Schedule & Events


Creating from/in times of crisis
Discussion with Jadelynn Stahl, Julia Havard, and Juan Manuel Aldape
Thursday, January 18, 7:30-9:30pm
Red Poppy Art House, San Francisco
In collaboration with the Fresh Festival

From environmental disasters to sexual trauma to political upheaval, this past year has encompassed all of this and more. In this discussion we ask how does one create from the tumult or ruins of environmental, political, and personal turmoil? What resources are needed? How do we work together to build networks of support and accountability both on and offstage, inside and outside the studio? How do we, as individuals invested in the creative potential and resiliency of the body, look forward collectively to imagine and actively create a better, more equitable future?

Jadelynn Stahl is a radical, interdisciplinary performance artist and organizer based in Oakland, California. Fusing elements of durational art, video, ritual and burlesque, her work seeks to centralize and complicate socially prevalent narratives concerning systemic cultures of violence, in particular gender-based violence and forced assimilation. Stahl offers her body as a site of artistic investigation, exploring somatic and psychological expression in relation to legacies of trauma as well as cultural, racial and sexual identities.

As a community organizer, Stahl collaborates with both local and national collectives and organizations to incite dialogues that contribute to the movement to end sexual assault, including FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture (Baltimore). She is the founder and lead coordinator of DISCLOSE, a queer, Oakland-based collective of artists and educators committed to facilitating arts-based community engagement in the eradication of sexual violence. Stahl is the recipient of the 2017 East Bay Fund for Artists Award. Her currently developing performance work Choreographies of Disclosure, a long-form collaboration between Bay Area artists and survivors of sexual assault, will be shown in a month-long exhibition at Pro Arts Gallery, Oakland in the Fall of 2018.

Juan Manuel Aldape Munoz is a formerly undocumented, working-class choreographer born in rural Mexico. As practitioner and researcher, his work focuses on movement, migration and mapping discourses related to undocumented bodies and choreographic processes. He is the curator and coordinator of the Festival of Latin American Contemporary Choreographers. He co-founded A PerFarmance Project, site-specific collaborations between farmers and performers researching the concept of food security from rural and urban perspectives. He is a PHD candidate in Performance Studies at the University of California Berkeley (USA). He holds an MA in International Performance Research from the University of Warwick (UK), as well as a BFA in Modern Dance and BA in Anthropology from the University of Utah (USA).

Julia Havard is a queer white cis glitter femme who writes about sex, race, disability, queerness and dance in education, activism, and performance. She is a PhD student at University of California Berkeley in Theater Dance and Performance Studies with a Designated Emphasis in Gender and Women’s Studies. Her dissertation explores histories and practices of queer burlesque as an activist resource. She practices burlesque as JuJu Sparkle, and most recently has been performing as Carrot Christ, the new new chancellor of UC Berkeley. She co-facilitates a working group at UCB, Radical Queer Decolonial Pedagogies of Composition. In 2017 she co-published the Anti-Milo Digital Toolkit, a resource for shutting down white supremacist alt-right figures such as Milo Yiannapoulis in academic spaces and presented on this work for the Berkeley Center for New Media forum on "Digital Dissent." In 2016 she co-coordinated a "Survivors' Symposium" at UCB to create survivor-centered space for survivors of sexual violence. Publication of her work regarding #WhyIStayed as a survivor-centered activist project on Twitter is forthcoming in the anthology #Identity.

Joining Generations Discussion: Donald Byrd
Tuesday, February 6, 3-4pm
Geballe Room, Stephens Hall | UC Berkeley
In collaboration with Cal Performances

As part of a yearlong series of programming at Cal Performances, Joining Generations features the work of four generations of African American choreographers who have expanded the boundaries of contemporary dance. Our third discussion will feature choreographer Donald Byrd in conversation with Prof. Brandi Wilkins Catanese (Depts. of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies and African American Studies). 

