Joanna Haigood — Participation

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Joanna Haigood

Joanna Haigood is co-founding director of Zaccho Dance Theatre in San Francisco, which produces and presents performance work that investigates dance as it relates to place.

Participation: coming together, joining, collaboration, sharing something.

Historically, social dancing has created a reason for people to come together, step into a common rhythm, and connect with a spirit that can transport and transform ordinary life into a deeply physical and emotional adventure. The energy of one’s movements is combined with the energy of others to form a mutual expression of joy, release, sensuality, connectedness, and hope. Partners improvise and build their own signature styles within the structure of well-known songs and a vocabulary of standard steps.

Hip-hop started as a social and cultural revolution for peace and unity in the South Bronx and is now an international phenomenon. Ciphers create competitive (and supportive) battles in which dancers show off their technique and individuality. Line dances like the Electric Slide and the Macarena connect large groups through set choreography. Partner dances, like the elegant waltz and the exuberant Lindy Hop, provide a way for dancers to move together and in response to each other. In clubs like the world-renowned Confitería Ideal in Buenos Aires, couples are enveloped by the lush and seductive music of the tango and swept away by the graceful gestures, sensual and sublime.

Performance involves the participation of the performer and the audience and leads to an energetic exchange, set up in part by the content and structure of the work. Performers provoke reaction in their audiences and then play off this response. This is where the magic of performance resides, where new possibilities for meaning can emerge.

Audience participation can be experienced through spatial relationships, circulation, and assigned activities. The audience for The Monkey and the Devil (2008), a work I created with Charles Trapolin, was free to observe the performance from multiple perspectives. The piece was performed in thirty-minute cycles, repeating continuously for four hours. The physical setup of the performance and the repeating format allowed the audience to choose what they saw, when they saw it, and in what order. Taking its title from ethnic slurs, The Monkey and the Devil investigated the rise of a contemporary racism rooted in the lasting effects of the US slave trade. Echoing an earlier time, today’s cultural figures unwittingly rehash old race-based arguments, updated for contemporary eyes and ears. Two massive rotating set pieces (twin halves of a room, designed by Trapolin) represent this duality. Their opposition recalls Abraham Lincoln’s declaration foreshadowing the abolition of slavery, drawn from the New Testament: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

In the case of Ann Hamilton’s work, the event of a thread (2012–13) at the Park Avenue Armory in New York, audience members could participate as both performers and observers. In one section, old-fashioned wood-plank swings provided an experience of reminiscence, romance, joy, and altered sense of space. Their movement pushed the air through the enormous room, producing a gentle turbulence that was beautifully expressed through a long, billowing curtain. In a way, it appears to be dancing. Some viewers lay below the curtain to watch it rise and fall. Simple, poetic, effective. Hamilton says, “the event of a thread is made of many crossings of the near at hand and the far away: it is a body crossing space, is a writer's hand crossing a sheet of paper, is a voice crossing a room in a paper bag, is a reader crossing with a page and with another reader, is listening crossing with speaking, is an inscription crossing a transmission, is a stylus crossing a groove, is a song crossing species, is the weightlessness of suspension crossing the calling of bell or bellows, is touch being touched in return. It is a flock of birds and a field of swings in motion. It is a particular point in space at an instant of time.”1)

One of the most powerful examples of social participation through the arts is Theater of the Oppressed. Developed during the 1970s by Brazilian director and social/political activist Augusto Boal, Theater of the Oppressed created a forum through which social and political issues could be debated and understood. Actors begin by presenting situations common or relevant to the community and then encourage the audience to intervene by joining the actors on stage and interjecting their own ideas and/or resolutions. It not only offers the “spect-actors” a method to imagine alternate outcomes, but also provides a place to rehearse for real social action. Over the years, Theater of the Oppressed branched off into several forms, Image Theater, Forum Theater, Invisible Theater, Rainbow of Desire, and Legislative Theater. It is currently practiced internationally.

Social media has permanently changed the way we interact with and participate in social, political, and cultural events. The speed with which our communication now occurs on platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube enables us to assemble within hours, sometimes minutes, after a call to action. Everyday people now have direct influence on the way news is gathered and disseminated throughout the world, giving the masses an unprecedented power to report on events and to affect their course. Revolutions have been organized, criminals captured, leaders made and broken through the use of social media. Culture has been equally impacted, and choreography and dance are no exception.

