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Countdown to Gala 2017, Day 17: Excerpts from Issue #35 of the Movement Research Performance Journal

The 2017 Movement Research Gala on May 8 will celebrate 25 years of Movement Research at the Judson Church and 50 Issues of the Movement Research Performance Journal. As we count down the days until the Gala, we’re posting #50DaysOfMRPJ with Editor’s Notes and excerpts from each Performance Journal.

Movement Research Performance Journal Issue #35 was released in Fall 2009. You can view the full Table of Contents here.

*The Movement Research Gala will take place Monday, May 8 at 6pm at Judson Memorial Church. For more information, to volunteer or to purchase tickets, click here.

#MRGala2017 #50DaysOfMRPJ

MRPJ#35: Keith Hennessy

Editor’s Note

Editors: Trajal Harrell, Troy Lambert, Timothy Murray

I think it was the performance artist Penny Arcade whom I heard speak about the fact that it takes about thirteen to sixteen years of the next century for the previous century to end. Or she could have said eight or ten or twelve. I’m not sure of the number but of the idea, I am certain. The recent deaths of Michael Jackson, Pina Bausch, and Merce Cunningham within the span of thirty-one days is for me nothing short of dance’s end of the twentieth century.

We had planned photographic honors to Jackson and Bausch, but Cunningham’s death came after the journal was ready for print and we felt we did not want to do something quickly. Therefore, we will plan a larger tribute to Cunningham in a subsequent journal. I do wish, though, I had something bright to say, but such overwhelming news doesn’t need my brightness. The lights have been dimmed and it will take some time to find our way through their passing as we did through their living and creating. Yet, no doubt, the work has started on many fronts. And no doubt, we have some good work to do.

All the best, Trajal

One of the first things Keith Hennessy did when I approached him about generating content for his cover artist portfolio, was share with me some fan mail he had received from New Yorkers whose mind he had blown with his latest work, Crotch. He sent them in the body of the email with a brief message: “The voice of the audience rarely makes it — and yet it’s been such an important part of my work to attempt this kind of intimate, questioning contact and exchange.”

Effusive praise, deeply felt personal connection, appreciation of his with-it, no-fluff candor, and extended meditations on the meaning and implications of the work were all crowded into emails that read at once like frustrated response papers and deep sighs of relief. Some struggled with how to understand the work; most resigned to the fact that attempts at ‘understanding’ weren’t going to get them anywhere. Keith had stirred something in them. In me, too. And sometimes that’s enough.

Be well. Tim

Interview with Keith Hennessy (excerpt)

by Don Shewey

View PDF of full article here.

I dropped out of business school in my last semester. I had a best friend, Gulko, on whom I had an odd, inarticulate crush. I’d had a girlfriend in college. I hadn’t really dealt with my sexuality yet. Anyway, Gulko and I decided to hitchhike across the country to go to this big juggling convention in Santa Barbara. Then we would hitchhike back to New York and move to Italy for a year to study commedia dell’arte. Halfway through that trip, we realized we weren’t that compat- ible as travel partners. We were having more and more petty fights. I realized part of it was because we weren’t dealing with the sexual attraction. When we got to Santa Barbara, I said, “What are you going to do?” He said, “I’m going to Italy to study commedia dell’arte,” which was always the plan. I said, “I was only going to Italy because you were. So if that’s off, I’m going to move to San Francisco and be a dancer.” I had no idea what that meant. I had never thought of San Francisco before. I wasn’t consciously thinking of it as the place for queer refugees. It was a bizarre, intuitive leap.

That’s how I got to California. I looked for a dance teacher. I refused to study technique unless the teacher also taught improvisation. There was only one person who did that, Lucas Hoving, who was an original member of the Jose Limon company. I learned from him that you can have the life you want to live. He was a profound teacher. He allowed me to name myself a dancer without having to have the technical prowess that most people associate with a certain kind of ballet/modern image. He encouraged invention and a personal voice and he was very rigorous about what improvisation was. Basically, Lucas put me in the lineage and told me to go.

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