The Dance Discourse Project is a far reaching, far ranging, and ambitious project that aims to articulate in a cohesive and coherent way, from the participants themselves, what is happening in contemporary dance in the Bay Area and beyond. This on-going series of artist-driven discussions is organized by Mary Armentrout and co-produced by Dancers’ Group and CounterPULSE. DDP takes place roughly three times a year and has been happening since 2007.

Upcoming Discussions
Past Discussions
Propose a Topic


Upcoming Discussions

Dance Discourse Project #18

Exploring Choreographic Thinking

APR 3, THU at 7:30PM

Guest moderator Megan Nicely organizes this DDP, which looks at “choreographic thinking,” a term that describes the ways ideas arise during the process of moving. Many contemporary artists use it to resist the common perception that dance needs outside ideas to incite action or requires language in order to be understood by audiences. “Choreographic thinking” instead poses that choreography is a process of articulation that rewrites itself with unpredictable outcomes, further suggesting that dance can move beyond itself to affect social and political realms.

The following short selections from dance artists/writers/theorists William Forsythe, Erin Manning, Susan Rethorst, and Tere O’Connor offer some initial explorations of the term “choreographic thinking” – we hope they will start your own explorations, which you will bring to share with us on April 3rd.

more info > >


Past Discussions

Dance Discourse Project #16

Judith Butler on Gender and Performativity

JUL 18, THU at 7:30PM

Legendary gender, queer, and performance theorist, Judith Butler, responds to contemporary Bay Area performance and explores resonances with her work. CounterPULSE’s Julie Phelps will interview Judith Butler and lead the audience through several layers of interaction and discussion with performances by DavEnd, Xandra Ibarra and Hentyle Yapp! Don’t miss this opportunity to engage with one of the most important and exciting performance theorists working today.

Listen to the podcast of DDP #16: Judith Butler on Gender and Performativity

Dance Discourse Project #15

Street Dance

moderated by Samantha Giron
JUN 22, SAT at 1PM

CounterPULSE and Dancers’ Group are proud to present Dance Discourse Project #15: Street Dance. In Dance Discourse Project #15:  Street Dance, moderator Samantha Giron will engage panelists Teela Shine Ross and Power Surge (Sergio Suarez) in an exploration of different facets of street dance including: the diaspora of American vernacular dance, the convergence of street and contemporary forms, street dance and social action, and identities in hip hop.  They will look at street dance both as a dance discipline and as a variety of underground cultural movements. They will discuss b boy, house, and dub-step, for example, as unsanctioned social movements that revolved around specific music and dance sensibilities, as well as certain “tipping points” in the history of the street dance movement. They will discuss the evolution of street dances from public spaces like clubs, warehouses, and street corners, to dance studios, and ask, “If it is learned in a studio or academic environment, is it still street?” They will look at the origin of the b boy movement and how territorial tension and gang violence transformed into battles, crews, and cyphers. Each of the panelists is an active educator in a variety of communities, and they will discuss hip hop dance education as a form of social action.

Listen to the podcast of DDP #15: Street Dance

Dance Discourse Project #14

SMALL in the Bay Area

NOV 8, 2012
The Milkbar at the Sunshine Biscuit Factory in East Oakland

In the ecology of any performance scene, different kinds of places play different roles. In the bay area there has been a vigorous history of small, informal, intimate, non-precious spaces where dance occurs. Taking a moment to shine a spotlight on the current situation, ddp14 asks for a GIANT convocation of the small spaces of the bay area: those who run them, curate in them, perform in them, and love them, and invites us to create a collaborative, interactive manifesto of the SMALL NOW together. Offsite at the Milkbar, a small space for dance and live performance/installation in East Oakland, Mary Armentrout’s home space. Moderator Mary Armentrout talks with panelists Joe Landini, Laura Arrington, Ernesto Sopprani, and Brittany Delany and then asks everyone present to help with making a collaborative map, manifesto, and/or description of the state of small spaces in the bay area now.

Dance Discourse Project #13

Dance in the Museum

SEP 15, 2012
Kimball Education Gallery, de Young Museum, Golden Gate Park, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, SF, CA

Julie Potter and Emily Hite in conversation with Monique Jenkinson, Frank Smigiel, Muriel Maffre and Michelle Lynch

With more public programs and performances taking place within museum and gallery walls, DDP #13 questions what the current priorities are for presenting dance in this architecture. How can movement function in a space designed for another kind of art and a different mode of looking? How does dance placed in visual arts environments support the trend of the museum as a public gathering place?