Donald Byrd’s career has been long and complex and his choreographic and theatrical interests are broad. The New York Times describes him as “a choreographer with multiple personalities … an unabashed eclectic.” It continues, “Yet he does more than hop like a magpie from style to style, taking any subject matter and imagery he finds along the way that strike his fancy. His unruliness is accompanied by a love of order.” In the same article it states, “Mr. Byrd has repeatedly alluded to George Balanchine in his works. Balanchine was an unparalleled master of form. Yet he could also present haunting visions of chaos. Mr. Byrd, like him, is preoccupied with harmony and disruption.” To this point Donald Byrd is equally at home creating cool, abstract pure dance works such as his 2012 work LOVE set to the complete cello suites of Benjamin Britten and the 2011 Euclidean Space set to the music of Amon Tobin, virtuoso sound designer and influential electronic music artist; to his theatrical narrative driven pieces like the ‘carny’ Petruchska and storefront Miraculous Mandarin, his revisionist versions of iconic early 20th Century ballets. Yet he is also known for creating lovely valentines to 19th Century classical repertory including The Harlem Nutcracker (1996) and The Sleeping Beauty Notebook (2005). As well as imaginative choreographic tributes to jazz legends and composers including In A Different Light (2000) set to the lesser known piece of Duke Ellington, Burlesque (2002) created to early recordings of Louis Armstrong, and Jazz Train (1998) to commissioned scores by Vernon Reid, Geri Allen, and the late great Max Roach. These works along with The Harlem Nutcracker with its score by Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn and David Berger were critical and audience successes and toured extensively.

Mr. Byrd, a TONY nominated (The Color Purple) and Bessie Award winning (The Minstrel Show) choreographer, became Artistic Director of Spectrum Dance Theater in December 2002. From 1978 – 2002, he was Artistic Director of Donald Byrd/The Group, a critically acclaimed contemporary dance company, founded in Los Angeles and later based in New York, that toured extensively, both nationally and internationally. He has created over 100 modern and contemporary dance works for his own groups as well as for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, and Philadelphia Dance Company (Philadanco), among others; has choreographed for classical companies, including Pacific Northwest Ballet, The Joffrey Ballet, Dance Theater of Harlem, Aterballetto, MaggioDanza diFirenze, and Oregon Ballet Theater.

Kinesthetic and Cinesthetic Affectivity: Moving and Being Moved by Dance Onscreen

Harmony Bench, Associate Professor of Dance, Ohio State University

Discussant: Dr. Jennifer DeVere Brody, Professor of Theater & Performance Studies and Chair of CCSRE, Stanford University

Wednesday, March 7, 5:30-7:00pm
Roble Gym 139, Stanford University
RSVP here

In this presentation, I focus on the short video Color of Reality (2016) directed by Jon Boogz with visual art by Alexa Meade and dancing by Boogz and Lil Buck. The video follows a loose narrative structure, addressing anti-black violence without, however, flattening the dancers’ movements to fit a simple storyline or social critique. This presentation is situated in the interdisciplinary field of screendance and pulls from many examples of screendance as well as cinema and media studies, feminist theory, dance studies, and black cultural criticism to articulate the role of kinesthetic (movement of the body) and cinesthetic (movement of the screened image) affectivity in dance onscreen. Pushing against universalizing theories of kinesthetic empathy as well as theories of affect that obscure processes of enculturation, I turn to feminist affect theory and black cultural criticism to articulate a space of danced expressivity and sensuous spectatorship that never loses sight of the fact that bodies are not lived in the abstract. I posit kinesthetic and cinesthetic affectivity within screen-based performance and spectatorship as a way of watching and thinking alongside dance that does not attempt to resolve gaps in understanding, but rather creates a space of ethical encounter across difference.

Harmony Bench is Associate Professor in the Department of Dance at The Ohio State University, where she is also affiliated faculty with Theatre, Folklore, Translational Data Analytics, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Her research sits at the intersections of dance, media, and performance studies and revolves around encounters between bodies and machine or media technologies. Her writing has appeared in the Oxford Handbook of Dance and the Popular Screen, Choreographies of 21st Century War, and Dance on Its Own Terms as well as Theatre Journal,Dance Research Journal, The International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media, Participations, and Performance Matters, among others. Current digital humanities projects include: Mapping Touring, which focuses on the performance engagements of early 20th century dance companies, and Dance in Transit, a collaboration with Kate Elswit that considers transportation infrastructure and support networks in Katherine Dunham’s dance touring of the 1950s. Both of these digital works in progress can be found at Since 2014, she has been co-editor of The International Journal of Screendance with Simon Ellis.

