Gentle Giant

Dance theater's "gentle giant" and Guggenheim fellowship recipient Joe Goode talks to about his career and current works.



San Francisco-based
choreographer, writer, and director Joe Goode has been
described as "the gentle giant of dance theater."
Although his themes are consistent -- community, connection,
the artist's search -- his works defy easy categorization.
Dancers are as likely to speak as to leap. They might share the
stage with video or voice-distorting technology, or expect an
audience to find them behind walls or through open windows at a
gallery installation. In a 1999 essay Goode praised the
"crazy impulses" of art, even if he risked being
branded as "the dancer with the chainsaw" or the
Peggy Lee impersonator with the fire baton: "For me,
art-making isn't a profession or even a calling. It's a
necessity, like eating. Without it, I become malnourished and
the world gets fuzzy, my grasp on it weak. So, clearly, the
craziness of an artist's life is an easy choice when the
alternative is starvation."

Goode teaches half the
year at University of California, Berkeley, in the
department of theater, dance, and performance studies, where he
cherishes a diverse group of students from disciplines, like
the hard sciences, that don't traditionally combine with
performing arts. He founded the Joe Goode Performance Group in
1986. In 2007 he was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship, and in
2008 was named a United States Artists Fellow, one of only five
national dance artists to be honored.

Current works on tour

(2008), a collaboration with puppeteer Basil Twist, and an
excerpt from 1996's
Maverick Strain

. Your work has been described as "storytelling theater."
When did you begin to feel an urge toward narrative, or maybe a
sense of the constraints of modern dance as others were
practicing it?
Joe Goode:

The rule of the dancer as a mute didn't make sense to me.
Part of the expression of being human is vocalizing. I feel
bereft if language isn't around me, just as I'd feel
bereft if I didn't have a full range of movement, if I had
to move only naturalistically. So I shuffled around between
dance styles and wanting to change the world, and finally
decided I had to make my own work.

Tags: Dance