Dances can now be learned from YouTube, and everyone with access can participate in the development of new dance trends. Whereas we used to stand in front of the TV to learn new dances on Don Cornelius’s Soul Train or Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, we can now use the Internet to research dances and post our own choreography, making the reach far greater and the feedback exchange broader than it has ever been before. Dances from all over the world have made their mark in communities everywhere. One of my personal “commercial” favorites is Michael Jackson’s Thriller, now performed in prisons, in talent shows, at weddings, and at thousands of Halloween parties. Thanks to YouTube, now anyone can participate in one of the most extraordinary pop sensations of all time.


  1. Ann Hamilton, artist’s statement, http://www.annhamiltonstudio.com/projects/armory.html


For Further Reference

Augusto Boal, Theatre of the Oppressed (Teatro de Oprimido, 1974; first English translation, 1979; New York: Theatre Communications Group, 1993).

Joanna Haigood and Charles Trapolin, The Monkey and the Devil, 2008.

Marina Abramović, “The Artist is Present,” Museum of Modern Art, New York, March–May 2010.

Ann Hamilton, the event of a thread, Park Avenue Armory, New York, December 2012–January 2013.

Deborah Hay, Moving through the Universe in Bare Feet: Ten Circle Dances for Everybody (1974; Chicago: Swallow Press, 1975). Drawings by Donna Jean Rogers.

Björk, Biophilia, 2011. Accompanying the album is a suite of educational and interactive artworks and music, with apps by Luc Barthelet, Drew Berry, Kodama Studios, Stephen Malinowski, Scott Snibbe Studio, John Simon Jr., Touch Press, and Max Weisel.

Deep Listening Band, Through the Distance, April 1996. Telematic concert held using PictureTel video and audio over ISDN lines, connecting David Gamper at The Kitchen, New York; Pauline Oliveros at Vogelback Computing Center, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL; and Stuart Dempster at Speakeasy Café, Seattle.

Suzanne Lacy, De tu puño y letra: Diálogos en el ruedo, November 25, 2015, United Nations’ International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Quito, Ecuador. Workshops and performance focusing on violence against women and children, involving 1,000 male participants.

Thriller:
Michael Jackson, Thriller (video), 1983, thirteen minutes. Directed and co-written by John Landis.
Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC) inmates perform Thriller, Cebu, Phillippines, 2007. Uploaded to YouTube July 17, 2007. www.youtube.com
Thriller instructional videos also on YouTube.

AIDS Memorial Quilt, conceived by Cleve Jones. First displayed October 11, 1987, National Mall, Washington, DC.

See Also

Site — Joanna Haigood

Experience Economy — Elisabeth Sussman

Relational — Pablo Helguera

Joanna Haigood and Charles Trapolin, The Monkey and the Devil, performance installation, 2011. Performers: Matthew Wickett, Sean Grimm, Jodi Lomask. Photo: Walter Kitundu.

Ann Hamilton, the event of a thread, 2012–13. Park Avenue Armory, New York. Curated by Kristy Edmunds. Photo © Ian Douglas.

AIDS Memorial Quilt, conceived by Cleve Jones. First displayed October 11, 1987, National Mall, Washington, DC. Courtesy of The NAMES Project Foundation.

Paul Chan, Waiting for Godot in New Orleans, 2007. Photo: Frank Aymami. Courtesy of Creative Time.

Andrea Fraser, Projection, 2008. Still from a 2-channel HD video projection installation. © Andrea Fraser. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Nagel Draxler.

David Levine, Bystanders, 2015. Installation view, Gallery TPW, Toronto. Performer: William Ellis. Photo: Guntar Kravis.

VALIE EXPORT, TAPP und TASTKINO (Tap and touch cinema), 1968. © 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / Bildrecht, Vienna. Photo © Werner Schulz.

My Barbarian (Malik Gaines, Jade Gordon, and Alexandro Segade), Broke People’s Baroque Peoples’ Theater, 2010. Courtesy of Alexandro Segade.

Richard Maxwell, Neutral Hero, 2012. The Kitchen, New York. From left: Janet Coleman, Bob Feldman, Lakpa Bhutia, Andie Springer, Jean Ann Garrish. Photo © Paula Court.

Miguel Gutierrez and Tarek Halaby in Gutierrez's Last Meadow, 2009. Dance Theater Workshop, New York, September 2009. Photo © Ian Douglas.

