Gentle Giant

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

BY Regina Marler

March 25 2009 11:00 PM ET

Joe Goode's Wonderboy x100 (courtesy) |

How do you make a decision about pairing older work with
newer? The excerpts from 1996's
Maverick Strain


for example.

It's contrast, mainly. With

I was working with the image of a silent French film -- thin,
reedy, off in the distance. This felt like the right mood for

He's all about his sensitivity and his longing -- his
homoerotic longing, wanting to be with the boys. So it was
about this state of longing and this state of wonder too, while

Maverick Strain

[a deconstruction of Arthur Miller's screenplay for
The Misfits

(1961)] is about ruggedness, this disease of ruggedness,
particularly as a man in America. It's a very lonely,
principled, dogmatic life. And even though the culture is more
subtle about it now, we're still giving those messages to
little boys with the toys we give them and how we treat

Maverick Strain

is a big, ballsy, overt piece in a way that

is not. Wonderboy is a fragile, porcelain thing. So I thought
it was a good contrast. They're both about how a man is
expected to live in the world.

Will you be premiering a new piece this fall in San

Yes, it's called
Traveling Light.

I'm delving a little into my Buddhist studies and the
desire to live a less-encumbered life, to move into the future
less attached to worldly possessions and vitality. This is
about accepting aging too, and about ecological change, about
ending our fossil fuel dependency and turning to alternative
sources of fuel. I'll be collaborating with my longtime
lighting designer, Jack Carpenter. It's going to be staged in a
warehouse, and much of the work will happen under a large
industrial light that travels across the warehouse, and the
audience will have to move too.

Wonderboyhas had a fantastic press response. When you read that one
of your "characteristic moves" is an upside-down
split-leg lift, does it make you self-conscious as a
choreographer? Do you think of it every time you're about
to choreograph a lift?

I'll tell you the truth. I don't read reviews for that
very reason. I'm a flower. I'm very sensitive to
criticism. And it can even be a positive review, but the
passage where they say the piece is slow, that's what I'll
attach myself to. So I don't read them. They come and they
go. I don't want to know. I'm living in my little

I do want to have
conversations about the work and its growth, but that's a very
privileged position. I talk with very few people about it, and
their critical feedback is huge. And you reach out to
collaborators who are going to push you out of your comfort
zone. Before I met Basil Twist I was a puppet-phobe. I had a
real attitude. But when I saw what he could do with puppets, I
wanted to work with him.

Tags: Dance