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Dance Generation | Betty Jones

BETTY JONES

World renowned as a supremely gifted performing artist and artistic director, Betty Jones was one of the first modern dancers to incorporate the work of Lulu Sweigard into the teaching of dance technique. This brief biography, supplied to this website by Ms. Jones, presents a glimpse of her many professional achievements.

Betty Jones has been dancing almost all her life, and trained with Alicia Markova, Igor Schwetzoff, Ted Shawn, Jose Limon, Doris Humphrey, Antony Tudor and Margaret Craske. In 1947, after touring several months in the South Pacific entertaining U.S. combat forces of World War II as a dancer/singer in Agnes de Mille's Oklahoma, and several months touring deMille's Bloomer Girl in US, she became a founding member and principal dancer with New York's Jose Limon Dance Company. During her 20 years with the company, Betty danced worldwide and at the White House and was honored to perform for royalties and heads of state. She created major roles in historically significant pieces by Jose Limon and Doris Humphrey and is especially known for her portrayal of Desdemona opposite Limon's Moor in his classic work The Moor's Pavane in both stage and film versions.

In the dance world Betty Jones is recognized as an authority on Limon Technique. For two decades Betty was on the faculty of New York's The Juilliard School, and for four decades at the prestigious American Dance Festival in New London, CT, and Durham, NC, and internationally in Japan, Korea, China, India, Indonesia and Russia. In 1979 she co-founded the Jones-Ludin Dance Center in Honolulu and was instrumental in expanding the Dances We Dance Co. with local dancers. Under her guidance for the past two decades the company with guest artists have toured throughout Hawaii and were the first to receive an NEA "Dance On Tour" commission to tour the Northern Marianas.

Betty was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Federation Francaise de Danse, Paris, France, and the American Dance Festival at Duke University in N.C. honored her as the 1993 recipient of The Balasaraswati/Joy Ann Dewey Beinecke Endowed Chair for Distinguished Teaching. She is listed in Who's Who in American Women, and with her partner/husband Fritz Ludin was honored to stage Limon's masterpiece There is a Time on the Leningrad State Ballet at the Maly Opera in Leningrad, Russia which marked the first commissioned American modern dance work to be performed by a Russian ballet company. In Hawaii, the House of Representatives Eleventh Legislature and The Senate Sixteenth Legislature as well as the City and County of Honolulu honored Betty and Fritz with resolutions for their outstanding cultural contributions. In 2001 American Dance Festival dedicated its season to Martha Myers and Betty Jones.

Betty Jones began teaching beginning level dance technique classes in her first year with the Jose Limon Dance Company. In a 2005 interview for Dance Magazine she describes Limon's early influence on her teaching.

Jose was incredible for creating movement phrases, but often didn't pay as much attention to their preparation. Pauline Lawrence, his wife, played the piano for class and would make asides correcting the students.

For about 10 years I taught pretty much the same way because I was assisting him at Juilliard. But then I met Lulu Sweigard.... At first I thought what does anatomy have to do with dance? To me dancing was of the spirit.

Jones study with Sweigard helped her to deal with some personal alignment issues. In another article she explains:

I 'tucked' a lot in my early days but was less bound and much freer after this (Sweigard's) work. When you tuck the body has to be back while the head is usually forward. It's a difficult problem Sweigard helped me to overcome.

From a teaching perspective, Jones' understanding of the use of the body in dance also became clearer because of her exposure to Sweigard's approach:

After observing her classes for a year, I began to realize that some of the movement vocabulary that I was teaching conflicted with principles of anatomically correct body mechanics. If done often it could be harmful to the dancer.

Eventually Betty Jones became Dr. Sweigard's teaching assistant, an association that lasted for thirteen years. This immersion in Sweigard's approach had a profound impact on the development of Jones' teaching methods and philosophy.

This association was valuable in helping me gain a deeper and more thorough understanding of skeletal weight -- supporting structure and its joints, as well as good body balance resulting in more efficient movement and better coordination of the muscles. Dr. Sweigard often worked with images which I found very helpful in freeing my own body and gradually I started incorporating these images and principles into my own teaching of Limon Technique.

Other dancers who trained at Juilliard recognize Betty Jones as a pivotal influence in their professional development. Not only did her teaching help them to grow as dancers, but her integration of the ideokinetic approach into exciting dance technique classes encouraged them to delve more deeply into Sweigard's courses and labs. There is no doubt but that Betty Jones was a major influence on many teachers of the Dance Generation. Her example of dance longevity and vitality continues to inspire students who work with her today.

Betty Jones' e-mail address is: danceswedanacehi@aol.com

Pamela Matt


Bibliography for Betty Jones

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