Bill Moyers Journal (2007-2010); 1336; Bill T. Jones
This week on Bill Moyer's Journal, one of our greatest dance artists, Bill T. Jones. One more talk. We do that one more time, please. Meet one of our greatest presidents, Abraham Lincoln. A special hour of history, dance, and conversation with Bill T. Jones. Our does have the ability to law. It does have the ability to suggest hope. It does have the ability to do many things. So, can art, that's your question. Can art make a difference?
I don't dare assume that's going to happen. That is my fate. Funding for Bill Moyer's Journal is provided by the Partridge Foundation, a John and Pollock Gut Charitable Fund. Park Foundation dedicated to heightening public awareness of critical issues. The Colbert Foundation, the Herb Alpert Foundation, Marilyn and Bob Clemens and the Clemens Foundation, the Fetzer Institute, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Public Welfare Foundation, and by our sole corporate sponsor, Mutual of America, providing retirement plan products and services to employers and individuals since 1945. Mutual of America, your retirement company. From our studios in New York, Bill Moyer's. Welcome to the journal. Throughout this year, we Americans have been taking note of Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday.
The official celebrations are almost over, but our fascination with the 16th president is sure to continue, because every generation must negotiate with his ghost. That haunting presence from our past, living on in marble and memory, who had the saddest eyes, told off-color jokes, died too soon, and even now seems to tap us on the shoulder. As if to remind us, I'm still watching to see how you're doing. He never seems satisfied, and perhaps that's his power over us. From his unfinished life, he ponders and worries for an unfinished nation and an unfinished dream. Of all that was done this year to remember Lincoln, the most imaginative, daring, and provocative, at least to some of us who followed the year's commemorations, is the extraordinary piece of dance and theater created by the choreographer, Bill T. Jones. That's good. Well, let's go for it, then. Let's go for it. Bill T. Jones is one of our country's greatest dance artists. You did this, and I was doing this. You know, there's different, right?
In his three-plus decades, he has conjured for his audience dozens of indelible works. And he's been showered with more awards than I can list, including the Tony, the Obey, and the MacArthur Genius Award. He's currently getting raised for his work on the Broadway hit called Failah. But earlier this year, it was Jones' contemplation of Abraham Lincoln and his legacy that caught my eye. The dance is called, fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, a phrase from Lincoln's second inaugural address spoken as the end of the Civil War was near and just two weeks before he was assassinated. You've never seen Lincoln's story told like this before. Lets go. So, we've started. And yes, we are a crowd up here. Who am I? I'm one of a crowd.
Bill T. Jones, welcome to the journal. It's so great to be here, Bill. Hey, Abraham Lincoln may be the most scrutinized figure in American history. What can a dance tell us that 1,000, 5,000, 10,000, 15,000 books haven't done? Well, first of all, you sort of started really at a very sensitive place where I'm living right now is dance the primary language of what I do. I'm very proud of fondly. Some people take umbridge with the fact that dance does not seem to be the central mode of expression. But I'm trying to make this for an internet
generation. I'm trying to make it for a generation of people who watch television more than they read books. I'm trying to make it for a generation of people who are much more visual in some ways than they are in any way literary. So, yes, dance. But it is a performance art work. That is multi-media. Almost trying to suggest the number of ways in which one could ask the question, who was this man? Which is less interesting to me than can we see that man anywhere in ourselves or around us right now? You did several things for me in this dance. One of them is to, you know, we think of Lincoln as gangling and lacking grace. But there he is. Very young man. Dancing, swaying like a willow in the wind. Paul Matheson, and you know, initially, I wrestled with that idea. I said, Bill, your company has been known for doing non-traditional casting. Why do you have to have a man?
Why does that's be a white man? Why does it have to be any one person on that stage identified as Lincoln? And through processes, which is probably a little boring, and I actually kind of, I don't understand myself, but I began to look for something to hold on to, always thinking about the audience that would be watching it. So, somebody had to evoke Lincoln. Now, if you think about it, who is the long tall handsome black narrator? Let me tell you a story. The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep's throat. No, that is not Lincoln. No, that is not Frederick Douglass. Although he says Frederick Douglass's words, he also says Walt Whitman. He also says, Hey, Ben Lincoln's word. And he said to us at one point, I'm a member of a crowd. He is the voice up there. But he looks more like Lincoln than Paul. That's just a point. Let Mr. Lincoln relax for a moment. Lincoln is a spirit. Lincoln is an idea, a way of being. Once people can become comfortable with that,
then they can begin to maybe feel Lincoln's lyricism, and how this artist is trying to talk about his relationship with Lincoln. Let's go to that extraordinarily beautiful scene in the dance when young Abraham and young Mary taught or dancing. Take a look. Our tears are forever, portrait and full. Unless we be married. We wait for a mother to curl up and come home. I go forever, Mary's man.
