that self-deception, if it is. These people get up every day. They came here today. Your camera is on. They're going to give their gut. [workshop participant, Carol, dances her life -her pain, her joy]
BILL T. JONES: I think that movement is liberating. I think that movement is good for you. The body-it's a reservoir of all sons of tensions and dark forces and it's also the potential source of amazing energy.
This thing wants to live. It is a powerful engine. It connects it with the brain, a reservoir of images, dreams, fears, associations, language. And its potential we can't even begin to understand. Movement begins to negotiate the distance between the brain and the body. And it can be surprising, what we learn about other.
[Carol finishes her dance with quick, vibrant, joyful movements, ending in a triumphant posture]
BILL T. JONES: Yeah. All right. /group applauds]
BILL T. JONES: Do you feel brave enough to try it again and talk to us as you do it?
BILL T. JONES: Anything you want to say. I'd just like to know what you're feeling and thinking as you're doing it.
CAROL: All right. Well, I have this opportunity. [she mimes holding a sphere] I have this opportunity to-to make something, to create something and to be free [she flings her arms wide] as I'm doing it.
I shouldn't have to worry about mortality and, you know, knowledge and mortality [she pushes away at the sides of her head, pushing outward] and knowledge and mortality and knowledge. I can just be free-[she flings her arms outward] I can just be free. I can just be free.
Why is there all this suffering? Why is there all this suffering? Maybe I'm blessed. Maybe I'm blessed. Maybe if I could just help somebody, [she reaches out] that would be the compensation for this suffering.
And maybe if I were free enough I could just stir it up-[she mimes angry stirring motions above her head] I could just stir it up. Stir it up! I could just stir it up. And just be free. If I could just figure it out. [hands on her head, a look of despair] If I were just smart enough.
Just have-[she mimes holding a sphere] have an opportunity.
BILL T. JONES: Oh, thank you, Carol. Thank you, again.
BILL MOYERS: As each small group grew closer together, Jones asked them to create an impressionistic map of their lives -the highs and lows, the twists and turns, the happy hours and the sad ones.
And then he asked them to walk their stories, remembering their earliest years, their diagnosis, and imagining the moment of their death.
BILL T. JONES: Once you've done it forward, try doing it backwards.
BILL MOYERS: So he could tell some of those stories in his dance.
BILL T. JONES: And there were quite elaborate, exotic lines on the page, which were interesting to watch them move across the space. People who are not trained I dancers suddenly were moving in eccentric and unusual ways. [workshop participants walk, run and dance the lines of their lives]
BILL T. JONES: Now, I need a volunteer who is actually going to walk us through their life -a complete guided tour.
WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT: Speaking? With narration?
BILL T. JONES: With narration. [sounds of enthusiasm from group]
BILL T. JONES: Oh-go ahead. Go ahead. I'll let you put-you go right there and I'll connect to you.
LUANNA: You can have the butterfly shoulder and she can have the other one. [the group lines up behind Luanna, connecting hands on shoulders, everyone connected]
BILL T. JONES: Why don't you get right in there-all right? You know all that energy coursing through us? Now, we're going to have Luanna's life go through us.
LUANNA: Well, like, the beginning is, like, really boring, because I didn't really put anything except I just put little peak moments up in each of the lines for each of my kids, and there are four of them. One, two, three, four. [the whole group steps forward with Luanna, as she narrates her story and begins her walk]
BILL T. JONES: So you're already-you're already at your kids?
LUANNA: Yeah. I do-I didn't do much before that.
BILL T. JONES: Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait-hold on. Let's-let's-let's slow down. Let's slow down. [group laughs]
BILL T. JONES: Let's go back. Let's go back. I didn't find out where you were born or anything. At least-
LUANNA: Now we've got to go back? I don't tell anybody that stuff.
BILL T. JONES: OK. All right. I won't ask when you were born-
LUANNA: I was born a poor, black child in Toledo, OK? [Luanna is very blond, very pale]
BILL T. JONES: Well, you've changed. [Luanna laughs]
BILL T. JONES: All right, well, where were you born?
LUANNA: In Toledo, Ohio.
BILL T. JONES: No, you don't have to look at me. You can just
LUANNA: OK. In Toledo, Ohio.
BILL T. JONES In Toledo, Ohio. Yeah
BILL T. JONES: And?
LUANNA: And then-
BILL T. JONES: You can go now. [Luanna and the group move forward]
LUANNA: I grew up and I got older and I moved to California
BILL T. JONES: Did you have a lot of brothers and sisters?
