Variations on Themes from Lost and Found: Scenes from a Life and other works by John Bernd
Danspace Project pays respect to Lenape peoples. We acknowledge that this work is situated on the Lenape island of Manhahtaan (Mannahatta) in Lenapehoking, the Lenape homeland. We pay respect to Lenape land, water, and ancestors past, present, and future.
Danspace Project Presents Variations on Themes from Lost and Found: Scenes from a Life and other works by John Bernd Thursday, May 25-Saturday, May 27 & Thursday, June 1-Saturday, June 3 7:30pm Conceived by Ishmael Houston-Jones Co-created by Ishmael Houston-Jones and Miguel Gutierrez based on choreography, text, and drawings by John Bernd Music by Nick Hallett, based on compositions by John Bernd Consultation: Jennifer Monson Lighting: Carol Mullins Drawings: John Bernd Video Design: Alvaro Gonzalez Recording engineer: Jeff Cook Mastering engineer: Sarah Register Rehearsal Assistant: Amit Noy Performed by Raha Behnam, Toni Carlson, Estado Flotante, Charles Gowin, Kris Lee, Johnnie Cruise Mercer, and Alex Rodabaugh.
Variations on Themes from Lost and Found: Scenes from a Life and other works by John Bernd is a collage of choreography and music John Bernd (1953–1988) created during the last seven years of his life. Dance, music, text and visual imagery drawn from the following pieces by John Bernd: Surviving Love and Death, 1981 Lost and Found (Scenes from a Life) Part One, 1982 Lost and Found (Scenes from a Life) Part Two, 1983 Avant Garde a Go Go, 1984 Lost and Found (Scenes from a Life) Part Three, 1985 Be Good To Me, 1985 Monkey Go West, 1985 Two on the Loose, 1988 Additional songs: Just Be Good To Me, written by James Harris III, Terry Lewis; performed by The S.O.S Band Rodeo: Hoe-down, written by Aaron Copland; performed by the San Francisco Symphony (Michael Tilson-Thomas, conductor) Dirty Mind, written and performed by Prince Age of Consent, written by Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris, Gillian Gilbert; performed by New Order Street Hassle, written and performed by Lou Reed Recorded voices: Toni Carlson, Alex Rodabaugh, Johnnie Cruise Mercer, Madison Krekel Musical selections from the performance can be streamed or downloaded as the mini-album, John Bernd Variations nickhallett.bandcamp.com/album/john-bernd-variations
Sally This should be it. Maybe the piece of writing I did yesterday I’ve enclosed, and that really says it all. In rehearsal. a wonderful, blessed, and lucky time. When all of a sudden I thought that it was possible, all the ideas, all my life, of fitting in, that I could see it as possible. And I was speaking and I was moving and I was singing and I was dancing and I started laughing at one point. Just started laughing. And I wrote: I am either going crazy or about to die or about to be born —November 6, 1981 From a draft of a letter John wrote to Sally Banes (It’s unknown if this letter was sent or not.)
Welcome to an experiment in reconstruction; a remembering and reimagining of the work of John Bernd. From the late 70s throughout the 80s to his untimely death at the age of 35 in 1988, John Bernd relentlessly created a body of work that was singular in its vision and force. From reading his words it is clear that his drive was a combination of careerist ambition and spiritual mission. He was a key figure of the East Village scene and was one of the first artists to deal openly with gay themes. He worked interdisciplinarily, and with an extraordinary array of dance artists who would go on to make some of the most interesting work in New York. In order to do a true reconstruction of John Bernd’s work we would need a time machine to bring you back to the way the East Village looked, sounded and smelled in the 80’s. Before 2nd Ave Deli became Chase Bank. Before the Tunnel Bar became a hardware store and the Saint Mark’s Baths became a video store and now a Karaoke Bar. Back to when the raw and immediate aesthetic of the work of that time was fed by the weekly Open Movement sessions at PS122, where John Bernd met Ishmael Houston-Jones, Yvonne Meier, Fred Holland, Stephanie Skura and Jennifer Monson. Where they all danced together and influenced each other and fell in love and made shows together. And most importantly, we would need to bring you to that imperiled time when people died one after the other in the plague era of AIDS in New York City and friends became each other’s patient advocates and caregivers. There are so many pieces we could have made. John Bernd’s work ranged from unison phrases rooted in his modern dance studies to wild improvisations performed by the very best of the era. He filled his pieces with ebullient physicality, evocative tableaus and performance art gestures of healing and cleansing. Certain material persisted from piece to piece. The projections of his line drawings, which increasingly became fixated on the image of a temple, made their way into several pieces. The triplet stomping was a recurring movement motif, his personal folk dance. And then of course the small red