Dance Discourse Project #12

Shifting Ground: Examining the complex terrain at the intersection of dance and aging

FEB 27, 2012

Aging is an unavoidable part of life, and its effects on the body pose issues for body-based performers earlier than for many people. In the not so distant past, it seemed as if only humans aged 17 to 32 could show up on Western concert dance stages. Recent blurring of disciplinary boundaries, and aesthetic and cultural innovations embracing diversity have made more room for aging bodies in the contemporary performance space. In DDP12, moderators Mary Armentrout and Jessica Robinson Love and panelists Jess Curtis, Petra Kuppers, and Dr. Albirda Rose examine some of the causes, effects, opportunities and complications of this shift, and then open the discussion up world cafe style to include the audience in this investigation.

Dance Discourse Project #11

How about some kale with that jump – why are food and dance showing up on stage together right now?

JUN 13, 2011

Is food playing a growing role in Bay Area dance? Food can have many roles in performance, from subject to prop to ritual object to community celebration — showing up onstage, in the audience, and even on the performers. DDP11 co-curators Melissa Hudson Bell and Mary Armentrout discuss some of the contours of this phenomenon with Amara Tabor-Smith, Jacqueline Shae Murphy, and Violet Juno. Come share your thoughts on this topic with us, and be advised: food production and/or food ingestion may be part of the evening’s activities.

Listen to How about some kale with that jump – why are food and dance showing up on stage together right now?

Dance Discourse Project #10

Are we trapped in a static presenting model?

February 24, 2011

Much of contemporary dance in the Bay Area continues to be presented Thursday through Saturday at 8pm in traditional venues, following in the patterns of many other performance art forms. Distance is often created between Contemporary Dance and popular culture, and the pervading opinion is that to be considered legitimate, a work must have certain presentational aspects, be associated with certain venues, subscribe to particular codes of relating to audience, etc. Is this path to legitimacy still relevant, and is it helping/hurting the form?

Listen to Are we trapped in a static presenting model?

Dance Discourse Project #9

Dance and Somatics in the Bay Area – What’s the Connection?

October 18, 2010

In Dance Discourse Project #9 we will look at ways somatic practices have historically been intertwined with dance in the Bay Area, and investigate some of the new ways of combining them that people are currently exploring. Moderator Mary Armentrout is joined by Carol Swann, director of Moving on Center, Augusta Moore, Ballet Teacher and Feldenkrais Practitioner, and Cathie Caraker, BMC Practitioner and Contact Improv Teacher, in this hybrid form DDP – part panel discussion, part world café break-it-out – bring your bodies, your minds, your questions and your experiences.

Listen to Dance and Somatics in the Bay Area

Blog recaps from DDP#9

Dance Discourse Project #8

Dance in Pop Culture:
How Do YouTube & “So You Think You Can Dance” Both Help and Hinder?

March 11, 2010

Join us as we delve into the popping of contemporary dance – the effects of YouTube, “So You Think You Can Dance” and other mass media stratagems on making dance today. We will create a hybrid discussion, part panel talk with Eric Kupers, Monique Jenkinson and other special guests, part world cafe with YOU, as we investigate how these new tools and opportunities are influencing how we make dances in today’s world.

Listen to Dance in Pop Culture

Dance Discourse Project #7

Dancing Diaspora

October 15, 2009

Presented by CounterPULSE, World Arts West/ San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival and Dancers’ Group

A lively discussion occurred tackling some of the questions and ideas posed by Performing Diaspora. What is the role of innovation in traditional performance? What makes the Bay Area unique as a home for ethnic dance? How can we work together to broaden support for a new generation of traditional dancers? Local artists, audience members and presenters will engage in an open and participatory conversation.

Blog recaps by subject

Dance Discourse Project #6

Dancing in the World: Excavating Site Specific Dance in the Bay Area

April 23, 2009

The Bay Area has a long and storied history of site specific dance exploration, and is continually coming up with new forms of innovation. DDP moderators Mary Armentrout and Jessica Robinson discuss features of this rich terrain with Bay Area legend Anna Halprin, Joanna Haigood, and Erin Mei-ling Stuart.

Listen to Dancing in the World

Dance Discourse Project #5

Writing about dance: Where are we now and where are we going?