LUANNA: I didn't have anybody, except for me.
BILL T. JONES: Parents?
LUANNA: Kind of. My dad-
BILL T. JONES: Your dad.
LUANNA: My mom was-
BILL T. JONES: Walk us through it. [the group follows another workshop participant as she walks her life. All members are connected, hands to shoulders]
BILL T. JONES:Tell us a few stories along the way. We'll follow you.
CAROLINE: I had come to the hospital and I just had a regular mammogram, just a checkup, which I have every year.
BILL T. JONES: So you weren't ill-you weren't feeling bad.
CAROLINE: And I wasn't ill and I didn't-no. I-I had-no, there's no history in my family. I had no reason to suspect that anything was wrong.
BILL T. JONES: Mmm hmm [affirmative].
CAROLINE: And I had a mammogram and the doctor said "There's something suspicious-looking." And if-I remember she said to me "If you were my sister or my mother, I would suggest that you get it looked at."
BILL T. JONES: Mmm hm [affirmative]. And you did.
CAROLINE: And I did. And I remember sitting in the-I remember sitting in the office and there was this big sign that said something like "Nineteen out of 20 mammograms are great." And I thought "Oh, great," you know, "that's me." That's my luck, you know. I'm going to be number 20.
BILL T. JONES: [speaking to workshop participants] Walk your life.
MRS. PAT: And the biopsy was supposed to take 10 minutes and it [took an hour and a half.
BILL T. JONES: So you were nervous.
MRS. PAT: Well, I was out-I was under. And when I awakened, he came in-this was my OB-GYN, who helped me bring my baby into the world -and he looked at me and he said "Mrs. Pat," and he said "If," he said "It's positive. You have breast cancer. "
BILL T. JONES: [speaking to the group] Now, I'm going to ask you to do something which is more difficult to do -take me to the end of your life. What's the room like? Who's there with you? Or what time of day is it when you're-the final day. What time of day is it that you leave?
WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT: Early evening. Its early evening. Visually-I guess about the time Roseanne is on. [laughs] I like Roseanne and I really would like to go out with some laughter. I don't want to be-I don't want to be real sad.
BILL T. JONES: So the TV is on?
WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT: Yeah, the TV is on. It's like regular family day, you know, with everybody crowded into my bedroom. And we're maybe cracking a few jokes or kids eating popcorn and drinking Nestea.
BILL T. JONES: Anything else you want to tell us about this last day?
WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT: My husband's there, and we tried to prepare for this last day, you know? And he's real sad, but I let him know that no matter where I'm getting ready to go, I'll always love him, and he lets me know that he'll always love me. I think that's about the special-about as special as it could get.
BILL T. JONES: [speaking to another workshop participant] So what's the room like? What's going on?
WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT: It's a nice room. It's a lot of light. The sun is streaming in. There's bells-I like bells.
BILL T. JONES: Where are they coming from, the bells?
WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT: From the window, and the wind's blowing a little bit and the bells are, like, ringing. And everybody's just staring at me, you know, and, and I'm try-I'm trying not to cry.
BILL T. JONES: Why?
WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT: I don't know. Because of my sons.
BILL T. JONES: What would happen if you cried?
WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT: I don't know. It would make them feel bad. But I don't know what's going to happen. I may cry. I don't know.
BILL T. JONES: So, what's the last thing you-
WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT: The light.
BILL T. JONES: The light.
WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT: Yes. The light. I watch the light, the sun shining. I guess then it gets-I close my eyes, and it gets real dark. And then it becomes light. I see the light.
DAVID: If I only had a very-a brief moment of the very last thing I heard, I would want to hear waves on the shore and a foghorn.
BILL T. JONES: Can you say it? Can you say "I'm going to hear," or "I can hear."
DAVID: Yes. Oh, I can hear it. Waves on the shore and a foghorn.
BILL T. JONES: And now what, David? When that part's over, what happens then?
DAVID: I don't know. I join the waves on the shore, and the foghorn.
BILL MOYERS: Do what you did with them this afternoon -walk-walk a line through your story.
BILL T. JONES: Through a story. Literally? Walk in the space?
BILL MOYERS: Yeah.
BILL T. JONES: Uh huh [affirmative]. Well-well, as I was saying today, if I were to start the life, what it felt like to be the 10th of 12 kids. [he walks in a small circle] That little circle is somehow proscribed by the architecture of the family -mother and father. And then, there is this constant fear[he steps, changes direction; steps again, changes direction] there's a tangent that comes away from that circle, never daring to look directly forward-nightmares. This was a sissy boy. This was a boy who was scared of his shadow.