chair, which appears in almost all of his pieces. As he wrote in a letter to Sally Banes “At home. That’s where it begins. At home, you’re sitting in your chair just sitting.” Drawing on the influence of his mentor Meredith Monk, whom he worked and performed with in the late 70s, he composed music and sang his plaintive songs and wrote passionately and drew obsessively and danced, danced, danced. He loved to dance. And he was compelled to make his work. In some cases he performed just days out of the hospital. He swept floors at PS122 in the early mornings so that he could get free rehearsal space. In his last piece Two On the Loose he tells a story of trying to get rehearsal space in the hospital so that he can work on the piece with Jennifer Monson: “I kept looking for a place I could rehearse. That just always became my project. It still is my project.” He was planning new projects and strategizing potential tours right up until he died. We have created a reimagining of Bernd’s work. By taking sections of different pieces and putting them together in new ways, we want to highlight the range of what he made and what he was interested in as well as create a contemporary reflection on his work based on our relationships to it. Ishmael danced in all three parts of Bernd’s Lost and Found series and shared a friendship with him. Miguel only learned about Bernd’s work through this process and was shocked to discover such a direct ancestor to the elements and concerns in his own work. Nick has taken John’s music and brought it into conversation with today. We strongly encourage you to research Bernd’s work. Please go to the Performing Arts Library at Lincoln Center and look up the documentation that exists. Please read the ‘zine— reprinted in the Lost and Found catalog—that his friends put together ten years after his death. Please continue to seek out the work of other artists and ancestors whose names never entered the canon. There is more work to be done. Thank you, Miguel Gutierrez and Ishmael Houston-Jones
John Bernd (1953–1988) was an interdisciplinary artist working with original text, music, vocal work, projections, choreography and improvisation. He was one of the first persons with AIDS in the Downtown Dance scene, was a “Bessie” Award-winning choreographer, performer, and “ethical guiding light.” He presented his first evening-length work, A Personal Landscape, in 1978 and continued to create solo and group projects for the next ten years including Surviving Love and Death, Lost and Found (scenes from a life), Be Good To Me, and many others. He performed his work in a variety of contexts and venues, such as PS 122, Danspace Project, Dance Theater Workshop, Theater am Turm in Frankfurt, Tangente in Montreal, as well as The Pyramid Club and Club 57 in New York. He collaborated with Tim Miller on a yearlong autobiographical duet called Live Boys. He received fellowship support from New York Foundation for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts and Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts. He performed and toured with Meredith Monk/The House, and performed in New York with Jeff Weiss, Jane Comfort, Molissa Fenley, DANCENOISE, Anne Bogart, Ishmael Houston-Jones, and Fred Holland. According to his resume: “I go to the beach or movies, read books, take naps—whenever possible.” He died in New York on August 28, 1988 of AIDS-related complications, at the age of 35. Ishmael Houston-Jones is a choreographer, author, performer, teacher, and curator. His improvised dance and text work has been performed world-wide. Drawn to collaborations as a way to move beyond boundaries and the known, Houston-Jones celebrates the political aspect of cooperation. He and Fred Holland shared a New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Award for Cowboys, Dreams and Ladders, which reintroduced the erased narrative of the Black cowboy back into the mythology of the American west. He was awarded his second “Bessie” Award for the 2010 revival of THEM, his 1985/86 collaboration with writer Dennis Cooper and composer Chris Cochrane. In 2017 he received a third “Bessie” for Variations on Themes from Lost and Found: Scenes from a Life and other Works by John Bernd. His fourth Bessie, in 2017, was awarded for his contribution to the field of dance. Houston-Jones curated Platform 2012: Parallels which focused 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. His work has been supported by the Herb Alpert Foundation, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, United States Artists, the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Houston-Jones is on the faculty of New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, Experimental Theater Wing and the University of the Arts School of Dance in Philadelphia. Miguel Gutierrez is a choreographer, music artist, writer, visual artist, educator, podcaster, and Feldenkrais Method practitioner based in Lenapehoking/Brooklyn, NY and Tovaangar/Los Angeles. His work creates empathetic and irreverent spaces outside of