“Mr. Moss layers national narratives and personal narratives, moving bodies and moving images, haunting songs and heated conversations in ways that leave us contemplating the future by way of the past.” —New York Times
Minneapolis, September 15, 2015—In this dense and precisely executed work, Dean Moss creates a performative meditation on the complicated, controversial legacy of 19th-century abolitionist John Brown. Moss integrates transfixing choreography, visual design, video, theater, and community participation to question not only the turbulent past of a historical figure but also the racial, gender, and generational processes at play in the inquiry. This ambitious socio-historical critique offers a fascinating intersection of ideas, identities, and ideologies. johnbrown will be performed in the William and Nadine McGuire Theater Thursday–Saturday, October 15–17, 8pm, which is the 156th anniversary of John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry. Copresented with the Givens Foundation.
Dean Moss is a dance based interdisciplinary director and media artist, curator and lecturer. Through his company Gametophyte, Inc., Moss investigates perceptions of self and other through transcultural, multimedia performance collaborations often incorporating audience participation. He is the recipient of a 2014 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in Choreography; an inaugural Doris Duke Impact Award in Theater; a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Artists Grant Award; multiple MAPFund and NEFA National Dance Project grants, plus fellowships in both Choreography and Multidisciplinary Works from the New York Foundation for the Arts. He also received a New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Award for his work Spooky action at a distance.
Moss came to New York from Tacoma Washington on a Dance Theater of Harlem scholarship in 1979. He danced with David Gordon for ten years and has had a long relationship with The Kitchen – serving as the Curator of Dance and Performance from 1999-2004, then as a Curatorial Advisor through 2009. As a curator he conceived and organized programs such as “Talking Dance“ hosted by Lucy Sexton and Anne Iobst featuring performances by Bill T.
johnbrown premiere at The Kitchen Photo: Ryutaro Mishima
Jones, Ann Carlson, Foofwa d’Imobilité, and works by Yvonne Rainer, David Gordon and Elevator Repair Service. Additionally he showcased rigorously innovative artists very early in their careers including: Miranda July, Sarah Michelson, Xavier LeRoy, Miguel Gutierrez, Yasmeen Godder, and Akram Khan. In 2012 Moss curated “Black Dance” with Pedro Jiménez, Young Jean Lee, and Ann Liv Young as part of the Parallels 2012 at the Danspace Project.
Independent yet committed to facilitating artists, Moss is an innovative supporter of artistic growth under a wide range of circumstances. In 2002 he conceived an emerging choreographers composition workshop, which was presented for three years at The Kitchen where it was facilitated in collaboration with Levi Gonzalez under the title Form & Practice. Additionally Moss taught for a year as a Guest Professor at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music and two years as a Visiting Lecturer in the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard University for which he received a Certificate of Distinction in Teaching from the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning. He returns to lecture in Harvard University’s new Theater, Dance and Media focus spring 2016. In 2014 he conceived and developed, THE AWARD: a non-monetary mentoring initiative for experimental dance artists. Facilitated with NYU Performance Studies, Ph.D candidate Joshua Lubin-Levi and now in its second year, the inaugural recipients were Rebecca Patek and Jen Rosenblit. (click here for more on THE AWARD)
In his work, Moss employs collaboration and audience participation as a means to disrupt and enrich both his life and his practice. His past premieres include: Nameless forest (2011), a collaboration with Korean sculptor and installation artist Sungmyung Chun – referencing Chun’s imagery the performance investigated existential narratives while engaging the audience in experiential rites of passage; Kisaeng becomes you (2009), with Korean traditional and modern dance choreographer Yoon Jin Kim – where audience members were invited to embody the discipline and poetry of kisaeng – artist/courtesans of Korea’s Joseon Dynasty; and figures on a field (2005) with the visual artist Laylah Ali – incorporating a docent led tour of the work during the performance.
Moss’ most recent project is titled johnbrown. The work uses its presentation and pre-performance production to reflect not only on the controversial legacy of the white abolitionist but also the racial, gender and generational processes at play in the inquiry. A segment of the work was commissioned and presented in-progress under the title Voluntaries by the New York Museum of Modern Art. johnbrown premiered at The Kitchen October 16-25, 2014: the 155th anniversary of John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry.
Tickets to johnbrown are: Thursday, $20 ($18); Friday-Saturday, $25 ($22) available at walkerart.org/tickets or by calling 612.375.7600
Video of the premiere of _johnbrown _at The Kitchen in NYC recorded October 23, 2014. click here
“It is a testament to Moss’s handle on the worlds he creates — complex, multilayered, fantastical, and intimate — that he is able to have the memory
johnbrown premiere at The Kitchen Photo: Ryutaro Mishima
johnbrown video shoot at BRIC Arts Media Photo: Sari Nordman
of renegade abolitionist John Brown loom over the entire piece. However, we are all aware it is Moss’s John Brown we are seeing. His is a lowercase, no spaces, one-word “John Brown”; johnbrown is a euphemism, a reference, and an ever-evolving metaphor. Brown is so much more than historical matter or biographical trope in Moss’s world; he is an ideological framework, able to produce a compelling, albeit densely layered, performance work.” -Tara Sheena for Hyperallergic
BOMB Magazine — Dean Moss by Young Jean Lee click here
The New York Times Review: An Abolitionist’s Soul Goes Marching On, Rowdily
Make a Night of It!
Meet the artists, talk about the show, and enjoy drinks on the upper balcony of the elegant McGuire Theater. Open one hour prior to and after most performances.