[he turns-turns-turns] Something happened around the time that he first encountered white people. Something happened that reminded him of the safeness of the first years, [he walks in a small circle] but he was now encouraged to speak. He now had something to say, so there was this circle.
And then, there's a confusion. [he steps right, then left; right, then left] Confusion as to if he is the son of Estelle and Gus, or if he is somehow the Bill who is the one who goes to school with white kids every day, but comes home and speaks black English, comes home to a poverty family-and the confusion. Looks like a circle [he spins, in place] which sounds like the one that we had earlier.
And then, there's a thing called sex. [he stops moving] And everything stops there. What does it mean to be a man? Does a man have children? And everything stops. The man tries women. [he takes a single step, then stops] And everything stops. The man tries to be normal. [he takes another step, then stops] And everything stops.
The man meets a Jewish homosexual one night in a pub and everything is clear. [he jumps, as if over an obstacle] The man now walks down the street, holding hands with the Jewish homosexual, and before long he is defined as not himself, but member of a very famous, avant-garde dance couple called Bill and Arnie. The man jumped, long way from Bunnell. A long way back. the steps forward, then back; forward, then back] And the couple makes their way. The couple fights like hell. Can you imagine how any white man and black man could live together and not fight like hell in this country? The man and his partner fight like hell, and love each other. [he walks in a small circle]
One day, the partner finds out he has AIDS. [he stops] The man in Question follows behind his friend, follows behind his friend as he dies. [he takes small, hesitant steps] He is not leading his own life. He is following behind a man who is dying. Following, and learning. Everything stops. The friend dies.
[he walks in a small circle, counter-clockwise; another circle, clockwise] Which way now? And now, the floor is completely clear again, and he has to jump. [he jumps]
He is now no longer a member of a famous interracial couple. [he steps] He is a black man, alone. And he steps out. [he steps] He makes works, talk about these things. He happens to tell a writer on the wrong day that he himself is HIV-positive. Soon, he is no longer even Bill, but he is an HIV-positive, black, male homosexual. The man steps with solid, strong footsteps, but he's always a little bit scared. [he steps, steps, steps] The man steps with solid, strong footsteps, but he's always wishing that he were back somewhere more safe. [he walks in a small circle] The man steps until the day he discovers a thing called a survivor workshop, and he asks many other people to start stepping and walking. People step truthfully; people step weakly; people stepped bravely. And the man never steps. He just asks others to step. [he stops]
He, himself, is still healthy. He can step. [he steps, pauses, steps] His body is strong, and he loves it. He has someone who loves him, finds him sexy. He can still pretend to be normal. The man looks across the gray floor in Milwaukee, and he sees the end of his life.
[he stops] What will he tell his mother? He calls her and says "Mom, I love you very much. " You know how it is in autumn when the sun goes down, and the leaves light up. They tum to fire. And he thinks about Arnie dying in the same room. He things about the moment when Arnie stopped breathing, and how he was sure he felt a breeze go by his head. I feel so light. I feel so-fortunate. The bed is a river of light. The leaves, the bed, the air, the music-all light. All light. Hari Krishna, hari Krishna. Krishna, Krishna, hari, hari. Hari rama, hari rama. Rama rama. [he freezes, mouth open as if to speak]
WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT: [woman sits cross-legged on the floor, her arms making sweeping motions, up and down] I sleep, and therefore I arise. My God, what do you have me to do? [her hands cross over her chest]
CHRIS, WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT: [man shields his eyes, as if looking far away] I see these things, and I must tell everyone. [he cups his hands to his mouth, as if to shout]
ARNIE, WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT: [man speaks, his arms open wide] -introducing the survivors, and I always wanted to do that. [laughs] And we're all survivors. Otherwise, we wouldn't be here. So-
BILL T. JONES: [speaking to workshop participants] Hallelujah. [speaking to dance troupe] Arnie -"Introducing the survivors."
DANCERS:S [speaking in unison, arms open wide] "Introducing the survivors."
BILL T. JONES: Chris-
DANCER: I see all these things-
DANCE TROUPE:E [all shield their eyes, as if looking far away] I see all these things-
DANCER: -and I have to tell everybody.
DANCE TROUPE:E [all cup hands to their mouths, as if to shout] And J have to tell everybody. -II
BILL T. JONES: [rehearsing the dance troupe] There-there-and right, left, and step right, and stir it up, triplet back on your right.
