This weekend Jess Curtis and his company Jess Curtis/Gravity share the stage at CounterPULSE with Claire Cunningham in a works-in-progress showing entitled Intercontinental Collaborations 4. Curtis will present a preview excerpt of Dances for Non/Fictional Bodies, and the full-length version will premiere at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts next year.
Along with Curtis, Scotland’s Claire Cunningham will present her award-winning solo Mobile. Cunningham’s style integrates “the dynamic and imaginative use of her crutches, alongside her beautiful voice (she trained as a classical singer), aerial and acting skills have made her a much-sought after performer both in the UK and internationally. Her solo works, evolution and mobile, have been critically acclaimed for their humorous and intelligent challenges to issues of aesthetics and dance.”
What: Jess Curtis/Gravity and Claire Cunningham in Intercontinental Collaborations 4
CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission Street, San Francisco
When: February 25-28, 8PM
Tickets: $18-20; available online or in person before the performance; CounterPULSE info line: 415.435.7549
Thanks to the power of the internet, I had a chance to chat (or type) with Jess Curtis about his work, which isn’t your average dance/theater/performance stuff. It’s its own awesome animal.
Becca Hirschman: In 157 words or less, describe your work and Jess Curtis/Gravity.
Jess Curtis: I make body-based interdisciplinary performance that crosses boundaries between contemporary dance, physical theater, performance art, and sometimes includes elements drawn from circus and is often with live original music. I like to move and sweat and create images with my body and with other bodies. I like to offer people an invitation to think and feel through their own physical and imaginative responses to what we do. Gravity is a project-based company that works primarily in San Francisco and Berlin. Basically this means I do my best to raise a bunch of money and then invite my most talented friends and colleagues to come an play together to make new work that we then try to sell to theaters and festivals around the world.
[Author adds: He made it, clocking in at 124 words!]
What motivated you to put down roots in San Francisco?
I grew up in Chico, not far from here. San Francisco was the closest big city where art and culture was happening so I came here when I got out of University. I had thought I was on my way to New York, but I met some amazing collaborators (Sara Shelton Mann, Keith Hennessy and the rest of the gang from Contraband) and decided to stay. I’ve been working much more in Europe for the last ten years, and now also have a home in Berlin, but something about San Francisco has kept me from ever completely leaving. This is a special city and it is my deepest home, and it really feeds me culturally and politically always to come back here.
[As you’ve mentioned, you also] travel and make works in Europe; how does this contribute to your creative process?
The world is a big place and in America we can get myopic about how much is going on beyond our borders. The culture of live performance in Europe in general is much more advanced and varied than anything we get to experience in America these days. The arts have been systematically de-funded and under capitalized in this country over the last 30 years and one of the ways that this most powerfully affects us is that we live in a little bubble and don’t get to see alternatives to the corporate-profit-serving culture industries that dominate our collective psyche in this country. I get to see more interesting contemporary performance in a week in Berlin than I get to see in 3 or 4 months in San Francisco. I get to be aware of global discourses about dance and performance. This feeds my practice immensely. San Francisco is also an incredibly expensive city to make live art in. I pay $15-$25 an hour for rehearsal space in SF. In Berlin I pay 2 to 5 Euro an hour.
Your work tends to feature strong performers who aren’t just dancers–they tend to be very holistic artists, too. How do you choose who you work with?
I usually invite people to collaborate because they are people that I like to watch. That usually has something to do with the fact that they do something well, but there is also something deeper and simpler about it; that they give me, us, and audience permission to see them. They know how to allow themselves to be seen.
How has Gravity evolved over the past 10 years? And this weekend’s an excerpt showing for you; what’s next?
I’ve been fortunate to receive more and more support for the making of work over the last decade, but I also spend more and more of my time having to deal with that. I think I am more confident to ask my collaborators to step into the unknown with me than I used to be. We have started to put our work more into gallery settings and the street and not just in theaters. I am interested in how different kinds of cultural contexts make different kinds of attention possible for the people that look at the work. This new material has been a big jump into new directions, collaborating with Guillermo Gomez-Pe