Sensorial Performatives: Choreographing the Contradictions of “New Generation” Iranian Immigrants in Aisan Hoss’s The Pleasant Pain

Heather Rastovac Akbarzadeh, 2016- 2018 Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Dance Studies in/and the Humanities, Stanford University

Thursday, March 15, 5-7pm
TDPS Seminar Room | Dwinelle 44-B

This presentation brings together critical dance studies, transnational feminisms, sensorial studies, and diasporic Iranian studies to analyze The Pleasant Pain (2017), an evening-length contemporary dance-theater performance choreographed by female Iranian émigré choreographer, Aisan Hoss, which premiered at San Francisco’s ODC Theater in August 2017. Through my dramaturgical participation in the yearlong process of the work’s development, this research draws from rehearsals, personal and dramaturgical discussions with Hoss, two performance events, audience reception, and the choreographic work itself. The choreographic content of The Pleasant Pain draws from oral history interviews that Hoss conducted with thirty Iranian émigrés in the San Francisco Bay Area. Like Hoss, the project’s interviewees are part of Iran’s “new generation” – those born in Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution and during the Iran-Iraq war (1981–1989). Hoss also sought interviewees who have immigrated to the U.S. within the past seven years; in doing so, she traces how this particular generation’s memories of home/Iran reconfigure with proximal geo-temporal distance and explicates the distinctions of new generation Iranian immigrants from earlier waves of Iranian immigration. Ultimately, The Pleasant Pain conjures and enacts sensorial modes of memory and experience, which I suggest disrupts Euro-American neoliberal and diasporic nationalist perspectives that often limit the subjectivities of Iran’s new generation within dichotomous frameworks of “oppression” and “freedom.” As Hoss explains: “Things that people might think of as ‘pain’ or ‘restriction’ in Iran actually conjure sensations of safety, joy, and home for me and many of the other ‘new generation’ who have recently immigrated.” Through consciously exploring the seeming contradictions she describes, The Pleasant Pain unsettles the binaries – such as unfree/free, tradition/modernity, collective/individual, and religious/secular – that often frame her and other Middle Eastern and Muslim individuals and communities in the U.S. and Europe. Refusing to perform a spectacle of ahistorical exoticism, the sensorial enacted in the performance is not an Orientalist fantasy of sensuous delights. Nor is The Pleasant Pain a typical neoliberal narrative of suffering and freedom, which many immigrants in Euro-American spheres are expected to perform across aesthetic and social spheres. Instead, The Pleasant Pain challenges what Julie Salverson calls an “erotics of injury,” “the melancholic, often pleasurable identification with the performance of/by the alleged victims or survivors of social trauma.” In doing so, this choreographic work disrupts the visual-discursive regimes constructing Middle Eastern and Muslim subjects and decenters the sticky tropes attached to them, especially those related to the chador (one type of Islamic body covering worn by some women in Iran) and the azan, the Islamic call to prayer. In relation to these, touch particularly emerges as a primary gesture of relationality, self-making, and world-making. The enactments of touch in The Pleasant Pain further invites audiences to engage in what Laura Marks calls a “haptic visuality; a visuality that functions like the sense of touch.” Rather than Salverson’s “erotics of injury” or what I elsewhere call “savior spectatorship,” haptic visuality invites us to touch the surfaces of the fossilized objects that we produce as sites of our own projection in order to allow stories to touch us on their own terms.