BILL MOYERS: For many months, Jones rehearsed his troupe. The stories and movements of people facing mortal illness were now being interpreted by these vital, young dancers.
BILL T. JONES: [directing the troupe] OK. Ready. And down-run. And Danny, pull out this way. And move. And now, your leg is like-like swiping the room open. They move with you.
DANNY:, Dance Troupe Member [as the rest of the troupe lifts him up to a horizontal position over shoulders] My feet go up. My head's gotta go up. I'm gonna slide!
BILL T. JONES: OK. Now stop-stop-stop. Come back, please. Danny, can you sit up? All right. Here.
TROUPE MEMBER: If everyone puts their hand underneath him, there's a little bit of-
BILL T. JONES: OK, now tur-come downstage this way. All right. So, come down, please. Come down. It would be great if it goes this way. As they go, Danny, you sort of-you know what it's got to be like-you suddenly sit up in the middle of the night in your bed. That's what it's got to be, like as they're carrying you, you sit up in your bed. OK. Let's go. [crosstalk]
BILL T. JONES: [to the dance troupe] OK. Tum-tum.
[interviewing] When you craft certain events in time and space, they begin to suggest what you feel.
[speaking to the dance troupe] It's too fast.. The moment-the moment's got to be a moment. This is a moment, here. Now-no-keep your arms the way they were. And now go forward.
[interviewing] Suddenly you are working out what you feel, coping with it.
[speaking to the dance troupe] Now, the right leg should be going down now.
[interviewing] And the feelings change, and you make more. And you're now engaging the world through your work. You're now a full citizen again. You're producing, you're talking to people. You're not shut down anymore. Your problems, your fears suddenly are manageable because you have abstracted them maybe. Maybe it's a trick. Well, I say it's a survival technique. My work is that dialogue I have.
[speaking to dancer] All right. Ready? Tum right, now, Danny. /interviewing] I have a little time bomb supposedly ticking, right? I want to find out what this point in my life means. Arnie is gone; many friends are gone; I may be gone. You know how the old song goes -"Lord, I want to be ready." So this is getting ready.
You know, "The Best of Friends Sure Has Got to Pan," you know, that old Bessie Smith song? And I am really distressed. I don't really want to leave. I'm only 42 years old. But this is the time when you make the poems, you know? That's all there really is. The making of the poems now.
BILL MOYERS: There was a moment today when -very early on -when the group cohered, coalesced, emerged-something happened to that group then.
[pictorial montage of the trust exercise, where a workshop participant leans back and trusts the other members of the group to catch him and then lower him to the floor]
BILL T. JONES: We need what that exercise was -"Who will receive me? Who will give me the privilege of receiving them? Who will receive me into death? Who will? Where will I lay down? Who-cares?" [workshop participants gather around Luanna, all members touching her or one another. Luanna is crying silently]
BILL T. JONES: [speaking to group] This is Luanna. I had never laid eyes on her before. Some day, she's going to be someone's memory. And we're all with her now. Now, let's let Luanna be alone for a moment. Move away from her.
[interviewing] One day in the first workshop, I chose a person and I said "Let's all look at her. Let's be with her."
[speaking to the group, including Luanna] I knew Luanna once. I spent an afternoon with her.
[interviewing] And now' said "Leave her. Go be a-let her be alone." And then I thought about that loneliness that I feel sometime or the fear of loneliness, and what I've seen in leaving a friend in a hospital room when visiting hours are over and they have suddenly-they're going to spend that next 12 hours alone.
[speaking to the group] Let's come be with her again. [workshop participants walk to Luanna and she laughs, delighted. The group surrounds her, touching her, supporting her]
BILL T. JONES: [to the workshop participants] Is everybody still here? Can you look at everybody's eyes, see what their questions are, what they're thinking? Do you dare?
BILL MOYERS: What have these people taught you about mortality?
BILL T. JONES: You know, in the-in one workshop, not today, this woman, Bonnie, said "You know, don't worry about people taking care of you. They want to. You're giving something." I said "Oh, no-no. She's kidding. People don't really want to have a cripple on their hands." But she's saying "No. That's because you don't-you haven't yet been there. You give people an opportunity to do something that they have a desire to do -to help. "
Wow. Do I believe that? I heard it. And I said to her that day, "Thank you for saying it to me. I will hold that in my mind when I'm in bed, wracked with pain, and I will be wondering if my sister or if my friends would rather be somewhere else, rather than cleaning up my vomit or excrement. " At∑ this workshop today, you notice people kept saying "loss of control."