February 19, 2009

Do you believe dance writers and critical and informed reviews of dance are near extinction? Is it only now, as we stand to lose these precious perspectives that we begin to understand their worth in the greater community? Dance Discourse Project co-curators Mary Armentrout and Jessica Robinson talk with dance writers Rita Felciano, Keith Hennessy, Rachel Howard and Ann Murphy about their craft, their relation to the field at large, and the questions and ethical concerns that dance reviewing faces as the internet dominates the dissemination of information. The panel will address the changing role of newspapers and the inevitable shifts in how the public views, consumes, and communicates about dance.

Listen to Writing about Dance

Blog entry response and talk back

Blog entry response

Dance Discourse Project #4

Media, Technology and Performance

September 25, 2008

Mary Armentrout and Jessica Robinson talk with Sara Kraft, David Szlasa, and Lisa Wymore and Sheldon Smith of Smith/Wymore Disappearing Acts. The Bay Area is a global leader in technological innovation. DDP4 explores how Bay Area artists’ work integrates media and performance in unique ways, creating hybrid forms, manipulating, mutating, and extending the technologies being created in our own backyard.

Dance Discourse Project #3

Dancers Debate the Body Politic

May 7th, 2008

Jessica Robinson talks with Jo Kreiter, Ledoh, Sara Shelton Mann and Miguel Gutierrez. In this third installment of a lively series of discussions about topics in Bay Area dance, moderator Jessica Robinson, of CounterPULSE, invites Jo Kreiter, Ledoh, Sara Shelton Mann and Miguel Gutierrez to discuss the multiple layers of the political in their work, how bodies are politicized through movement, and how activism plays a unique role in the Bay Area dance scene. This special installment, presented at Project Artaud Theater, is co-presented by CounterPULSE, Dancers’ Group, and ODC Theater, as part of its festival “For the Record: Dancers Debate the Body Politic.”

Dance Discourse Project #2

Investigating the Post-Multicultural Landscape

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Sherwood Chen and Mary Armentrout talk with Danny Kalanduyan, Teela Shine Ross, Prumsodun Ok, and Joti Singh. In this second installment of an ongoing series, co-curators Sherwood Chen of ACTA (The Alliance for California Traditional Arts) and DDP organizer and local choreographer Mary Armentrout invite these four local dance artists into a lively discussion of the multi-faceted complexities of Bay Area work that utilizes culturally specific dance forms, including innovation and experimentation by tradition-based artists, and cultural and intercultural contexts linked to performativity and identity. Co-presented by CounterPULSE, Dancers’ Group, and ACTA.

Dance Discource Project #1

Bay Area Dance: Who Are We Now?

November 8, 2007

Mary Armentrout talks with Keith Hennessy, Jez Kuono`ono Lee, Laura Elaine Ellis, and paige starling sorvillo. In this first installment of a ongoing series of artist-curated discussions about specific topics in the Bay Area contemporary dance scene, organizer Mary Armentrout invites these four local dance artists to bring video of short works by Bay Area artists that they feel represent what’s happening here now. We will watch these works and use them as a springboard into a discussion of what’s going on in Bay Area dance now, and how we, as dance artists, articulate to ourselves what we are up to. Hopefully we will not arrive at any simple conclusions by the end of the evening. Please feel free to bring your questions and burning issues. Co-presented by CounterPULSE and Dancers’ Group.


Call for Proposals

While we love running this project, we also love making the dialogue as broad as we possibly can, so we are now asking if YOU would like to step forward and curate a Dance Discourse Project of your own. We know there are many interesting, articulate, hard-thinking dance artists in the Bay Area and we invite you to create a Dance Discourse Project that interests you.

When submitting your proposal, please:

  1. Tell us about your proposed DDP – what’s the topic, what’s the format, who are your potential panelists (one page max).
  2. Tell us about your past experiences attending DDP, and what were the program’s pluses and minuses
  3. Tell us a bit about yourself (artistic background and practice, teaching or facilitating experience, etc.)

And here is what we offer:

  1. We will select one proposal and present it sometime during the 2013-14 season.
  2. We will help support your vision while also sharing what we think has been successful about the DDPs so far, so that your event remains part of the family of DDP events.

Please submit your proposal via email to Mary Armentrout,, by 5pm on Monday, April 1st (DEADLINE EXTENDED: New deadline 5pm on Wednesday, May 1st). We hope to have a decision by May 1st. We also welcome questions before the deadline.