traditional discourse. His work has been presented internationally in over sixty cities. His work Cela nous concerne tous (This concerns all of us), a 2017 commission for Ballet de Lorraine had its U.S. premiere this April at NYU Skirball, and a new duet, I as another, had its NY Premiere at Baryshnikov Arts Center. He was one of the honorees for Danspace Project’s 2023 “Rebel Angels” Gala. Since 2017 he has performed SADONNA, a music project where he turns upbeat Madonna songs into sad anthems, and in 2022 he started a new music project of original songs in English and Spanish called sueño. He is a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, United States Artists Fellowship, Foundation for Contemporary Arts Award, four NY Dance and Performance “Bessie” Awards, and a 2016 Doris Duke Artist Award. He was a selected artist for the 2014 Whitney Biennial. His podcast Are You For Sale? examines the ethical entanglements between money and art making. He is an Associate Professor of Choreography at UCLA in the department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance. www.miguelgutierrez.org Nick Hallett is a musician, artist, and curator. His original music has been heard in New York at Town Hall, MoMA, the Whitney, the Guggenheim, The Kitchen, Hayden Planetarium, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Performa, Danspace, Poetry Project, Ecstatic Music Festival, Roulette, BOFFO, and ISSUE Project Room. His long standing collaboration with artist Shana Moulton includes the cross-platform opera, Whispering Pines 10, which has been staged, screened, streamed, and exhibited globally, in addition to earning the duo a 2013 Creative Capital award. He has composed seven scores for the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company, including Deep Blue Sea (2021), which premiered at Park Avenue Armory, in addition to serving as vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, and music director on the international tours of the company’s Analogy Trilogy (2015-2017) and A Letter to My Nephew (2015). Hallett received a 2017 Bessie Award with Ishmael Houston-Jones and Miguel Gutierrez for Variations on Themes from Lost & Found: Scenes from a Life and Other Works by John Bernd, and, in 2022, along with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company, for Deep Blue Sea. Hallett teaches on the faculties of The New School and School of Visual Arts, and is getting his Master’s at Wesleyan University. He is curating the 2023 season of live art at the New York City AIDS Memorial. Jennifer Monson met John Bernd in 1982. He was performing at an exhibit of performance artists at Sarah Lawrence College curated by Tony Whitfield. She danced with John until his death, performing in PS 122 Benefits, Be Good to Me (1985) and Two on The Loose (1988). Carol Mullins first designed lighting at Danspace Project for Andy de Groat in 1978. She designed there for Part 1 and Part 3 of John Bernd’s Lost and Found in 1982 and 1985. In 1982 she designed for Ishmael Houston-Jones’ curation of Parallels and for parts of his 2012 Platform with the same name. She has also designed for some of his Danspace Project dances. She has received three Bessie Awards and an OBIE for her lighting. PERFORMERS Raha Behnam is an Iranian-born, US/Canadian artist working across disciplines and practices towards liberatory modes of being and doing. Most recently, she collaborated with zavé martohardjono on the multimedia performance TERRITORY: THE ISLAND REMEMBERS, (Gibney). Raha's artistic influences include Abby Crain, Alexa Solveig Mardon, Miguel Gutierrez, Hadar Ahuvia, Yazmany Arboleda, Lorene Bouboushian, Stephanie Skura, Kathleen Hermesdorf, Sara Shelton Mann, among many others. She is driven by her love for humanity and moved by its inevitable waves of discouragement and hope. Raha holds a Master’s of Urban Planning, and is a certified facilitator of Open Source Forms (OSF). Toni Carlson is a dancer and performance maker based in Brooklyn. She has appeared in the work of Yanira Castro, Moriah Evans, Ishmael Houston-Jones & Miguel Gutierrez, Brendan Fernandes, Alex Rodabaugh, Kat Galasso, and Ming Wong. She has presented her own work as part of the Rooftop/GroundFloor Introducing Series, Hot Consumer Trash, curated by Alex Romania, and through Movement Research at the Judson Church. She likes to dance with her friends. Estado Flotante (Alvaro Gonzalez) is an artist based in Brooklyn whose practice ranges from dance/movement to music/sound, and video/visual composition consolidated through his pop music and live performance. Originally from Santiago de Chile where he became dancer, teaching artist and maker, he moves to New York City in 2012 where he has performed and collaborated with various Dance and performance artists like Antonio Ramos, Miguel Gutierrez, Daria Fain, Ishmael Houston-Jones, and John Kelly among others. Currently he has been releasing his first singles online and producing his first Album to be released on all music streaming platforms. Charles Gowin is a performer