Through heart and through body. In the void of the mind. Entire screening has blessed world. The last of a hero. The last of his girl. I realized I'm very, very fond of that section. And you know, we've fought so much about that. I was so afraid to give that kind of emotion. I was so afraid that the piece would settle around the myth of that husband and wife, which is its own cottage industry, as you know right now,
Mary taught and so on. So I said, okay, let's embrace it in a moment and find the most romantic way to dance so that in it, with the light touch, you could suggest these were real people who actually had a passionate relationship. And we're going to do it uncompromising in the way we dance. They're going to kind of hunch him way that he's holding him. You imagine in the 19th century a man that dignified man, hunch him. Well, they had a sexual relationship. We can say that now. We can say it for a long time. Well, I'm not insured in this society even now, there are some people who don't. Oh, yeah, and I guess it's almost naive to say it. But, you know, I've never thought of Lincoln as a 24-year-old man in the prime of his youth until I watch this. I mean, I think I've been, you know, a Mount Rushmore or other monument, or as the figure it for theater, the tragic man. And it's hard to get past. I'll build us that true, knowing how well-read you are. Well, you know, the scholarship now about Lincoln's sexuality. Well, being well-read is not the same thing as imagining what Lincoln,
I can know he was talking four years. I can know he was a young man. I mean, I now read, we all now read that when he was single, he visited houses of ill-repute. He actually said to one of his friends, where can I get some? And he feared for a while that he might have stifles, and he would never think of a Abraham Lincoln in those regards, unless the artist takes you back as you did to a very young Lincoln, right? But what I was trying to do was not so much to see Lincoln in Paul's body, but to say that Lincoln was one of a community of people that was moving. And I don't care. Paul is blonde. Paul is a handsome young guy. Lincoln was, as we all know, gone and tall and dark. I was going to say the personal biography of which we have many is not what's at work here. How does that figure who we vaguely think could be Lincoln? How is he handled in that world? There is a moment wherein he is carried by the group we make we would call a tablo. We put our two gorgeous black dancers, a Le Michael and Shayla, and I said now put your
hand on their head and look boldly into the face of the audience. Are you seeing a young white man touching two black people? Are you seeing Abraham Lincoln a picture in his time, or are you seeing a composition that suggests something formal? That's what's going on there because the section following all of this, biography, then becomes more about policy, about debates, Steven Douglas, the people shouting. But in the center of it is the man that I was asked to reference. And this is one thing about him that we want to, I don't want to call Mary Crazy. I don't want to do anything like that. I want to say that they were in love like you and me. Mary was born on December 13, 1880. She does not know physical labor, her slave owning family is rich. At 817, she announces that she is going to be the wife of a president someday.
She falls in love and Mary is a tall, lanky, jute cracking lawyer. They have four sons but only one of them lived to become adult. Against considerable art, her husband becomes to 16th president and immediately the country is embroiled in the bloodiest conflict it has ever known. To this day, people are still analyzing and taking sides about her. A form of freed slave and dressmaker becomes her closest confidant. She has an obsessive need to shop, often buying things she doesn't need for which many people hate her. Still, she is a cultivate woman who encourages her husband's most progressive ideas. Shortly after an intense but successful reelection campaign, she goes to the Ford Theatre with her husband to see a light comedy.
