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Embodying the undiscussable: Documentary methodology in Bill T. Jones's Still/Here and the culture wars

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In 1994 Bill T. Jones premiered a new dance work, Still/Here, that placed onstage the images and gestures of terminally ill people who had participated in workshops he had led previously. Arlene Croce, then the dance critic for The New Yorker, reviewed the work even though she famously refused to attend the performance. In her review she chastised Jones for creating 'victim art' out of his own and others' experiences of illness. The publication of Croce's review raised several questions about the role of dance criticism, the clash of 'high' and 'low' cultures, voyeurism and spectatorship, and the limits of representation in dance. This article argues that Jones's work and Croce's response to it can be understood through the lens of documentary theatre methods and theories. Moreover, articulating the intersection of dance and documentary practices directly addresses Croce and Jones's conflict over the use of the 'real' in 'art'.

Keywords: Arlene Croce; Bill T. Jones; Still/Here; culture wars; documentary theatre; illness

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/smt.5.3.297_1

Affiliations: University of Pittsburgh

Publication date: January 20, 2012

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  • Studies in Musical Theatre is a refereed journal which considers areas of live performance that use vocal and instrumental music in conjunction with theatrical performance as a principal part of their expressive language.
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