from Columbia, Missouri. He received a BFA in Dance from the University of Illinois in the Fall of 2015. Since moving to Brooklyn, he has had the pleasure of dancing for Katy Pyle’s Ballez in Sleeping Beauty and the Beast and Giselle of Loneliness, Christopher Williams, Sônia Soares, Juri Onuki, Ellie Goudie-Averill, Emma Brown, Brendan Fernandes, Tere O’Connor, Jon Kinzel, Alex Rodabaugh, Evvie Allison, and Variations on Themes from Lost and Found: Scenes from a Life and other works by John Bernd with Ishmael Houston-Jones and Miguel Gutierrez. Kris Lee is a New York and Philadelphia based dancer, performer and DJ. She received her BFA in Dance from University of the Arts in 2019. Kris toured and performed with nora chipaumire’s #PUNK 100% POP *N!GGA (2019-2020) and was a member of the Stephen Petronio Company (2021-22). Kris was one of the creators and performers for high noon (2022), the interdisciplinary performance work produced by Ninth Planet. Most recently, she has performed in Moriah Evans’ work, Remains Persist (2022). Johnnie Cruise Mercer, a 2022 Dance Magazine Harkness Promise Award Recipient, and a 2021 Princess Grace Award Recipient (Choreography), is a queer-black think-maker; a choreographer, an educator, and producer based in Brooklyn, New York. A native of Richmond, VA, Johnnie holds a BFA in Dance and Choreography from Virginia Commonwealth University. As a performer Johnnie has had the privilege of collaborating intimately with Antonio Brown/Antonio Brown Dance, Monstah Black & Manchild Black with The Illustrious Blacks, Alicia Morales, Moor Mother, Miguel Gutierrez, Andre Zachery/The Renegade Performance Group, Yon Tande, Ishmael Houston-Jones (2018 remount of THEM), Netta Yerushalmy, Maria Bauman/MB Dance, Antonio Ramos, Edisa Weeks/Delirious Dances and most recently with Arthur Aviles/Typical Theater. Johnnie is the founding producer, and director of TheREDprojectNYC (TRPNYC), a multidisciplinary ensemble of artists dedicated to movement philosophy, and its use towards building communal spaces for black/other process, documentation, and investigation. IG: @johnniecruisemercer, @jcm_redprojectnyc. Johnnie is excited to and eager to once again perform this Bessie winning work! Alex Rodabaugh is a choreographer, dancer and performer from Lima, OH, based in NYC. Alex's work has been shown at Movement Research at Judson Church, DraftWork at Danspace Project, Double Plus at Gibney, PRELUDE, American Realness and Dance & Process at the Kitchen. Alex most recently performed in the opening of Tura Oliviera’s What A Glory to Be So Euphoric and Weak. Alex has performed in works by artists such as Moriah Evans, Simone Forti, Tess Dworman, Miguel Gutierrez, Ishmael Houston-Jones, Doug LeCours, Derek Smith, and Bailey Williams among others, including two Bessie Award-winning performances. Alex is also a Co-Founder and Treasurer of Dance Artists’ National Collective. See more at www.alexrodabaugh.work
FUNDING Variations on Themes from Lost and Found: Scenes from a Life and other works by John Bernd was originally made possible with support with a commission from Danspace Project, as well as support from Mellon Foundation, Mertz Gilmore Foundation, New York State DanceForce, James E. Robison Foundation, Lambent Foundation and an Emergency Grant from Foundation for Contemporary Art. The performance reprisal, events and publication of Variations on Themes from Lost and Found...are supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, Lambent Foundation and Mellon Foundation. Preceding the Danspace performances of Variations on Themes from Lost and Found: Scenes from a Life and Other Works by John Bernd, The New York City AIDS Memorial, in partnership with Danspace Project, presented an Open Rehearsal on May 18. The NYC AIDS Memorial Open Rehearsal was made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.
SPECIAL THANKS Thank you to Judy Hussie-Taylor, Seta Morton, Rosaly Ruiz, Lily Cohen, Niko Tsocanos, and the extraordinary staff at Danspace Project for the invitation to revive this very special work again. Your attention to this project exemplifies the kind of mindful care that all curation should aspire to. Thank you to Dave Harper and the NYC AIDS Memorial for the chance to bring Bernd’s work to the Open Rehearsal. Thank you to Kristin Juarez for participating so generously in the Conversation Without Walls. Thank you to Amit Noy for going shopping shopping shopping. Thank you to Debra Levine for her assistance in acquiring archival audio materials from John Bernd's papers at Harvard. Thank you to Meredith Monk for participating in a conversation with Ishmael Houston-Jones and Nick Hallett about her work with and fond memories of John Bernd. Thank you to Talya Epstein and Madison Krekel for being such an integral part of the making and performing of this piece. Thank you to Raha Behnam and Kris Lee for diving into the water with us so full (and so quickly). And thank you to the rest of the cast - Toni, Estado, Charles, Johnnie, Alex, for keeping the torch alive.