A disgruntled, sudden sympathizer, Shakespearean actor shoots him in the head. April 15th, 1865, 1722 AM, he dies, he dies, he dies. All is high strong, Mary never recovers from a loss. Sometimes pity, sometimes ridiculed. She wanders aimlessly for the rest of her life. She sleeps on the same side of the bed, convinced that he will return. That is not the doubt he made from the woman that comes through us through the
popular history of the last hundred years. But she was a passionate woman. She had four children. She could speak French. She loved beautiful things. She was feisty. She was, who can say? Who can say? That is not even important. It's interesting, Bill, you have done for the heart of the most emotional things in the piece. And I appreciate that. But those things have to be offset by things which are not so tasty. Things that are a disjunction, the contemporary people. That was just two biographies, one his biography, the great man and his wife. But there are other biographies, other biographies that are less glamorous. No, they are not, not Mount Rushmore. They are a young guy who's been to Iraq or Afghanistan. He has no time for people complaining about what was done to them in the past. Life is tough for
everybody. He knows things about death. He has seen buddies in his unit blown to pieces. He drives on city streets now, but keeps waiting for bombs to explode on the side of the road. They are a woman born in 1939, who is no fan of our contemporary president. Of course, slavery was wrong. But she messed the time when things were clear. All the world made sense. Nowadays anything goes. If this new president makes a big mess of things, don't blame her. She didn't vote for him. She can feel age set into her bones like plaster, hardening in a mold. She dreams of being young again and wishes she had the whole thing to do over. What did you want these voices that you put in here from the contemporary world, the soldier
from Iraq, the woman from South Carolina? What did you want? Well, what I was shooting for was, I was saying this piece, ultimately, is not a biopic. I think Hollywood does it. Can't I've heard they're going to make a film? And I hope they do. It is supposed to be, how can we use Lincoln and his time as a mirror through which we look darkly at ourselves? In other words, the voices that still disagree. There's a young man, and danced by LaMica, which was part of his biography, who is saying that people were not all guaranteed to love. He just seen this. He is a young black man who says that he's heard of a government of the people, by the people and for the people. But he's not sure that governance were him. You know, you got to listen closely and you can hear that you said, Abe's looking over our shoulder now to see all we're doing. Well, we're not doing so well. If you thought that there was going to be an end to the racial problems,
if you thought we were going to have a true democracy that would have a civil discourse, no, I don't think we're doing so well. Those biographies, which are fictional to a point, are supposed to suggest a much bigger picture. Should it have been 200 of them? Well, you know, you do that film, maybe, or documentary, but you don't do it on stage. You know, Carl Semberg and those volumes he did about Lincoln was widely criticized for being historically irresponsible, but poetically he was, it was rhapsody. And a lot of people awoke to Lincoln as a spirit, as you said, as himself a poet, as in some respects, he was, that might have been inspired or would have been inspired by the literal story, by the facts of Lincoln, as important as they are. And I think that Carl Semberg's era was, it's great as it was. It was even less challenging. We are now. There are so many sources of information. And there's so much distraction. Any one person, you Google anybody, particularly Abraham Lincoln,
you could spend probably the next rest of your life trying to find out the real story. So poets do us a service in that regard. And all artists, artists like myself, when you take on a historical subject, you owe it first and foremost to yourself, what is my location in this staggering field of information? How do I feel about it? You wrestle with, I mean, I don't know anybody who's caught the poignant opposites in Lincoln's life. He was a man who was leading the remnant of the nation in its civil war. We were trying to hold the union together. He was also struggling with the loss he had for sons, the loss of three of those sons, with a wife who was, you know, tragically embittered and inconsolable. And you catch that. You catch that in this incredible scene of Lincoln and Mary and therefore sons. Let's take a look at that. Oh, nice. He falls in love with Mary Todd, a pretty, rich,
ambitious girl from Kentucky, and Mary saw three years later. Some people say that Mary was the best thing that ever happened to her. Others say something else. Stop. They have four sons. And though he and she struggle with each other, they love their boys. But only one of them lived to become an adult. Stop. You know, we think of the pressure from the president, but here was a president who was,
the body politic was torn apart and his own family was dying off around him. You imagine one and eleven of every man of age in this country was killed in that war and because and replaced because he did not compromise with the South. You imagine that guilt. Here I'm thinking of Mr. Lincoln folded over with anxiety in his night shirt, you know, at the news from was it Gettysburg or what have you? Oh, it happens and that is in a remarkable life safely now on Mount Rushmore, but that is being happened. It's happening every day and particularly if you dare believe in something and you get people through power through charisma, through force of intellect to follow you, be careful. You will pay, but that seems to be the way it works. I was surprised when I read that you were taking this on when they came to you. It wasn't you didn't come up with the idea they came to you and wanted the commission. Why did you say yes? I said yes because, first of all,
Wells Kaufman is incredibly charming through his enthusiasm and his integrity. But when he gave me Doris Kern's Good Winds book and team of rivals and I thought that I know what that's about and I'm a little like a lot of us who became disaffected in the 60s. I'm suspicious of this great man who we black folks were taught to think of as the Redeemer. We were taught to think that he was here to say but he wasn't. It was all about politics. It was all about economics. You know, that was kind of a bitterness that came out of the 60s and 70s. When I started reading it again and tracking his development and you know I say that the election that we were going into when I started this and the whole Obama 2008. Yes and you know I don't want to labor with Mr. Obama with any more expectations but at that time in the back of my mind I said oh my god maybe it could happen in your lifetime. Lincoln was very controversial. He came in on a platform. People didn't
