Scene from Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company "What Problem?"
CPA Series

Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company: What Problem?

October 28 & 29, 2022
8 PM

Tickets from $10-$35. See details below.  

For the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line . . . the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men . . . And yet, being a problem is a strange experience, — peculiar even for one who has never been anything else.” – W.E.B. Du Bois, “The Souls of Black Folk” (1903)  

Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company’s latest work, What Problem?, provokes the tension between belonging to a community and feelings of isolation that many feel during these divisive political times. Adapted for proscenium stages from the massive work, Deep Blue Sea (2021), Jones conceived of this highly personal work in pursuit of the elusive “we,” including a cast of local community members, a deconstructed text from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick.”  

Jones reflects on King’s immortal words “we shall overcome” mixed with the scripture of our democracy as formed and shaped by “We the People.”  

There has always been an uneasy recognition of the truth at the base of the great Du Bois statement concerning “the problem of the color line,” for Du Bois represented the epitome of otherness; yet we now understand this is much more complex.  

In our fractious era, What Problem? elaborates on this line in terms of sexual politics, gender identity, class struggles and immigration. 

Originally scheduled during our 21/22 season, this co-commissioned work is performed in collaboration with local community members, making this performance specific to the Triangle.  


Tickets from $25-$35. $10 UNC-Chapel Hill student tickets available with valid UNC One Card. Additional discounts available. Visit our FAQ page for details. 

Save 20% on our four-performance, experimental dance series: 

  • Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company: What Problem? | October 28-29, 2022 
  • Bobbi Jene Smith: Broken Theater | November 11-12, 2022 
  • David Neumann and Marcella Murray for Advanced Beginner Group: Distances Smaller Than This Are Not Confirmed | November 18-19, 2022 
  • Emanuel Gat Dance: LOVETRAIN2020 | December 7, 2022 

Main Floor, Section A Package: $82 (plus taxes and fees; save $20)  
Premium Package: $94 (plus taxes and fees; save $23) 

Visit for details.  


  • Program: We’re excited to offer a robust digital program book for this event. To access this resource, click here. This program can also be accessed via QR codes on event signage.
  • Runtime: 85 minutes 
  • Intermission: n/a 
  • Content Warnings: Please note that brief strobe light effects, louder, high-pitched sounds, and sounds of gunshots, are used during this piece. The piece contains some adult themes and language. The sounds of gunshots and strobes happen between approximately 33 minutes and 36 minutes into the work.
  • Additional information: Visit our FAQ page 


After the first performance on Friday, Oct. 28, Jones and other performers will hold an on-stage talkback session. This exclusive event will offer the audience a chance to ask questions and learn more about the unique process behind the making of What Problem? Be sure to stick around for this exciting opportunity!


Creator and Director: Bill T. Jones 

Associate Director: Janet Wong 

Choreography: Bill T. Jones, Janet Wong and Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company 

Lighting Design: Robert Wierzel 

Original Score: Nick Hallett 

Music Producer: HPrizm aka High Priest 

Music Direction: Stacy Penson

Costume Design: Liz Prince 

Dramaturg: Mark Hairston 

Adapted from Deep Blue Sea, which was originally Commissioned by Park Avenue Armory and Manchester International Festival in collaboration with Holland Festival. Additional Commissioning support provided by the Mann Center for the Performing Arts with original support from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, Philadelphia, Carolina Performing Arts, Indiana University Auditorium, the Center for the Arts at George Mason University, Lumberyard Center for Film and Performing Arts, Dancers’ Workshop in Jackson Hole, WY. Rehearsed at Mana Contemporary and Bethany Arts Community. What Problem? was made possible by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project, with lead funding by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.  

What Problem? was first performed at the Center for the Arts at George Mason University on February 1, 2020. 


Photo of Bill T. Jones
Photo: Philip Habib

Bill T. Jones (Artistic Director/Co-Founder/Choreographer: Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company; Artistic Director: New York Live Arts) is a multi-talented artist, choreographer, dancer, theater director and writer, and Associate Artist for the 2020 Holland Festival. Mr. Jones has received major honors including the Human Rights Campaign’s 2016 Visibility Award, 2013 National Medal of Arts to a 1994 MacArthur “Genius” Award and Kennedy Center Honors in 2010.


