CLOSER with Ishmael Houston-Jones & Keith Hennessy

Artist Talk | Live Performance | Q&A

Followed by an Open-Level Community-Centered Improvisation Jam 

Saturday, March 2 from 7:00pm – 9:00pm 

Black Box Theatre at The Schwartz Center 

SB Level | 430 College Avenue, Ithaca NY 

Distinguished guests and award-winning interdisciplinary performance artists Ishmael Houston-Jones and Keith Hennessy first collaborated in the mid-90s and have continued for 25 years a deep conversation about art, collaboration, improvisation, race, activism, sex, dance, history, and futures. When we dance together, the conversation and research continues. Sometimes we fight, but there is always love. There will be questions, there will be answers, and much of the rest is unknown…  

CLOSER reflects, holds, and generates a precarious and curious space between engagement and refuge, being present with queerness, the ongoing impact of political-health-ecological crises, and the importance of shared dance and inquiry. We will hang out in playful and nonproductive spaces, being in a contagious relationship to past and future, ghosts and desire. We will approach queer and decolonial futurities through practices of opening to the unknown. We seek a soft experience where political crises and dancing bodies can be woven into a single conversation. Where bodies are energies, always entangled within the ecologies from which they emerge.

CLOSER will begin by weaving together and through an Artist Talk, Live Performance, and Q&A Session. It will culminate in an open-level, community-centered Improvisation Jam in the second hour. 

What is an Improv JamImprovisation Jams are open, inclusive gatherings where people come together to explore, experiment, witness, practice, and play with/by/through spontaneous impulses for individual and shared movement, shared contact, sound, and emergent storytelling, research, and release. It is a safe space to respond, inspire, and be inspired by sensation, surroundings, and each other. All are welcome to observe, participate, or both.

CLOSER is made possible through the generosity and support of Cheryl Whaley and Eric Aboaf in part with the 2023/24 Choreographing Justice Series in the Department of Performing & Media Arts.

Ishmael Houston-Jones is a choreographer, author, performer, teacher, and curator. His improvised dance and text work has been performed world-wide. He has received three New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Awards for collaborations with writer Dennis Cooper, choreographers Miguel Gutierrez and Fred Holland and composers Chris Cochrane and Nick Hallett, and a fourth "Bessie" for contributions to the field of dance. Houston-Jones curated Platform 2012: Parallels which concentrated on choreographers from the African diaspora and postmodernism and co-curated with Will Rawls Platform 2016: Lost & Found, Dance, New York, HIV/AIDS, Then and Now. As an author Houston-Jones' essays, fiction, interviews, and performance texts have been published in several anthologies. His first book, FAT and other stories, was published in June 2018 by Yonkers International Press. Houston-Jones is a 2022 recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship. His work has been supported by The Herb Alpert Foundation, The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, The Foundation for Contemporary Arts and The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation.    

Keith Hennessy, MFA, PhD, is a frolicker, imperfectionist, and witch working in the fields of live performance, dance, affordable housing, and sexual healing. Raised on Atikameksheng Anishnawbek lands in Canada, living in Ramaytush Ohlone lands (San Francisco) since 1982, Keith tours internationally. Hennessy’s work is interdisciplinary and experimental, motivated by anarchist, anti-racist and queer-feminist movement. He engages practices of improvisation, ritual, collaboration, play, and protest to respond to political crises and their embodiments. Hennessy directs Circo Zero, co-founded the dance/culture spaces 848 and CounterPulse, and was a member of Sara Mann’s Contraband, 1985-1994. Awards include Guggenheim, USArtist, NY Bessie, and Bay Area Izzies. With a focus on the poetics and politics of relationship, Keith’s work prioritizes collaboration, the politics of relationship, and community process. Keith's artistic collaborators include Ishmael Houston-Jones, Sarah Crowell, Peiling Kao, Peaches, Snowflake Calvert, Jassem Hindi, Annie Danger, Meg Stuart, Brontez Purnell, jose abad, and Gerald Casel.

Photo credit: Karolina Miernik © yakoone

More news

View all news
Ishmael Houston-Jones and Keith Hennessey during a performance of Closer, dancing in the foreground with Ishmael’s foot in Keith’s mouth, and an audience sitting on the floor in the background.
Photo credit: Karolina Miernik ©