|Alexander Zendzian (foreground) and Andrew Ward (background) in Traveling Light. PHOTO BY AUSTIN FORBORD
Joe Goode Performance Groupâ€™s site-specific Traveling Light is a not-to-be-missed event when it returns to the Old Mint Building on July 7! In a recent interview with the SF Bay Times, Joe talks about his life as a dancer/ choreographer, some of the challenges of being an innovator, and creating Traveling Light.
(SF Bay Times) What do you love most about dancing/choreography?
(Joe Goode) Dancing is an autoerotic experience. The body is all juiced up, the experience is akin to flying when it is working well. You are not â€śdoingâ€ť the movement so much as â€śtaking the rideâ€ť of it. Itâ€™s magical and addictive. Choreography is mostly about creating a generous space and setting a tone of curiosity and inquiry where you can explore moods and emotional textures with really smart, sensitive dancers. It teaches you to listen and to be responsive to what you see in the moment. It also teaches you to read between the lines, some of the best material comes out of the mistakes or the stuff the dancers do when they are just fooling around. I have learned to keep my eyes open and jump in when something feels fresh and spontaneous.
When did you first begin dancing?
When I was seven or eight years old. I saw my sister in her dance recital. It was the dance of the fireflies or some such thing, and she had a battery pack underneath her tutu. At some point all of the lights went out, and she flipped the switch. There she was just twinkling away, and I thought it was the most incredible thing I had ever seen.
At what point would you say you began using spoken word in your work?
I grew up as a baby artist in New York in the seventies where dance was very faceless and formalist. I never felt at home in it. I wanted the interior life of the dancer to be somehow revealed. It wasnâ€™t until I left New York and thought I had â€śretiredâ€ť from dancing (about the time I moved to SF, 1980) that I started experimenting with a hybrid kind of work that brought in all the elements that I was drawn to: high velocity movement, voice/language, some frank referencing to my own gay identity. I have never looked back.
I like to reveal the soft underbelly of human nature, to look at the vulnerable, fallible side of our behavior. I want to pierce the veil of toughness that we all have draped in front of us. When I do this, when I go to the very â€śhumanâ€ť place, there is endless opportunity for humor and pathos.
What of your many accomplishments are you most proud of?
I am very proud to be a teacher. It is something which seems to come naturally to me. I like turning people on to themselves, to their own creative capacity. I am also proud to work with LGBT teens, which I have done for many years. Theirs is an invisible community. Even in this day and age it is not safe for them to be open and frank about their sexuality. When they discover that their stories have power and that manifesting those stories can actually help clarify who they are, even to themselves, well, there is just nothing more gratifying than that.
What have been the most challenging aspects of creating Traveling Light?
Site work is always challenging and expensive. The wonders of the old Mint are just nonstop, but the truth remains that is an unheated, mostly marble or cement-floored space with lots of angles and nooks and oddly shaped rooms. While this is clearly the novelty, and the pleasure of such a space, it presents some obvious challenges for dancers. I worry about the safety of their bodies. I am committed to getting dance out of the sacred space of the theater and into other sacred spaces. But it comes with a price tag. We have to build danceable floors and rent massive amounts of lighting and sound equipment to do a show like this.
Traveling Light opens July 7 (Wed 8pm) and continues (Wednesdays to Sundays 8pm, Fridays and Saturdays 10pm) until August 1 at the Old Mint Building, 88 Fifth Street, San Francisco. Tickets ($34-$44) at joegoode.org.q