Joe Goode

Perhaps more than any other choreographer, Joe Goode combines language and dance, in a variety of styles and forms. I recently did an interview with San Francisco–based dancer and choreographer Joe Goode. The entire article, which uses material from the interview, can be found at

The article talks about Goode’s work generally, but one of the aspects of his work that most defines him among choreographers is his use of language as an element alongside dance. He is currently working on a piece inspired by Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space (1958). Here are a few excerpts from the article:

“Goode was inspired by Bachelard’s use of language as well as his ideas. But where Bachelard writes philosophy as if it were poetry, Goode treats language as if it were a form of music. As he talks about language, he waxes eloquent: ‘I’m a word person. I love the rhythm of words. I love the weight of them in the mouth. Their different pitches and timbres.

‘He also claims to love stories, and his dance pieces are often narrative: ‘As a person who likes language, to talk and sing, it never made sense why I was being asked to dance mute.’”

But Goode’s use of language is more typical of how the majority of choreographers use language: as storytelling. There is a rhythmic quality to the language Goode uses, but the text is narrative that uses prose and the content, the story, is its most important feature. The overall narrative, however, is non-linear:

“He refers to the use of stories historically in the earliest forms of dance. He believes that many dancers that grew up under the modernist tradition pursued by Merce Cunningham and John Cage allowed for a purity of form, but he longed for something ‘a little more figurative.’ Even so, he points out that many of the stories that his choreography tells are “fairly prismatic.” Like the structures of his dance installations, his narratives are non-traditional and allow for multiple and complex interacting stories.”

What I find interesting in the above quotes are the words ‘figurative’ and ‘prismatic’ – both of which are terms used for visual art. The meaning of these words is ensconced in the physical world.

Singing – words attached to music – is also an element of his choreography:

“All that leaves him with a demanding search for dancers who can also speak and sing on stage. ‘I’m not sure if I find them or they find me … I don’t hire them because they sing, but I’m attracted to dancers who want to embody things with their voice.’ True to his desire, his dancers are often remarkable singers, sliding easily from movement to voice and back.”

We promised to talk more specifically about his use of language in our next encounter. In the meantime, here is a link to a page of videos of his work:

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