literally he came in in one of the bloodiest battles ever in the history of the country happened under his watch and he behaved exemplary. But in a man who started with white supremacist ideas and ended up with Frederick Douglass saying Mr. President that was a sacred effort. Wow. Oh transformation. Ah that is an eternal value and it's something I'm looking for in myself and in the world. Call it hope. It's like it's almost a brand now isn't it hope. But I thought there's a reason why you've worked with some heavy duty politicians. Why do they all at some point? Ah clear their throat and make a modest connection between themselves and great Abe. Oh Abe's Abe's what do you call his stock is high. It's high in the political world. I thought why is that? Well we make figures we give them worth over time you know. That's what was going on for me at this moment when I was making the piece thinking oh maybe it could happen again now and that's
when I became really interested in him again and I began to love him again. Love him again? Well you're allowed to love him when you were growing up. Oh please I mean like every other school child in the learning that he's a burger dress but more importantly in my home he was the only white man I was allowed to love unconditionally. I guess John if kind of he would have been a close second did any of them really deserve it says my black radical friends or any of them really deserve it. Well deserve your love. Deserve that kind of love and revenge. Yes he was a savior a Redeemer the Redeemer. Well I have now decided that he does deserve it. He does deserve that trust that my five year old heart gave to him. He does deserve it. As you talk I remember you're saying somewhere that where you were growing in that house where you grew up there were four pictures on the wall Lincoln Martin Luther King John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy. All I'm painting on velvet on one picture and all assassinated. Interesting yeah have you thought about that every
one of your heroes assassinated. Yeah it seems to be the job description hasn't it. How do you cope with that sense of tragedy. Right now I feel like I could week right now the way I just sitting here with you Bill Moyers and that is something as my mother would say you got to take it to Jesus which means when something is so big that you will never understand it. I mean I'm not a Christian in that way but that when she said you got to take it to Jesus which means you've got to sort of absorb it somehow or other into the stuff of your life. If you're an artist like myself it leaches it leaches out over a life sometimes it's belligerence sometimes it's tragedy sometimes it's a wild hopefulness dance after 9-11 that kind of thing. Yeah some people may remember that after 9-11 I ask you to come on my shoe and I and I said what do you do after a tragedy like this you remember what you told me. You have to dance. Is that the way you deal with grief you've had a lot of grief
in your life. A lot of anger a lot of loss. Well I am it becomes harder you know I'll tell you something I was at Berkeley about just after I need to die. You partner at Co-Founder of the company. And I'm you know pontificating to a room of young dance students and I'm saying I challenge you you know I want you at 20 years to go and look in the mirror and look for the lines around your mouth. Are they going to be smile lines or they're going to be here. Are you going to be crushed your face going to tell the story of a person who has become embittered and weighed it down or will that spirit that you all have shown me today and I was feeling my own oats and then and I said I challenge you in 20 years there are days when I can't look in the mirror because I'm afraid I'm going to fail because my heart is hoodie you know I think it's part of the it's part of aging and so on but that person that said dance like that I have to work to for that person
to be there I think it's an honest work. This physicality in this play is remarkable not surprising to anyone who knows about you in your own long obsession with the body and your own effort to discover all aspects of the body there is in the beginning of the dance of the marvelous solo that begins with Whitman's language from I sing the body electric and who's the dancer? Shayla V. Jenkins. Here she is. What's going on here in the speech about Abraham Lincoln what Whitman is cataloging the body
from his position somewhere in the 1850s. And here you're looking at a particular body is she a universal body? Look how gorgeous she is the way she moves she doesn't move like a normal person is she a body in the 19th century or she a body now the work is saying put all that aside connect the idea of the body to a real body. That for me is what dance really is. That is it.
Back bone, hips, hips, pockets, hip strength, man balls, man roots, strong set of thighs, man's wings. Could anyone less sensual than Walt Whitman have written those words, nouns in procession? Could anyone less sensual than the ability Jones have choreographed? I'm serious, this is a very sensual moment in a play about Lincoln. Well, I don't know if they could or not, but there's a great book about Daniel Mark Epstein about Walt Whitman and Lincoln, and he claims that Lincoln literally had to almost pull leaves of grass out of the fire because Mary Todd, like many people, felt it was pornography. But he supposedly did read it, and after Cooper Union, according to Gapson, the speech that Lincoln
made here, it began the sensuality in his writing. The poetic leaps, he argues, were informed by Walt Whitman's wild man, his take on the body policy of America. And Lincoln obviously was not thrown off by the fact that Walt Whitman was pansexual. Walt Whitman was quoting Eastern mysticism. Walt Whitman saw the slave as a person and talked about the personhood, tried to talk about sexuality men and women. I think Lincoln was quite moved, therefore sensuality is something that was a gift given to American letters by Walt Whitman. But when I watched this bill, it was the first time it was really driven home to me that slavery was about physicality. It was about the body. There were these strong men who were purchased because of their strength and these beautiful black women who were purchased because of their beauty.
