Bear/Skin (2015) Folk dancing. Fake healing. Political magik.
In his first new solo performance since the Bessie-award winning Crotch (all the Joseph Beuys references in the world cannot…), dancer-choreographer Keith Hennessy uses dancing, singing, story telling, and magik to gather people for a ritualistic “moment” outside of daily life. Bear/Skin appropriates Nijinsky’s choreography for Le Sacre du Printemps (1913) to consider Modernism’s dependence on appropriations of the indigenous, folk, exotic, and “other” to ask questions about ritual, art, and sacrifice today. The intimate and low-tech performance pretends to be informal and yet is motivated by grand spectacle and experimental prayer. Bear/Skin is politically motivated by the tension between killer cops and virgin sacrifice, the racist failures of modernism, imaginal activism and plastic shamanism, and mental dis-ease as a socio-political situation. And yes, Bear/Skin is a dance.
Keith says, “Yes there will be bear dances that have little to do with gay bears and everything to do with The Rite of Spring, native bear dances, teddy bears, mylar mountains, springtime in the northern hemisphere, the land I grew up on and where my parents are buried, and the land I now live on where my uncle and many others are buried. But it’s mostly also about dancing, and how dancing implicates history, ritual, appropriation, and the paradox of settler and indigenous… Come to heal and be healed, or not.”
Keith Hennessy dances in and around performance. Born in northern Ontario, he lives in San Francisco since 1982 and tours internationally. His performances engage improvisation, ritual, collaboration, and public action as tools for investigating political realities. Practices inspired by anarchism, critical whiteness, post/Modern dance, activist art, the Bay Area, wicca, punk, contact improvisation, and queer-feminism motivate and mobilize Hennessy’s work. Keith’s 2016-17 collaborators include Peaches, Meg Stuart, Scott Wells, Jassem Hindi, J Jha, Annie Danger, Gerald Cassel, and the collaboratives Blank Map and Turbulence. Keith’s recent teaching in universities, independent studios, and festivals includes Ponderosa (Germany), FRESH (SF), HZT (Berlin), Movement Research (NYC), Impulstanz (Vienna), Portland State University, Sandberg Institute (Amsterdam), St. Mary’s, VAC Foundation (Moscow), and Warsaw Flow International CI Festival. Awards include the Guggenheim Fellowship, United States Artist Fellowship, a NY Bessie, multiple Isadora Duncan Awards, and a Bay Area Goldie. Keith’s writings have been published in Contact Quarterly, Movement Research Journal, Performance Research (UK), Society of Dance History Scholars Journal, Dance Theatre Journal (UK), Itch, Front, and In Dance. Hennessy directs Circo Zero and was a member of Contraband with Sara Shelton Mann. Hennessy is a co-founder of CounterPULSE (formerly 848 Community Space) a thriving performance space in San Francisco. He earned an MFA and PhD from UC Davis. www.circozero.org