Choreographer challenges students to approach art in different manner

By Genevieve Turcotte, Department of Dramatic Art



Professor Joe Goode, right, encourages students to find material everywhere.
Noah Berger photo

21 February 2001 | When acclaimed choreographer Joe Goode arrived on campus to teach in the Department of Dramatic Art, he looked forward to working with students “still young enough to feel that they can change the world.”

What the new professor did not anticipate, he says, was the level of maturity he would encounter in the dancers, actors, writers and designers in his interdisciplinary art class.

“I’m asking them to think of material as texture, color and weight rather than taking the standard approach of ‘this is my story and I want to tell it.’ They are not having any difficulty grasping this approach,” said Goode.

An internationally known choreographer, Goode is an innovator in contemporary dance theater. Since 1979, he has combined text, gesture and humor with his own physical, high-velocity movement. The result is a unique dance form that his company performs throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, South America, the Middle East and Africa.

Goode began his involvement with Berkeley in 1999 as a Regents’ Lecturer. During his residency on campus, he created “The Leavers,” a new work debuted by student actors and dancers as part of the University Dance Theater season.

As a member of the faculty, Goode is looking forward to working with students for an entire semester, instead of the two weeks typical of a visiting residency. The time, he says, will allow him to “give students the tools” to work in his distinct methodology.

He encourages students to find material everywhere — in the body, voice, visual field — and urges actors “to get out of their minds” and dancers “to get out of their bodies.” Students use gestural impressions, vocal soundscapes, partnering and text to create cross-disciplinary work that defies easy categorization.

Many of his Berkeley students are double majors in dance and physics or theater and anthropology. This interdisciplinary environment — in which the artists tend to be “thinkers” inclining toward the philosophical — provides the perfect medium for Goode’s methodology.

The process of articulating what is important in art, as he teaches aspiring artists, also helps Goode to re-connect with his core values as an artist and to refocus his vision for his art.

“I don’t allow (the students) to rely on patterns,” said Goode. “I seek to create a little discomfort and risk.”

Goode is known for his inventive performance installations, which have been commissioned by the Krannert Museum at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and the San Francisco Fine Art Museum/M.H. de Young Memorial Museum.

His latest work, “What the Body Knows,” deals with “intuitions, wisdoms and knowledges of things that we don’t know in our minds or rational beings,” he says. It will premiere May 30 through June 3 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco.

See for information on Goode’s class.


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