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Connect with the Artists
Take part in unique offstage experiences such as public workshops, open rehearsals, opening-night celebrations, postshow Q&As, and member events walkerart.org/performing-arts
Free Gallery Admission
Walker gallery admission is free with a paid event ticket within one week of every performance.
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About the Givens Foundation
For more than 40 years, the Givens Foundation for African American Literature has been the only organization in the Twin Cities exclusively
johnbrown premiere at The Kitchen Photo: Ryutaro Mishima
johnbrown in-progress at The Kelly Strayhorn Theater Photo: Mark Simpson
dedicated to advancing and celebrating black literature and writers. Our literary arts residencies, African American Author Series, and programs for writers illuminate the cultural resources and creative imagination found within African American literature to enrich cultural understanding for diverse audiences of all ages.
Walker Art Center Performing Arts Program History
A catalyst for the creative expression of artists and the active engagement of audiences, the Walker Art Center examines the questions that shape and inspire us as individuals, cultures, and communities. Established in 1927 as the Walker Art Gallery, in 1940 it adopted a new name and focused on modern and contemporary art exhibitions as well as screenings, performances and public programs. The Performing Arts program grew dramatically during the 1960s, presenting over 100 events a year and transitioning into a formal Walker programmatic department in 1970. Following a 1971 expansion and its 1988 opening of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, in 2005 the Walker opened a $100 million expansion which housed dedicated venues for all its disciplines including the 385-seat McGuire Theater. Today the Walker is one of the top-five most visited modern and contemporary art centers in the U.S. Multidisciplinary in focus, it is equally committed to advancing artistic innovation and interdisciplinary scholarship as it is with increasing access to lifelong learning in the arts. Approximately 1,600 artistic presentations engage 600,000 people per year through up to eight exhibitions; 170 film screenings; 85 performance events; the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden; and hundreds of residency, education, and community program events. Its 16-acre campus includes the highly acclaimed Herzog & de Meuron designed 385-seat McGuire Theater – home to one of the nation’s largest contemporary performance programs. The Walker is respected nationally and internationally as a groundbreaking leader in contemporary performing art presentations, residencies, and commissions. Led by Senior Curator Philip Bither since 1997, the Walker’s Performing Arts program under his tenure has been defined by its commitment to the increasingly blurred lines between artistic disciplines, including contemporary dance, new music-theatre, performance art, experimental theatre, avant-jazz, contemporary classical music, new global sounds and alternative rock and pop. In addition to animating its outstanding McGuire Theater, the Walker has also greatly expanded its placement of dance into gallery settings, in its sculpture garden, and beyond, to further encourage a conversation between forms. It has also continued it long-standing tradition of mounting work together with presenters, venues, community-based collaborators, and unique sites across the Twin Cities. Through its endeavors, the Walker has earned an international reputation as “one of America’s foremost experimental art spaces” (UK’s The Guardian).
Commissioning History Highlights
The Walker actively commissions work from emerging and established artists and provides artists intensive residencies to develop their work and connect their art and ideas with its audiences and neighboring communities. During the past decade alone, the Walker has commissioned more than 100 works involving hundreds of performing artists whose Walker commissioned works have travelled to 270 venues in the U.S. and 30 countries. The Walker helped to establish now common national practices like commissioning work from leading artists (Merce Cunningham, Trisha Brown, Twyla Tharp and many more) and our commitment continues to this day with 5-8 new commissions and production residencies per year. The Walker has hosted multiple residencies from hundreds of artists over the years, including longstanding relationships with artists such as Cunningham, Brown, Philip Glass, and Meredith Monk, and more recently, vanguard artists such as
Elevator Repair Service, Erik Friedlander, Cynthia Hopkins, So Percussion,
and Ralph Lemon (who opened the 14/15 season with a new
interdisciplinary work, Scaffold Room). 15/16 commission highlights include
premieres like Sarah Michelson’s tournamento; Julian Crouch, Rinde
Eckert, Paola Prestini’s Aging Magician; and Trajal Harrell’s The Ghost of
Montpellier Meets the Samurai.
Support provided by Producers’ Council members Leni and David Moore,
Jr./The David and Leni Moore Family Foundation. Support also provided by
the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project with lead
funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Andrew W.
Mellon Foundation, with additional support from the National Endowment for
the Arts; and the Engaging Dance Audiences program, administered by
Dance/USA and made possible with generous funding from the Doris Duke
In honor of Dale Schatzlein (1948-2006) and his important work in dance
and jazz in the Twin Cities, additional support is provided by Emily Maltz.
The Walker Art Center’s performing arts programs are made possible by
generous support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation through the
Doris Duke Performing Arts Fund, the William and Nadine McGuire
Commissioning Fund, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the National
Endowment for the Arts.
Performing Arts programs and commissions at the Walker are generously
supported by members of the Producers’ Council: Nor Hall and Roger Hale;
Kings’ Fountain/Barbara Watson Pillsbury and Henry Pillsbury; Emily Maltz;
Dr. William W. and Nadine M. McGuire; Leni and David Moore, Jr./The
David and Leni Moore Family Foundation; Mike and Elizabeth Sweeney;
and Frances and Frank Wilkinson.
Additional support is generously provided by members of the
Commissioning Circle: Harriet and Bruce Bart, Barbara Broker, Jocelyn
Hale and Glenn Miller; Judith and Jerome Ingber; Leonard and Linda
Schloff; Elizabeth and John Schott; JoAnn Verburg and Jim Moore; and
Binky Wood and Winthrop Rockwell.
The Walker Art Center’s Dance Season is supported with funds from the
Engaging Dance Audiences program, administered by Dance/USA and
made possible with generous funding from the Doris Duke Charitable