It was all about the body. And you bring that home to it. Were you aware of doing that? Is that what you were talking about? It's another thing I didn't want to do. We all know slavery. So to do slavery is a cliche, or so you'll get bogged down. How can you get to the core of the thing without doing the familiar? So how do we do a piece about the Civil War and not show slave auction? Well, we tried to do it in a postmodern way. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Let us begin. Let Nick hair, ears, drop and tympan of the ears, eyes, eye fringes, iris of the eye, eyebrows, and the waking or sleeping of the lids, mouth.
The same movement that he is doing in that scene is what we saw beautiful Shayla V. Jenkins doing at the top in almost a clinical way talking about the body, but now it's reflected theatrically. Knows, nostrils of the nose, and the partition, cheeks, temples, forehead, chin, throat, back of the neck, neck, slew, strong shoulders. Do you hear me? Strong shoulders, manly beard, scapula. Ladies and gentlemen, do I hear hind shoulders in the ample side round of the chest, upper arm, hip elbow sockets, lower arm, arm sinews, arm bones, wrist and wrist joints, yes, I wrist and wrist joints, hand, palm, knuckles, thumbs, forefinger, pin of all, from the joints, from the nails. Broad breast front.
Do you hear me? Broad breast front, curling hair of the breast, breastbone, breast side, ribs, belly, backbone, joints of the backbone, hips, hips, sockets, hips straight, inward and outward round, man the root. Who wants a skull for the thighs, well, carry the tongue above? Leg bodice, knee, knee pad, upper leg, under leg. Do you hear me? Ain't it? It's the football. Toes, toe joints, the heel, going, going, going, going, sewing. I thought what a slavery is almost reactionary. To go back to slavery seems beside the point. But I think there was something formally in what you said about it being about the body. About the body is the thing that connects us, the body is bought and sold, and the body is definitely the thing that will divide us. And slavery is a horrible example of it, and it's simply abstraction.
Start with abstract movement. And how? That's why I defend the way in which I use text, because you see a person doing one thing and you hear something, and once again, this notion of association, you will make a connection. Now we push it a little bit with sound effects and so on and Janet Wong's projection of a 19th century gathering of men and women and the dancing man. But it is nothing more than an abstract gesture heated up in the crucible of our association. It's useful for people to do that exercise, see something horrible through a formal lens. It's almost like the Greek used to say that you had to wear a mask to talk about something tragic. Because if the mask allows you to talk about the most horrible things back here, and because the naked face, they said, everyone could see themselves too easily.
But the mask, which was the form of the play, and in this respect, the abstraction, will allow you to go even deeper in what it could possibly mean. What you said to me, that flash and that lash and the noise and the background of the crowd and the going going, going, going, you've taken Walt Whitman's poem and turned it into the actual selling of human body, a literal function. Which Whitman would have understood, he would certainly have understood. Yes, he even wrote about, I wish I could quote it, but he says, I identify with the slave seller and the slave. No, that might irritate some people, but he said he could see both of them. And that, I think, was an important thing for the American psyche. And Lincoln reported, as a younger man, went down the Mississippi and saw slaves being auctioned and was deeply moved. We assume he was. Now, did he ever write about it? No, we don't. We just, we're judging by what he has said, no, that we assume that he was moved by it. Now, that's the problem with history, isn't it?
We want history to tell us what, to validate what we think. And the artist fills in some of the blanks, as you have been doing it? Yeah, or goes counterintuitive. Where he goes? Goes counter. Well, let's say that he, that's like you mentioned earlier, that the Lincoln was in some people's mind always on a stave, on a pedestal. But Lincoln had a sexuality. Lincoln was a politician in the debates. Lincoln is the one that said, Douglas, that no, I would never marry a black woman. But I don't, just because I don't want a black woman for a wife, doesn't mean I must have her for a slave. And even said, I'm not sure if all of blacks and whites are equal, you know? But he said, people have a right to certain liberties, to, they have certain rights because they are in America. He was a man of his era, I mean, I think that that, I'm not trying to paint a hageographic portrait of him. I am, I'm not. I'm trying to make him human. So what are the few moments in there when we see this figure on the projection screen behind
Jorley, almost merely dancing, I mean, were you chiding Lincoln for being sort of indifferent for a while? I'm talking about us. I'm talking about us, I mean, I speak us generously, that, that was Lamyco dressed in a frog coat in a top hat, dancing as he would if he were an entertainer in 1861. Or it could be Lincoln tap dancing, we don't know. But we did instruct him to just dance Jorley as a quote, black man would in 1861. It's a favorite old saw of mine. It is, we love certain black folks because of their natural athleticism, the natural sensuality, and they're the natural performers. And it's still the question of how do you want your minorities? Like, let's talk about gay people right now, you know what I mean? Like, every channel, they have gay people all over it, but I often say they're gay clowns,
you know, that you can have a gay character, but he's got to be a little didsy. He's got to probably not be in a relationship, they've got to be, you know, somebody who is good for comic relief, you know. We've been through that with all minorities, the Italians, the Irish, the Jews, and all of them. And I think that that is, that is what's going on there. It's just a gentle reminder of something asking the question, are we past this, because I actually would love the way he dances when he's in the 19th century, you know. I look, it's much, it's not intellectual, you know. It is about performing for me. It makes me feel good. Believe me in my own career. I'm the one who's joked and said, you know, for me, I've learned that the fine art of when to take my shirt off, you know, you know, it, you know, it sounds, how do you learn that? Oh, how do you learn anything that has to do with getting over or seduction? That's how it's done.
