Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Philosophy and Vision in Artistic Work – Freeing the Body

BOND: Your life is so fascinating. I have to try hard to get back to my script here. What do you see as the difference between vision, philosophy and style? How did these interact for you, if they do? Vision, philosophy, style?

JONES: I'm now the executive artistic director of an exciting new entity called New York Live Arts which is the blending of a historic downtown avant-garde dance facility called the Dance Theater Workshop and my company. One of the things we're wrestling with right now is, what is vision? Is vision a mission statement? Now, vision is something like I see it like a philosophy of life, something that you think your enterprise is devoted to no matter what changes around it. That is, you might say the — We believe that the body in American society has always been beleaguered. You can blame it on our Puritan underpinnings, that there's been this body mind dichotomy, that dance has bravely at least since the turn of the last century been trying to confront. The body is all right with its appetites and desires. It does not have to be policed and what's more, when it is set free, it is a beautiful thing that is good for all people watching that body. That is a vision. Now, your second one was —

BOND: Vision, philosophy and style.

JONES: Well, I think maybe it's philosophy is the same. We are not afraid. We are not afraid of bodies. We are not afraid of bodies who look differently than we do, have different genders, different histories. That philosophy and that there is beauty when those bodies can take their differences and negotiate them, negotiating differences is a very important part of our philosophy and place it at the surface of something else. Now, what is that something else? It comes back to the humanness underpinnings of our whole conversation today. How do I, to say I'm a body and a dancer, how do I negotiate the feeling of alienation I've had since I was sucking at my mother's breast, how can I feel a part of this world.

Alienation is a very important attribute of many artists. I think you can see it throughout history but particularly modernist artists. The alienated, lone genius is the central image. I love that, you know, the idea of Picasso saying I don't search, I find. Jackson Pollock throwing paint. Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, Mr. Ailey himself dealing with his mother and the idea that he wanted to do dancing. I feel like that has been with me always and I think it is something that actually is very important for the culture, that those lonely alienated persons be allowed to look for bridges to the culture. It's counterintuitive, isn't it? If you define yourself as being a part but by the same token, you want to be one with, that is the push and pull of my philosophy. And what was the third?