Mac Wellman, Muazzez, 2014. Performer: Steve Mellor. Chocolate Factory Theater, Queens, New York (a co-presentation with PS 122). Photo: Brian Rogers.

Janine Antoni, Yours Truly, 2010. Ink on paper, 5 7/8 x 8 1/2”. © Janine Antoni. Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York.

Yvonne Rainer, score for “Trio B: Running,” from The Mind Is a Muscle, 1966–68. Graphite and ink on paper, 8 5/16 x 7 5/16". The Getty Research Institute. © Yvonne Rainer.

Susan Leigh Foster, The Ballerina’s Phallic Pointe, 2011, a performed lecture in the series Susan Foster! Susan Foster! Three Performed Lectures, produced by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage and performed at the Philadelphia Live Arts Studio, 2011. Photo: Jorge Cousineau.

Opening performance of the exhibition “Trisha Brown: So That the Audience Does Not Know Whether I Have Stopped Dancing,” Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 2008. Brown improvises movements across a large piece of paper on the Medtronic Gallery floor, holding charcoal and pastel between her fingers and toes, drawing extemporarily. Photo: Gene Pittman for Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.

Allora & Calzadilla, Sediments Sentiments (Figures of Speech), 2007. Mixed-media installation with live performance and pre-recorded sound track, dimensions variable. © Allora & Calzadilla. Courtesy of Lisson Gallery.

Martha Rosler, Meta-Monumental Garage Sale, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2012. Courtesy of the artist.

Lucinda Childs, Pastime (1963), 2012, performed by Childs at Danspace as part of Platform 2012: "Judson Now." Photo © Ian Douglas.

Siobhan Davies and Helka Kaski, Manual, 2013. Photo © Alan Dimmick. Courtesy of Glasgow Life.

“Performance Now,” curated by RoseLee Goldberg. Installation view, Kraków Theatrical Reminiscences, Poland, 2014. Photo: Michal Ramus. Courtesy of Independent Curators International (ICI).

Steve Paxton, Intravenous Lecture (1970), 2012. Performed by Stephen Petronio with Nicholas Sciscione. Part of Platform 2012: “Judson Now,” curated by Judy Hussie-Taylor, Danspace, New York. Photo © Ian Douglas.

Installation view, “Dance Works I: Merce Cunningham—Robert Raschenberg,” curated by Darsie Alexander at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 2011. Photo: Gene Pittman for Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.

Chief Dalcour and the Serenity Peace Birds in “Public Practice: An Anti-Violence Community Ceremony,” curated by Delaney Martin and Claire Tancons for New Orleans Airlift, October 25, 2014. Photo: Josh Brasted.

Ain Gordon and David Gordon, The Family Business, premiered 1993. Performers: David Gordon, Ain Gordon, Valda Setterfield. Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein. Courtesy of the photographer and Pick Up Performance Co(s).

Hotel Modern, Kamp, 2005. Photo: Herman Helle.

Janine Antoni, Anna Halprin, and Stephen Petronio, Rope Dance, 2015. Photo © Hugo Glendinning. Courtesy of the artists and The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia.

Sarah Michelson, Devotion Study #1—The American Dancer, 2012 Whitney Biennial, February 26, 2012. Photo © Paula Court. Performers: Eleanor Hullihan and Nicole Mannarino.

Ralph Lemon, How Can You Stay in the House All Day and Not Go Anywhere?, 2009. Archival print from original film. © Ralph Lemon.

Pope.L, The Great White Way, 22 miles, 9 years, 1 street (Whitney version), 2001. © Pope.L. Courtesy of the artist and Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York. Photo: Lydia Grey.

Iannis Xenakis, Terretektorh, Distribution of Musicians, 1965. Collection famille Xenakis. Courtesy of the Iannis Xenakis Archives. © Iannis Xenakis.

Lisa Bielawa, Chance Encounter, premiered 2007. Co-conceived with Susan Narucki. Photo: Corey Brennan, 2010, Rome.

Claudia La Rocco, 173-177 [or, Facebook Is Inescapable], 2013. Headlands Center for the Arts. Courtesy of José Carlos Teixeira.

Pina Bausch and the Tanztheater Wuppertal, Palermo, Palermo, Brooklyn Academy of Music, 1991. Photo: Maarten Vanden Abeele.