Do you like yourself for doing it? Maybe not. Does it work? Sometimes. What happens when you're too old to do it? You have to find another way to quote, get over. And that's what I call the discourse. Can you find a way, can you find a language? And put it on the table with everyone else's language so that you can actually talk? If there is a message to this artistic work, it seems to me, it comes in that sequence of the debates and let's look at it and then we'll talk about it. Speak a three. As a citizen, I am guaranteed protection of fundamental rights, such as the right of access to the courts, the right to freedom of movement, the right to bodily integrity. Speak or four. Oh, please. The body is strong and resilient and can withstand a lot. We'll even have a doctor at hand. Doctor at hand. What are you planning to do?
That's outrageous. Let me finish. I own my body. I have the right to have a family and direct the upbringing of my children. And yes, I can marry anybody. Hold on. Not everybody is equal. Yes, I agree. Not everybody is equal, but still. Just because I don't want a Negro woman for a slave doesn't mean I must necessarily want her for a wife. I can just leave her alone. Speak or five. Not everyone can be a citizen. I don't care if he was born here or came over the border. Some people are simply inferior and incapable of self-government and should never be allowed to vote. It is best to keep them separate from us. Speak or six. And when he's opposed, we should keep these people. Send them to some other country where they'll be happy or just keep them in the back. Think what you will.
We aren't going anywhere. Our minds are made up to live here if we can or die here if we must. โ' every attempt to remove us will be as it ought to. Labor laws. Here we are and here we shall remain. It's clear. We're here. Get used to it. It's clear. We're here. Get used to it. It's clear. We're here. Get used to it. It's clear. We're here. Get used to it. I'd rather die first. It's clear. We're here. Get used to it. I'd rather die first. It's clear. We're here. Get used to it. We'd rather die first. Wow. That's all one can say about it. It's clear we're here. Get used to it. And then the voice comes back. I'd rather die first. I mean, it could be anybody past or present. It could be immigrants. We're here to stay. It could be... It's actually a quote from the Gay Liberation Movement. We're here. We're queer. Get used to it. That's what we're quoting there. And we just tweaked it a little bit. It's clear we're here. Get used to it. And then there's the cold
back. I'd rather die first. And what about that? Oh, well, I don't know. I mean, I've been criticized. Some people said, well, it was... He chose very obvious things from now. And he imposed it on the Lincoln Douglas debates. And somehow that was cheating or something. Or somehow that was too clear. It was too clear somehow that that's what we were doing here. I mean, there, when she's saying the government, there will be a doctor at hand. Now, we all know that that was the question about torture in Guantanamo Bay. This whole congressional record about how you justify what torture is, what is torture, what is it, failure of a body of organs or something. So we were making something that was going to be like take all of the issues then and now in the nasty debate, the discourse, which is never leftist and would certainly have Mr. Lincoln shaking his head now. And we have like combined them in a way. Well, look how people are dancing. We're
not pretending to be rotund Senator Douglas or tall Lincoln. It is about these people having different movements. Not these movements turn off the sound. The movement is still exciting. And interesting. Now, put next to it words, some that you agree with and some that you don't, there's a disjunction about that romantic expression, which you call a lot in dance, at being at the service of some hate speech or being at the service of a position we don't approve of. Well, isn't that a bit like the democratic system? Isn't it? We're supposed to be allowing everybody to have their say. But people have horrible things to say. And there are stupid people in positions of power who have the bully pulpit. What do you do with it? You know, speaker one, speaker two. And that's what I said. I think the true meaning of Lincoln's legacy is. Not about the men. I mean, it's beautiful story at all. But he believed in that. And was he naive? But he believed in, I keep watching in a government of the people, for the people and by the
people. Was he naive? Or as they said in a quaint, you know, when they talked about Geneva's convention, the torture demos, it had become quaint. Or is that a quaint sentiment? Do you really believe the people can govern themselves? It's being fought around the world right now. Well, this is something you haven't resolved in your own life. I know because we talked about the capsule biographies in the dance of Lincoln and Mary Todd and the fictional account of the Rocky soldier and the woman born in 1939. But there's also a capsule biography of Bill T. Jones inserted in here. His great-grandmother, he thinks, was born as a slave on a plantation somewhere in Georgia. Slavery is the distant past, something he cannot remember, but somehow cannot forget. He barely remembers when he first realized there was such a thing as a president. Although, as a five-year-old, he loved this man on the copper pinning, or five dollar bill, as if he were a member of the family, Jesus Christ or Santa Claus stuck.