BACK IN STOCK! Lost and Found: Dance, New York, HIV/ AIDS, Then and Now! This catalogue accompanies Danspace Project’s Platform 2016: Lost and Found curated by Ishmael Houston-Jones and Will Rawls, which hosted the premiere of Variations on Themes from Lost and Found...
Edited by Jaime Shearn Coan, Ishmael Houston-Jones, and Will Rawls. Contributors include: Penny Arcade, Marc Arthur, C.Carr, Douglas Crimp, Travis Chamberlain, DarkMatter, Nan Goldin, Brenda Dixon Gottschild, Neil Greenberg, Bill T. Jones, Deborah Jowitt, John Kelly, Theodore Kerr, Kia Labeija, Eileen Myles, Pamela Sneed, Sally Sommer, Sarah Schulman, Tseng Kwong Chi, and Muna Tseng.
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ABOUT DANSPACE PROJECT
Danspace Project presents new work in dance, supports a diverse range of choreographers in developing their work, encourages experimentation, and connects artists to audiences.
For almost 50 years, Danspace Project has supported a vital community of contemporary dance artists in an environment unlike any other in the United States. Located in the historic St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery, Danspace shares its facility with the Church, The Poetry Project, and New York Theatre Ballet. Danspace Project’s Commissioning Initiative has commissioned over 570 new works since its inception in 1994.
Since 2010, we have produced fourteen Platforms, published fourteen print catalogues and five e-books, launched the Conversations Without Walls discussion series, and explored models for public discourse and residencies.
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Executive Director & Chief Curator: Judy Hussie-Taylor
Deputy Director: Jodi Bender
Communications Director: Lily Cohen
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Danspace Project gratefully acknowledges the private support of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters ArtsForward Program, made possible through support from the Mellon Foundation; The Joseph and Joan Cullman Foundation for the Arts; The Barbara Bell Cumming Charitable Trust; The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation; Howard Gilman Foundation; The Harkness Foundation for Dance; Marta Heflin Foundation; Humanities New York with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities; Jerome Foundation; Lambent Foundation Fund, a fund of the Tides Foundation; the Mellon Foundation; Mertz Gilmore Foundation; The New York Community Trust—George N. and Mary D. Lindsay Fund; Jerome Robbins Foundation; James E. Robison Foundation; The Fan Fox & Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, Inc.; The Shubert Foundation; and the Henry Luce Foundation, the Teiger Foundation, and Willem de Kooning Foundation, through the Coalition of Small Arts.
Danspace Project programs are made possible in part through public funds from the National Endowment for the Arts; the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature; the NYS DanceForce (a partnership program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature); and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.
Danspace Project extends special thanks to City Council members including Cultural Affairs Committee Chair Chi Ossé, District 2 representative Carlina Rivera, and Speaker Adrienne E. Adams; New York State Senator Brad Hoylman, and State Assembly Member Deborah J. Glick for their advocacy and support; as well as gratitude for Senator Charles E. Schumer’s visionary leadership of the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program.
Danspace Project receives additional support from Ford Foundation, Moody’s Foundation, and The William Penn Foundation through matching gift programs.
Special thanks to the following supporters for their generosity in many forms throughout the years: Elise Bernhardt and fleur elise bkln, the Joseph S. and Diane H. Steinberg Charitable Trust, Ozone Design, and Ugly Duckling Presse.
DANSPACE PROJECT GRATEFULLY ACKNOWLEDGES OUR INDIVIDUAL DONORS
Leadership Supporters: Jody & John Arnhold, Yona Backer*, Suzanne Bocanegra* & David Lang, Carol Bryce-Buchanan, Anthony Calnek* & Linda Sugin, Barbara Bertozzi Castelli, David L. Fanger & Martin Wechsler, Vallejo Gantner, Judy Hussie-Taylor*, Thomas J. Lax* & Andrew Wallace, Melissa Levin*, Carol LeWitt, Frances Milberg, Timothy & Virginia Millhiser, Rashaun Mitchell & Silas Riener, Sarah Needham*, Eiko Otake*, David Parker*, Jana Reed, Judilee Reed*, Sara Rudner, Martha Sherman, Linda Stein, Pat Steir, Christina L. Sterner & Steve Poses, Helen* & Peter Warwick, Nina Winthrop*, David & Monica Zwirner
Danspace Project would like to acknowledge the generosity of former Board member and ongoing Leadership Supporter Terry Creach, who passed away suddenly last fall. Our heartfelt gratitude for his support of Danspace, in many ways, for many years.
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