Tomás Saraceno, Observatory, Air-Port-City, 2008. In “Psycho Buildings: Artists Take on Architecture,” curated by Ralph Rugoff, Hayward Gallery, London. Courtesy of the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York.

Christian Marclay, Chalkboard, 2010, paint and chalk, 210 x 1,045 inches. Installation view, “Christian Marclay: Festival,” 2010, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Collection of the artist; courtesy of Paula Cooper Gallery, New York. Photo: Christian Marclay.

Steven Schick at the “Peacock” in the Paul Dresher Ensemble Production of Schick Machine, 2009, by Paul Dresher, Steven Schick, and Rinde Eckert. Mondavi Center, UC Davis, Davis, CA. Photo: Cheung Chi Wai.

Ralph Lemon in An All Day Event: The End, part of Platform 2012: “Parallels.” Danspace, New York. Photo © Ian Douglas.

Installation view, “Allison Smith: Rudiments of Fife & Drum,” The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, CT. Photo: Chad Kleitsch. Courtesy of The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum.

David Levine, Habit, 2012. Installation view, Luminato Festival, Toronto, 2011. Photo: David Levine.

Meredith Monk, Shards (1969–73), 2012. Part of Platform 2012: “Judson Now,” curated by Judy Hussie-Taylor, Danspace, New York. Photo © Ian Douglas.

Berlin, Bonanza, 2006. A documentary project focusing on Bonanza, Colorado, population 7. © Berlin. berlinberlin.be.

Gob Squad, Kitchen (You’ve Never Had It So Good), 2007. Photo © David Baltzer / bildbuehne.de / Agentur Zenit Berlin.

Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz, Hole in Space, 1980. On screens in front of Lincoln Center and The Broadway department store in Los Angeles, passersby could see and talk to their counterparts on the opposite coast, and many “reunions” were quickly set up, in this early example of video conferencing. Courtesy of the Sherrie Rabinowitz and Kit Galloway Archives.

Hans Haacke, News, 1969/2005. Installation view, “State of the Union,” Paula Cooper Gallery, New York, 2005. © Hans Haacke / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn. Courtesy of the artist and Paula Cooper Gallery, New York.

Pauline Oliveros, circa 1967. Courtesy of the CCM Archive, Mills College, Oakland, CA.

The Builders Association, Elements of Oz, 2015. Photo: Gennadi Novash. Courtesy of Peak Performances @ Montclair State University.

Ain Gordon, A Disaster Begins, 2009. Veanne Cox. Here Arts Center, New York. Photo: Jason Gardner. Courtesy of the photographer and Pick Up Performance Co(s).

The Wooster Group, BRACE UP!, 1991. Directed by Elizabeth LeCompte. Anna Köhler (on monitor) and Willem Dafoe. Photo © Mary Gearhart.

Joanna Haigood and Charles Trapolin, The Monkey and the Devil, performance installation, 2011. Performers: Matthew Wickett, Sean Grimm, Jodi Lomask. Photo: Walter Kitundu.

Jarbas Lopes, Demolition Now, in “SPRING,” curated by Claire Tancons for the 7th Gwangju Biennale, Gwangju, 2008. Photo: Akiko Ota.

Lisa Bielawa, Crissy Broadcast (part of Airfield Broadcasts), San Francisco, 2013. Photo: James Block.

Erwin Wurm, One Minute Sculpture, 1997/2005. © Erwin Wurm. Courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong.

Ethyl Eichelberger as Minnie the Maid, 1981. Photo: Peter Hujar. The Peter Hujar Archive. Courtesy of Pace MacGill and Fraenkel Galleries.

Wu Tsang with Alexandro Segade, Mishima in Mexico, 2012. Color HD video, 14:32 minutes. Courtesy of the artists, Clifton Benevento (New York), Michael Benevento (Los Angeles), and Isabella Bortolozzi (Berlin).

Young Jean Lee, Untitled Feminist Show, 2012. Baryshnikov Arts Center, New York, 2012. Hilary Clark, Regina Rocke, and Katy Pyle. Photo: Julieta Cervantes.

Romeo Castellucci, On the Concept of the Face Regarding the Son of God, 2010. Philadelphia Live Arts Festival, 2013. Photo: Kevin Monko.

Jérôme Bel, Le dernier spectacle (The last performance), 1998. Photo: Herman Sorgeloos.

Troubleyn / Jan Fabre, Mount Olympus, 2015. Performance lasts 24 hours. Photo © Wonge Bergmann for Troubleyn / Jan Fabre.