Mr. Jones was honored with the 2014 Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, recognized as Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government in 2010, inducted into the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 2009 and named “An Irreplaceable Dance Treasure” by the Dance Heritage Coalition in 2000. His ventures into Broadway theater resulted in a 2010 Tony Award for Best Choreography in the critically acclaimed FELA!, the new musical co-conceived, co-written, directed and choreographed by Mr. Jones. He also earned a 2007 Tony Award for Best Choreography in Spring Awakening as well as an Obie Award for the show’s 2006 off-Broadway run. His choreography for the off-Broadway production of The Seven earned him a 2006 Lucille Lortel Award. 

Mr. Jones began his dance training at the State University of New York at Binghamton (SUNY), where he studied classical ballet and modern dance. After living in Amsterdam, Mr. Jones returned to SUNY, where he became co-founder of the American Dance Asylum in 1973. In 1982 he formed the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company (then called Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane & Company) with his late partner, Arnie Zane. Mr. Jones is currently Artistic Director of New York Lives Arts, an organization that strives to create a robust framework in support of the nation’s dance and movement-based artists through new approaches to producing, presenting and educating. For more information, visit 

His work in dance has been recognized with the 2010 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award; the 2005 Wexner Prize; the 2005 Samuel H. Scripps American Dance Festival Award for Lifetime Achievement; the 2003 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize; and the 1993 Dance Magazine Award. His additional awards include the Harlem Renaissance Award in 2005; the Dorothy B. Chandler Performing Arts Award in 1991; multiple New York Dance and Performance Bessie Awards for his works The Table Project (2001), The Breathing Show (2001), D-Man in the Waters (1989) and the Company’s groundbreaking season at the Joyce Theater (1986). In 1980, 1981 and 1982, Mr. Jones was the recipient of Choreographic Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, and in 1979 he was granted the Creative Artists Public Service Award in Choreography. 

Mr. Jones was profiled on “NBC Nightly News” and “The Today Show” in 2010 and was a guest on the “Colbert Report” in 2009. Also in 2010, he was featured in HBO’s documentary series “MASTERCLASS,” which follows notable artists as they mentor aspiring young artists. In 2009, Mr. Jones appeared on one of the final episodes of “Bill Moyers Journal,” discussing his Lincoln suite of works. He was also one of 22 prominent black Americans featured in the HBO documentary “The Black List” in 2008. In 2004, ARTE France and Bel Air Media produced “Bill T. Jones – Solos,” highlighting three of his iconic solos from a cinematic point of view. The making of Still/Here was the subject of a documentary by Bill Moyers and David Grubin entitled “Bill T. Jones: Still/Here with Bill Moyers” in 1997. Additional television credits include telecasts of his works Last Supper at Uncle Tom’s Cabin/The Promised Land (1992) and Fever Swamp (1985) on PBS’s “Great Performances” series. In 2001, D-Man in the Waters was broadcast on the Emmy Award-winning documentary “Free to Dance.”  

Bill T. Jones’s interest in new media and digital technology has resulted in collaborations with the team of Paul Kaiser, Shelley Eshkar and Marc Downie, now known as OpenEnded Group. The collaborations include After Ghostcatching – the 10th Anniversary re-imagining of Ghostcatching (2010, SITE Sante Fe Eighth International Biennial); 22 (2004, Arizona State University’s Institute for Studies In The Arts and Technology, Tempe, AZ); and Ghostcatching – A Virtual Dance Installation (1999, Cooper Union, New York, NY). 

He has received honorary doctorates from Yale University, Art Institute of Chicago, Bard College, Columbia College, Skidmore College, the Juilliard School, Swarthmore College and the State University of New York at Binghamton Distinguished Alumni Award, where he began his dance training with studies in classical ballet and modern dance. 

Mr. Jones’s memoir, “Last Night on Earth,” was published by Pantheon Books in 1995. An in-depth look at the work of Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane can be found in “Body Against Body: The Dance and Other Collaborations of Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane,” published by Station Hill Press in 1989. Hyperion Books published “Dance,” a children’s book written by Bill T. Jones and photographer Susan Kuklin in 1998. Mr. Jones contributed to “Continuous Replay: The Photography of Arnie Zane,” published by MIT Press in 1999. Jones’s most recent book, “Story/Time: The Life of an Idea,” was published in 2014 by Princeton University Press. 