He never fought in any war. He grows old, distrusted politicians and patriots stuck. But the destruction of that war, as seen in old photographs, seems quite even on mat to compare to what he has seen since. But him wars are never declared anymore and no one ever surrenders. Assassinations are no longer reserved for the powerful. He lives the rest of his life waiting for another calamity and is never disappointed. Life performances are unpredictable. Bullets are real. He has his doubts about a government of the people, by the people, for the people. But he is still surprised that he never stops believing in great men, though he keeps it to himself.
Well, obviously I've been outed here now, haven't I? Yeah, we are. I have you kept it to yourself. Well, like I say, the climate that I came out of in the 60s or 70s, you know, it was a radicalized climate. My generation, Bob Dylan says, don't follow leaders and watch the parking meters. There was a cynicism that came in with the cool. Don't believe any of them. Don't believe them. And to believe in great men and great women, as we saw in the last election, when everybody came out saying, yes, we can, you know, you go at your own risk, you know, you may be disappointed. But what's the alternative? But is it because we fear they will fail us, or is it because we know we might fail them? Oh, very well put, Phil. I think it's a bit of both, isn't it? Then we know they're not gods and goddesses. But, you know, there's something to believe,
but Mr. Lincoln believed about the us. The way the people and the prambles. We the people. Who speaks about we anymore than the people who are trying to sell us something? You know, we understand I, but what does it mean to say we? That's something I'm wrestling with right now. The best I can do is my little microcosm of a company. That I can believe in the way it works. The bigger ones, I'm just waiting for that calamity, that scandal, the curtain to be pulled back. Do you think art changes anything? Can it help us restore the social contract? Let me put it this way. I hope it's not too esoteric, but after seeing this work, my family member who was sister-locking to me and she said that she's practicing mindfulness. Because this come to her, her belief, that we can't expect peace in the world if we don't have peace in our mind. Was that new age? Well, yeah, but she was saying that after seeing this work.
You know, we can't expect peace in the world unless you're peace in the mind. Now, art does have the ability to law. It does have the ability to suggest hope. It does have the ability to do many things. So can art, that's your question. Can art make a difference? Let's work on the micro level for now. Let's work on the micro level. This is what I'm saying to myself. Get the people in the theater, give them something that's handsome, that's well-made, that's generous, and maybe they'll leave the theater with a little bit more freedom in their bodies, not so afraid of their bodies and afraid of other bodies, but also, ah, possibilities of how I might live. I don't dare assume that's going to happen. That is my faith. But I have to say that your art is laced with that underlying current of tragedy and reality. And hopefully, as I've been saying, that I want to make work that was encouraging to people.
Now, with the tragedy, we acknowledge the tragedy. But do I believe I hold out a hope as Lincoln did that ultimately, providence would have its way, and that we would be able to see our way, and it never stops the struggle. That's what that ghost chain is in fondly. That's the process, the democratic process. It seems to be in the toilet right now. It's being controlled by special interests, small mindedness, divisiveness, but it's the one we have. And that is almost where I feel about art. You know, stay on the train. Stay on the train. It doesn't, maybe there is no destination. Maybe it is only the going, but this is the one I want to ride on. Bill T. Jones, thank you very much for being with me. Thank you, Bill. It is amazing,
a wonderful pleasure to be here. I was born in 2009. I've lived a hundred years. We too fall in love, kill each other, and like you, we sometimes violently disagree. For us, ask for you. Lincoln is a story we tell ourselves. We think about that man born 300 years ago,
his times and his big questions. We still dedicate, we still consecrate ourselves to his unfinished work. But for us, you are a big question. The world I live in, you would not recognize. However, some things never change. Like waiting, disappointment and still believing in great men and great women. Bill T. Jones and his company spent nearly two years making this remarkable work of dance theater.