Heather Rastovac Akbarzadeh is the 2016 – 2018 Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Dance Studies in/and the Humanities in the Department of Theater & Performance Studies at Stanford University. She holds a Ph.D. in Performance Studies from UC Berkeley with a Designated Emphasis in Women, Gender, and Sexuality. She received her B.A. from the University of Washington in Near Eastern Languages and Civilization (specializing in Persian language and literature) with minors in Dance and Anthropology. Heather’s research extends upon nearly two decades as a dancer and choreographer among diasporic Iranian communities in the U.S. She engages in ethnography, performance analysis, and discourse analysis to investigate the racialized and gendered economies of Iranian performance in transnational art markets and among diasporic audiences in North America and Western Europe. Specifically, Heather examines diasporic Iranian dancers and performance artists’ works in relation to Euro-American geopolitics and (neo)liberal discourses on immigration, citizenship, and the global war on terror, analyzing how these discourses implicate and are shaped by Iranian dancing/performing bodies. At Stanford, Heather organizes the Stanford Colloquium on Dance Studies. At Stanford and UC Berkeley, Heather has developed and taught lecture and studio-based courses that draw from her interdisciplinary research interests, which include Critical Dance Studies, Performance Studies, Transnational and Postcolonial Feminist theories, Queer theories, Iranian & Middle Eastern Studies, Diaspora and Migration Studies, and Critical Ethnic Studies. Her forthcoming publications include a chapter in the Mellon Dance Studies anthology The Futures of Dance Studies, a chapter in Performing Iran: Cultural Identity and Theatrical Performance, and a commissioned book review in the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies.

Joining Generations Discussion: Alvin Ailey Dance Company
Thursday, April 12, 2-4pm | Venue TBD

More info forthcoming.

FALL 2017

Joining Generations Discussion: Reggie Wilson
Thursday, September 21, 3-4pm
Geballe Room, Stephens Hall | UC Berkeley
In collaboration with Cal Performances
Sponsored by Townsend Center for the Humanities

As part of a yearlong series of programming at Cal Performances, Joining Generations features the work of four generations of African American choreographers who have expanded the boundaries of contemporary dance. This inaugural discussion will feature choreographer Reggie Wilson in conversation with Prof. Brandi Wilkins Catanese (Depts. of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies and African American Studies) and will explore how issues of ancestry and legacy factor into Wilson's work. 

Reggie Wilson makes rich, sensual, complex dances that vibrate with the layered histories of the African diaspora. Receiving its California premiere at Cal Performances, his full-length Moses(es) is inspired by Zora Neale Hurston's vernacular retelling of the biblical Moses story and combines his own experiences traveling to North Africa to understand the migration of Africans with extensive research into black culture, movement, and spiritual traditions. The result is a powerful investigation of the nature of leadership - who leads? who follows? - in our contemporary culture. 

Free and open to the public.

CANCELLED - will be rescheduled for spring
Prospectus Working Session: Juan Manuel Aldape and Randi Evans
Thursday, October 12, 5-7pm
Dwinelle 44B (TDPS Seminar Room) | UC Berkeley

TDPS graduate students Juan Manel Aldape and Randi Evans will share working drafts of their dissertation prospectuses.

Festival of Latin American Contemporary Choreographers (FLACC) Panel Discussion
Wednesday, November 8, 5-7pm
Exact Location TBD | UC Berkeley
In collaboration with the Performance in the Americas Working Group

As part of the upcoming Festival of Latin American Contemporary Choreographers, this panel discussion will feature Tranze Producciones from Mexicali, Baja California.

Joining Generations Discussion: Camille A. Brown
Friday, December 8, 3-4pm
Durham Theater | UC Berkeley
In collaboration with Cal Performances
Sponsored by Townsend Center for the Humanities

The second discussion of Cal Performances' Joining Generations programming will feature choreographer Camille A. Brown in conversation with Prof. Brandi Wilkins Catanese (Depts. of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies and African American Studies).

Innovative choreographer Camille A. Brown's BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play draws on the games little girls play to tell a story of black female empowerment. Brown uses African-American vernacular forms—social dancing, Double Dutch, hand-clapping games, ring shout—to explore the self-discovery and playfulness of childhood in a work theNew York Times calls "by turns, clever and tender." Brown, a 2016 Guggenheim Fellow, has created dances for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Urban Bush Women and is known for imaginative works that address issues of identity and social justice. 

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