In addition to his Company and Broadway work, Mr. Jones also choreographed Sir Michael Tippet’s New Year (1990) for Houston Grand Opera and Glyndebourne Festival Opera. His Mother of Three Sons was performed at the Munich Biennale, New York City Opera and the Houston Grand Opera. Mr. Jones also directed Lost in the Stars for the Boston Lyric Opera. Additional theater projects include co-directing Perfect Courage with Rhodessa Jones for Festival 2000 in 1990. In 1994, he directed Derek Walcott’s Dream on Monkey Mountain for The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota. 


Photo of Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane
Photo: Lois Greenfield

Arnie Zane (1948-1988) (Co-Founder/Choreographer) was a native New Yorker born in the Bronx and educated at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Binghamton. In 1971, Mr. Zane and Bill T. Jones began their long collaboration in choreography and in 1973 formed the American Dance Asylum in Binghamton with Lois Welk.


Mr. Zane’s first recognition in the arts came as a photographer when he received a Creative Artists Public Service (CAPS) Fellowship in 1973. Mr. Zane was the recipient of a second CAPS Fellowship in 1981 for choreography, as well as two Choreographic Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (1983 and 1984). In 1980, Mr. Zane was co-recipient, with Mr. Jones, of the German Critics Award for his work Blauvelt Mountain. Rotary Action, a duet with Mr. Jones, was filmed for television, co-produced by WGBH-TV Boston and Channel 4 in London. “Continuous Replay: The Photographs of Arnie Zane” was published by MIT Press in April 1999. 


The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company was born out of an 11-year collaboration between Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane (1948–1988). During this time, they redefined the duet form and foreshadowed issues of identity, form and social commentary that would change the face of American dance. The Company emerged onto the international scene in 1983 with the world premiere of Intuitive Momentum, which featured legendary drummer Max Roach, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Since then, the Company has performed worldwide in over 200 cities in 35 countries on every major continent. Today, the Company is recognized as one of the most innovative and powerful forces in the modern dance world.  


The repertory of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company is widely varied in its subject matter, visual imagery and stylistic approach to movement, voice and stagecraft and includes music-driven works as well as works using a variety of texts. The Company has been acknowledged for its intensely collaborative method of creation that has included artists as diverse as Keith Haring, Cassandra Wilson, The Orion String Quartet, the Chamber Society of Lincoln Center, Fred Hersch, Jenny Holzer, Robert Longo, Julius Hemphill, Daniel Bernard Roumain, and Anne Bogart/SITI Company, among others. The collaborations of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company with visual artists were the subject of “Art Performs Life” (1998), a groundbreaking exhibition at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  

Some of its most celebrated creations are evening length works including Last Supper at Uncle Tom’s Cabin/The Promised Land (1990, Next Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music); Still/Here (1994, Biennale de la Danse in Lyon, France); We Set Out Early… Visibility Was Poor (1996, Hancher Auditorium, Iowa City, IA); You Walk? (2000, European Capital of Culture 2000, Bologna, Italy); Blind Date (2006, Peak Performances at Montclair State University); Chapel/Chapter (2006, Harlem Stage Gatehouse); and Fondly Do We Hope… Fervently Do We Pray (2009, Ravinia Festival, Highland Park, IL), Analogy Trilogy (2015-2017).  

The Company has received numerous awards, including New York Dance and Performance Awards (“Bessie”) for Chapel/Chapter at Harlem Stage (2006), The Table Project (2001), D-Man in the Waters (1989, 2001, 2013), musical scoring and costume design for Last Supper at Uncle Tom’s Cabin/The Promised Land (1990) and for the groundbreaking Joyce Theater season (1986). The Company was nominated for the 1999 Laurence Olivier Award for “Outstanding Achievement in Dance and Best New Dance Production” for We Set Out Early… Visibility was Poor. The Company has distinguished itself through extensive community outreach and educational programs, including partnerships with Bard College, Loyola Marymount University, in Los Angeles, California. University and college dance programs throughout the U.S. work with the Company to reconstruct significant works for their students. The Company conducts intensive workshops for professional and pre-professional dancers and produces a broad range of discussion events at home and on the road, all born from the strong desire to “participate in the world of ideas.” 

In 2010, the Company announced a groundbreaking merger with Dance Theater Workshop that The New York Times said could “alter the contemporary dance landscape in New York.” The organization, called New York Live Arts, strives to create a robust framework in support of the nation’s dance and movement-based artists through new approaches to producing, presenting and educating. For more information: 

“Bill T. Jones is making room in dance for more than dance.”

The New York Times

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