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Bill T. Jones: Dancer 39

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Sinuous as a brook, thunderous as Niagara, Jones moves with liquid grace and a startling range of power. Equally expressive as a choreographer, the New Yorker recently led his company on a critic-pleasing national tour of Last Supper at Uncle Tom’s Cabin/The Promised Land. A three-hour work focusing on AIDS, sexism and the legacy of slavery, it climaxed with 52 dancers disrobing onstage and featured Jones’s mother, Estrella, reciting a prayer. “His work has a very decided point of view that you can’t get away from,” says Bruce Marks, artistic director of the Boston Ballet. “He doesn’t just do one thing. He does sculptural pieces, quiet and lyrical ones, and there are sections that almost boogie.” Jones is himself the magnetic core of his dance. “He’s this huge animal about to spring,” says Marks. “If a panther is sexy, Bill is sexy.” “Sexy?” wonders Jones. “In my business, I’ve had to learn to trade on sexiness, knowing the right moment to take one’s shirt off.” What turns him on? “Just about any other person,” he says. “I must admit I do look at buttocks a lot. I like a person who flirts. I like a person with a lot of fire. I have been seduced by downright ugly people who have that fire, and it has been wonderful. The fire illuminates the shell, and it’s tragic when there is a beautiful shell but nobody home.” Jones, who says he was “really ugly” as an adolescent, takes a wry view of his own well-developed shell: “I come from a line of field workers. My looks are the result of 300 years of selective breeding.”