BILL MOYERS: Yeah, '" fear losing control."
BILL T. JONES: And I'm saying "Oh, if the workshop could teach me how not to be afraid of control, of loss of control." And you know, I'm beginning to get it. [dance troupe rehearses]
BILL T. JONES: [to the dance troupe] You guys do it. Andrea, you do it. No. Gail and you and you. Just make a beautiful dance-an interesting, vital, challenging dance and it will say everything that I learned from survivors.
BILL T. JONES: How can I take what they have to say, put it into a work of art that encourages people to really get going? If I could say anything in a work of art that makes people go out and say "Oh, tomorrow I'm going to quit that damn job because I am not there. I-I don't have time to do this." "Oh, I love this. Therefore, I'm going to go do this." And a work can be that immediate. Now, a diagnosis does that. "Still/Here...
BILL MOYERS:Have you in the process discovered where "here" is?
BILL T. JONES: Here is the place that I can stand and not be distracted by pain, not be in the future, in the past. I can be loving; I can be responsive. Here is the New York City subway, when I have to be there. And I'm rushing from one appointment to the other, and I am worried -"Am I failing? Did I get a bad review yesterday? What's going to happen?" But suddenly, at that moment, I'm my flesh; I'm upright; I'm doing; I'm not in bed; I'm not on a breathalizer. I'm not connected to an IV.
Hey, look. Look where you are. You're here. "Oh, I know my car is stuck on the New York State freeway. Oh, I'm getting a ticket." But hey. Look at you. You're on your two feet. And if that's what "Still/Here" is about, I think that's damn well worthwhile.
BILL MOYERS: Let me ask you the last questions you asked them. What do you love?
BILL T. JONES: I love my friend, Bjorn. I love my friend, Arthur. I love the men who have made me feel like a full, sexual being and not a eunuch. I love them. I love my mother. I love the idea of black people. I love it. I love every lash, every tragic sound. I'm so enamored of that. The blues-we are the blues. I love the blues. I love to dance. I love to watch people dance. When I move my arms and my joints are speaking-I love that.
BILL MOYERS: What do you fear?
BILL T. JONES: Pain. Oh, I don't want to sound like my friend, Arnie, did in his last hour. He was bleating-bleating, like an animal. Pain.
BILL MOYERS: What do you want?
BILL T. JONES: I want the things I love-that list that I can't remember. I want to cross over. How else to say it? I want to cross over.
BILL MOYERS: Well, say it the way you asked them to say it this afternoon. Say it with dance.
BILL T. JONES: I'm too small yet, Bill. I'm too small. You know, I have to be like a mountain, I think, to say it, you know. [he performs a dance of crossing over, ending in tears]
BILL T. JONES: If there's anything I stand behind that was true a thousand years ago, it will be true tomorrow -on this bit of rock that we have here, in these bodies made of half-digested food, decay, desire, we have each other. [film montage of performance of "Still/Here," interspersed with film clips of Bill Jones interacting with workshop participants]
WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT: Worry about the future is something that I waste a lot of time on.
BILL T. JONES: So joy is the absence of fear.
WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT: Yeah. And worry-the absence of worry.
BILL T. JONES: So do that dance for us. We'll watch.
WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT: What dance?
BILL T. JONES: Do the joy dance.
WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT: Oh. I don't-I don't know it.
BILL T. JONES: I bet you do. [she performs the dance of joy -twirling, spinning, smiling] [more workshop participants perform their interpretations of the dance of joy leaping, flying, spinning, Twirling, laughing]
BILL T. JONES: [speaking to workshop participant] What will you tell them before you fly?
WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT: My children?
BILL T. JONES: Yeah.
WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT: That their life is their own. Their life always has been their own. I am hoping I'm teaching them to live the moment.
BILL T. JONES: But they'll say "Will we see you again?"
WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT: Yeah. The love I have for them will never go.
BILL T. JONES: But they'll say "Will I see you," though.
WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT: Me? As I am now? No. [excerpt of the performance of "Still/Here]
MAN: [singing] Will someone please open the door? Can I get a drink of water.
WOMAN: [singing] Will I be a part of the water? A touch of hands. Still-still here. Still here. Still here. [softly] Still here. [performance ends]
BILL T. JONES: [speaking to workshop participants] How could you conceptualize your lives if you draw it as a line? One, smooth line. Walk your life. Go to your birth, to your first place. Where did you start?