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    Joe Goode Performance Group’s High Velocity Queer Poetry in Motion

    joeInnovative dancer and choreographer Joe Goode and his company have been recognized both nationally and internationally for their contributions to the development of contemporary dance theater. Goode’s signature work, 29 Effeminate Gestures, was produced by PBS and helped to open minds about gender and dance from an unapologetically queer perspective. The company is hosting an LGBT night on September 26 at Z Space, which we encourage you to attend. As you’ll soon read, Goode is a thoughtful, intelligent artist who has remained true to both himself and his craft. He generously took time out of rehearsals for the upcoming season to share more about his life and work with us.

    SF Bay Times: How did you become interested in movement?

    Joe Goode: I was an introverted child, and definitely a sissy boy. I hated sports and hated the loud, competitive space of the gym and the locker room. Somehow, when I saw dancing for the first time (followed my sister to dance class, I know—it’s classic!), suddenly there was something beautiful and artistic that I could do with my body. It’s ironic really, because the brand of dancing that I do now is very physical and athletic, so I’ve kind of circled back to the athleticism I scorned as a child.

    SF Bay Times: It sounds like dance has been a healer for you. Do you think this healing, transformative power carries over to your audiences?

    Joe Goode: Dancing is autoerotic. It’s pleasure in the body. It’s visceral; it’s animal. When it’s done right, it’s guileless and honest. Almost every dancer will tell you how dancing saved their lives. It was a place to put the excess energy, but also it was “church,” a place to praise the sheer physical joy of being alive. Audience members can take the kinetic ride of movement, even if they are not doing the moving themselves. They can also feel the community of bodies touching and sharing weight. It’s a chance for them to slip out of their analytical approach to living for a few moments, and be a kid again, twirling around in the front yard until they fell down. We all know the primal power of kinetic movement and we just need that little reminder every now and then.

    SF Bay Times: Why did you decide to host a special LGBTQ night?

    Joe Goode: The two pieces that we are performing this time at Z Space are so quintessentially “queer.” Both are about the very real exclusion that queer people feel in this dominantly hetero culture. We have to really work at being the courageous, shining stars that we are. It would sadden me if LGBTQ folks didn’t get to see these works. They’re about us!

    SF Bay Times: One of your signature works, 29 Effeminate Gestures, will be on the program that night. What can you tell us about the genesis of this work? How has this work changed for you?

    Joe Goode: 29 Effeminate Gestures was the first performance work where I decided to really tell the hard truth about my own place on the gender spectrum. I always knew that my voice as an artist came from a queer place (I was always “out” as an artist), but this piece was the first where I said, “Look at all of my fears. Look at the effeminate child that I erased to fit into this culture. Feel for him and feel for all of us who have trimmed our lavish tendencies to fit in and be accepted.” It is done with humor and compassion, but it’s a really brutal work in many ways. What surprises me is how durable it is. I made this piece in the late eighties and people can still relate to it. Now, it’s being taught in Gender Studies Programs, and has been written about in endless PhD theses, but what matters to me most is that it still resonates with audiences, both queer and straight.

    SF Bay Times: 29 Effeminate Gestures was originally performed by you, but you are now passing the torch on to another dancer, Melecio Estrella. Can you tell us about this process?

    Joe Goode: It’s not without some angst, passing along such a personal piece. Melecio is beautiful and an amazing dancer. The transcendent parts, the luscious dancing, were really fun to work on with him. There are some ugly, bloodier parts that are tougher. I can’t ask him to feel my pain and humiliation in the same way that I feel it. He has to tap into his own reservoir. As gay men, we have both experienced feeling silenced, like we had to hide some part of ourselves to be safe in the world, to be respected. But we are from different generations. What I had to hide was different from what he had to hide. So the trick has been to let him find his own way through these issues. I have full faith in him. I did the work for decades, so it has my “stank” all over it. He has to find a way to make it his.

    SF Bay Times: LGBTQ night will also feature a special encore performance of Too Bad You’re Not Invited. What can you tell us about this work?

    Joe Goode: We will be doing just a short excerpt from this piece (a song really), that we made for Trolley Dances a couple of years ago. I chose as my site the Harvey Milk Center. It was at the time of the Prop 8 debacle, when the fine people of California voted to relegate LGBTQ folks to second class citizenry. I felt such rage, not so much because I wanted to get married, (still not sure if that’s for me), but about being told that there was this whole giant part of the culture that I was not allowed to participate in. So, it’s an angry little gem about the right to marry.

    SF Bay Times: Is there anything else that you’d like to share with our readers?

    Joe Goode: I didn’t really talk much about Wonderboy. This is a piece I made in collaboration with the wonderfully talented puppeteer Basil Twist. It’s about the uber sensitive artist child trying to find a way to be in the world. Of course, the child is the puppet, and he is the central figure in the work. He is, again, the queer outsider. And the scary world threatens him at every turn. What’s beautiful about the piece is how he finds his power, that art-making liberates him and allows him mobility. He learns to trust that his odd way of seeing and perceiving things is actually his gift. It’s the story of both Basil and myself, and probably half your readers. It’s a really wonderful, innocent piece that expresses something in a very childlike way.

    Z Space presents works by the Joe Goode Performance Group, September 25–October 4.

    LGBT night is Friday, September 26, and includes a post-performance party with complimentary beer, wine, desserts and a chance to meet the artists.

    Z Space, 450 Florida Street, San Francisco, $15-$100, www.zspace.org, 866-811-4111