Siobhan Davies Studios, Roof Studio, London. Photo: Peter Cook.

Emily Roysdon, Sense and Sense (a project with MPA), Sergels torg, Stockholm, Sweden, 2010. Courtesy of the artist.

David Lang’s home studio. Photo © Jorge Colombo.

Marcel Duchamp, Bicycle Wheel, 1964 (replica of 1913 original). Wheel and painted wood. Philadelphia Museum of Art. Gift of the Galleria Schwarz d’Arte, Milan, 1964. © Succession Marcel Duchamp / ADAGP, Paris / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, 2016.

Historical interpreters from Freetown Living History Museum, as part of Allison Smith’s 2008 project The Donkey, The Jackass, and The Mule, with the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Photo: Allison Smith and Michelle Pemberton.

Rimini Protokoll, Situation Rooms, 2013. Photo © Ruhrtriennale / Jörg Baumann.

Jeanine Oleson and Ellen Lesperance, We Like New York and New York Likes Us, 2004. A “wry look back” at Joseph Beuys’s performance with a coyote, I Like America and America Likes Me, René Block Gallery, New York, 1974. Courtesy of the artists.

Christine Hill, Volksboutique Organizational Ventures, 2001. Mixed-media installation, Kunstverein Wolfsburg, Germany. Courtesy of Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York.

Andrea Fraser, Museum Highlights: A Gallery Talk, 1989. Performance. Performance documentation: Kelly & Massa Photography. Courtesy of the artist. © Andrea Fraser.

Theaster Gates, Dorchester Projects, Chicago, 2012. © Theaster Gates. Photo © Sara Pooley. Courtesy of White Cube.

John Cage, two pages from 4'33" (original version, in proportional notation), 1952/1953. Ink on paper, 11 x 8 1/2" each sheet. Acquired by The Museum of Modern Art through the generosity of Henry Kravis in honor of Marie-Josée Kravis. © 1993 Henmar Press Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission of C. F. Peters Corporation. Photo © The Museum of Modern Art / Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY.

Yoko Ono, Painting For The Wind, summer 1961. First published in Yoko Ono: Grapefruit (Tokyo: Wunternaum Press, July 4, 1964). © Yoko Ono.

Rosemary Lee, Square Dances, 2011, commissioned by Dance Umbrella. Square Dances took place in four central London squares throughout a day, with different casts in each: 10 children in Woburn Square, 100 women in Gordon Square, 35 men in Brunswick Gardens, 25 dance students in Queen Square. Each performance involved bells, ranging from a huge church bell that struck every minute; to a handmade musical instrument using bells within its barrel structure, created and composed by Terry Mann; to tiny hand bells for the dancers. Photo: Hugo Glendinning.

Joanna Haigood and Wayne Campbell, Ghost Architecture, 2004. An aerial dance installation centering on the architectural and social history of the site. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco.

Ann Hamilton, the event of a thread, 2012–13. Park Avenue Armory, New York. Curated by Kristy Edmunds. Photo © Ian Douglas.

Robert Wilson and Marina Abramović, The Life and Death of Marina Abramović, premiered 2011. Park Avenue Armory, New York, 2013. Foreground: Willem Dafoe. Photo: Joan Marcus. Courtesy of Park Avenue Armory.

Richard Maxwell, Neutral Hero, 2012. The Kitchen, New York. From left: Janet Coleman, Bob Feldman, Lakpa Bhutia, Andie Springer, Jean Ann Garrish. Photo © Paula Court.

Ann Liv Young, The Bagwell in Me, 2008. Photo: Scott Newman, Revel in New York.

Xavier Le Roy, “Retrospective,” 2012–. Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona, 2012. Photo: Lluís Bover. © Fundació Antoni Tàpies.

Ethyl Eichelberger as Minnie the Maid, 1981. Photo: Peter Hujar. The Peter Hujar Archive. Courtesy of Pace MacGill and Fraenkel Galleries.

David Levine, Habit, 2012. Installation view, Luminato Festival, Toronto, 2011. Photo: David Levine.

Rimini Protokoll, 100% Yogyakarta, 2015. Teater Garasi, Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia. © Goethe-Institut Indonesien / KDIP Viscom.

Bebe Miller Company, A History, 2012. Angie Hauser and Darrell Jones. Photo: Michael Mazzola.