Throughout that time, our colleagues at the PBS series, American Masters, were on the scene documenting entire process with their cameras. Their film about the creation of finally do we hope, perfectly do we pray, will premiere on American Masters in early 2011. The dance itself is currently on a national tour. If you go to our website at pbs.org and click on Bill Mory's journal, you can find out if it's coming to a town near you. That's all at pbs.org, and that's it for the journal. We'll be off there next week, but we'll see you again next year. I'm Bill Mory's. The journal's top 10 stories of 2009, log on at pbs.org.
This episode of Bill Moyer's journal is available on DVD or VHS for $29.95 to order call 1-800-336-1917 or write to the address on your screen. Major funding is provided by the Partridge Foundation, a John and Pollock Gough Charitable Fund, Park Foundation dedicated to heightening public awareness of critical issues, the Colberg Foundation, the Herb Albert Foundation, Maryland and Bob Climates, and the Climates Foundation, the Fetzer Institute, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Public Welfare Foundation, and by our sole corporate sponsor Mutual of America, providing retirement plan products
and services to employers and individuals since 1945, Mutual of America, your retirement company.
- Episode Number
- Bill T. Jones
- Contributing Organization
- Public Affairs Television & Doctoroff Media Group (New York, New York)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- BILL MOYERS JOURNAL takes a unique look at our nation's 16th President - through the eyes of critically acclaimed choreographer Bill T. Jones. In a groundbreaking work of choreography, FONDLY DO WE HOPE...FERVENTLY DO WE PRAY. Jones reimagines a young Lincoln in his formative years through dance. Bill Moyers speaks with Jones about his creative process, his insights into Lincoln, and how dance can give us fresh perspective on America's most-studied president. "This piece, ultimately, is not a biopic. It is supposed to ask, 'How can we use Lincoln and his time as a mirror through which we look darkly at ourselves?'" says Jones.
- Series Description
- BILL MOYERS JOURNAL -- Award-winning public affairs journalist Bill Moyers hosts this weekly series filled with fresh and original voices. Each hour-long broadcast features analysis of current issues and interviews with prominent figures from the worlds of arts and entertainment, religion, science, politics and the media.
- Segment Description
- Credits: Producers: Gail Ablow, William Brangham, Peter Meryash, Betsy Rate, Candace White, Jessica Wang; Writers: Bill Moyers, Michael Winship; Editorial Producer: Rebecca Wharton; Interview Development Producer: Ana Cohen Bickford, Lisa Kalikow; Editors: Kathi Black, Eric Davies, Lewis Erskine, Rob Kuhns, Paul Desjarlais; Creative Director: Dale Robbins; Graphic Design: Liz DeLuna; Director: Ken Diego , Wayne Palmer; Coordinating Producer: Ismael Gonzalez; Associate Producers: Julia Conley, Katia Maguire, Justine Simonson, Megan Whitney, Anthony Volastro, Diane Chang, Margot Ahlquist; Production Coordinators: Matthew Kertman, Helen Silfven; Production Assistants: Dreux Dougall, Alexis Pancrazi, Kamaly Pierre; Executive Editor: Judith Davidson Moyers; Executive Producers: Sally Roy, Judy Doctoroff O’Neill
- Segment Description
- Additional credits: Producer: Dominique Lasseur, Cathrine Tatge, Stephen Talbot, Sheila Kaplan, Lexy Lovell, Michael Uys, Megan Cogswell, Andrew Fredericks, Peter Bull, Alex Gibney, Chris Matonti, Roger Weisberg, Sherry Jones, Jilann Spitzmiller, Heather Courtney; Associate Producer: Carey Murphy; Editors: Dan Davis, David Kreger, Joel Katz, Andrew M.I. Lee, Sikay Tang, Lars Woodruffe, Penny Trams, Foster Wiley, Sandra Christie, Christopher White; Correspondents: Lynn Sherr, Frank Sesno, Deborah Amos
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- Talk Show
- Copyright Holder: Doctoroff Media Group LLC
- Media type
- Moving Image
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
Public Affairs Television & Doctoroff Media Group
Identifier: cpb-aacip-94501ccf2c6 (Filename)
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- Chicago: “Bill Moyers Journal (2007-2010); 1336; Bill T. Jones,” 2009-12-25, Public Affairs Television & Doctoroff Media Group, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 1, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-47e3f3a7731.
- MLA: “Bill Moyers Journal (2007-2010); 1336; Bill T. Jones.” 2009-12-25. Public Affairs Television & Doctoroff Media Group, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. October 1, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-47e3f3a7731>.
- APA: Bill Moyers Journal (2007-2010); 1336; Bill T. Jones. Boston, MA: Public Affairs Television & Doctoroff Media Group, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-47e3f3a7731
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