Stephen Hendel commissioned Bill T. Jones to choreograph a Broadway musical about Fela Kuti. Jones provides an overview of Kuti's musical development and political awakening, influenced by the African-American Civil Rights struggle.
Jones was attracted Kuti's disillusionment in the post-colonial New Africa movement. He is struggling to stay optimistic about the power of art to make a difference in people's lives.
Kuti never showed his doubts publicly. Jones discusses his sense of betrayal in post-colonial African dictatorships. Rather than being labeled as an angry black man, Jones argues that Kuti was irate.
Jones explains the process of learning about Kuti's life and activism. He compares choreographing for the art world to choreographing for a commercial theater audience.
Jones sees "Fela" as a chance to reach a broader audience without selling out. He believes artists can be popular and still create meaningful work. He hopes to increase racial diversity among Broadway fans and participants.
Jones has to find a personal relationship with each of his works. He discusses juxtaposing aspects of the American president's time with modern life and social values.
At 57, Jones feels he must decide between trying to connect to popular audiences and retreating into the art world. He reflects on his company reaching its 25 year anniversary and compares his current self to his 36 year old self.
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In this 2009 interview, Bill T. Jones discusses his recent musical "Fela!" celebrating the life of Nigerian musician and activist Fela Kuti. He talks about transitioning from the high art world to the world of commercial theater and reflects on the 25th anniversary of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company.
Length: 29 minutes
Copyright date: ©2009
Prices include public performance rights.
Not available to Home Video and Publisher customers.
Only available in USA and Canada.
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