Bill T. Jones

One of the most talked-about modern dance choreographers working today (and also one of the most controversial), Jones is the artistic director of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company.

The tenth of twelve children from a poor migrant-worker family, Jones grew up in upstate New York and attended SUNY Binghamton on an athletic scholarship, majoring in theater and taking dance classes on the side. It was while living in Binghamton that he met dancer named Arnie Zane, who soon became his boyfriend. After forming his first company, American Dance Asylum, with Lois Walk in Binghamton in 1973, Jones worked with Zane throughout the 1970s, forming the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company in 1982. Not long after, both he and Zane were diagnosed with HIV. Zane passed away in 1988, but Jones's dance company still bears his partner's name—and Jones's status as a gay, black, HIV-positive man has become a major influence on his work.

Over the years, Jones has choreographed more than 100 dances, provoking both audiences and critics with unflinching, hyper-political pieces about race and sexuality. While his fans appreciate the challenging social issues he addresses in his work, detractors have labeled his pieces "victim art." Still, even haters concede he's one of the most influential modern choreographers, and his work has been performed at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Boston Ballet, and Berlin Opera Ballet, among many other venerable dance institutions. More recently, he received Tony awards—and considerable attention—for his work on Spring Awakening and Fela!. [Image via Getty]