When critic Arlene Croce published a review in the New Yorker of Bill T. Jones’s Still/Here without seeing the dance, a scandal ignited. Jones, who is HIV-positive, led workshops in ten cities for people living with terminal illnesses, and their words and video images are part of the piece. Croce wrote that Jones’s pity mongering makes objective criticism impossible, and that Still/Here is the result of years of foundation funding that favors social relevance over quality. The magazine published many responses to the piece, among them one from the Village Voice’s Deborah Jowitt, who argued that “the critic’s main tool remains the ability to see what a work is and is not, and to criticize it accordingly.” After seeing part of a videotape of the dance, I have to say that the work is not beyond criticism: it’s both powerful and mawkish. Jones has great pity for himself and others who will soon die, and he’s able to communicate his feelings and thoughts with the finesse of a boxer delivering a decisive blow. But he’s losing his grip on choreographic craft; I didn’t see any interesting dancing, and even winced several times in the opening section. Like a great prizefighter in one of his last bouts, Jones is the sentimental favorite, but he may not win this one. Jones gives a free lecture, followed by discussion, Saturday at 11 AM in the theater of the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington; performances are Friday at 7, Saturday at 8, and Sunday at 3 at the Shubert Theatre, 22 W. Monroe; $15-$35. Call 902-1500 for tickets, 722-5463 for information.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Johan Elbers.