In some ways, choreographer Joe Goode has his little sister to thank for his career. “I always seem to be following her,” he says, laughing. He first followed her to dance class: “She had a battery pack under her tutu, and when the lights went out and she sparkled like a star, I thought, ‘That’s what I want to do.’” Decades later, disillusioned with the New York dance scene, he followed her to San Francisco, where he soon made a name for himself as a crafter of dance theater, skillfully layering his highly physical choreography with spoken text and song.
This month, Goode brings his Resilience Project to the American Dance Institute in Maryland. For this residency series, he and his company interview specific populations about dealing with trauma and finding strength in adversity. Their responses and stories become the verbatim text for a culminating dance theater performance. At ADI, Goode will work with local military veterans.
On getting people to talk for the Resilience Project “They’ve come forward. Most of them are almost missionary about wanting more awareness for what they’ve gone through. In a way, it’s like coming out of the closet. There’s a secrecy about PTSD. But when you actually talk about it and put it in the context of a life, it’s not so mysterious. When you talk about how the family is dealing with it and the ways they’re looking for solutions to those problems, it’s a very human story.”
Pairing language with movement “Sometimes we don’t try to illustrate the language. Sometimes what happens with the body is the opposite of what’s happening with the language. The language might be very angry—denial, “I can’t get better; everything’s wrong”—but what’s happening physically is very sweet or tender. That breaks open new meanings in the language and new feelings.”
His best advice for students “I actually advise my students not to think of dance as a career. I think that’s a depressing and self-defeating way of going about it. If it’s something that you’re passionate about and gets you curious about the world, then it’s something you should pursue. Whether or not someone wants to pay you to kick your leg high is kind of irrelevant. You’re going to find a way to get involved with it if it’s the thing that feeds you. Approach it with curiosity and appetite, and see where it takes you.” DT
Training: BA in theater from Virginia Commonwealth University
Performance: Merce Cunningham Dance Company; Margaret Jenkins Dance Company
Choreography: founded the Joe Goode Performance Group in 1986; Guggenheim Fellowship in 2007
Teaching: professor at University of California, Berkeley
Photos from top: by Margo Mortiz; by RJ Muna; both courtesy of Goode