Ishmael Houston-Jones


Doris Duke Impact Award, 2015
Dance

New York, NY

For over three decades, Ishmael Houston-Jones has been one of contemporary dance’s most vital improvisers, collaborators, and contributors. His work THEM (2010) explored “some ways men are with men” (The Village Voice). Recast with a new generation of male performers, it was a provocative reimagining of his 1986 collaboration with writer Dennis Cooper and composer Chris Cochrane. Also a scholar, he is the subject of two book chapters: "Speech as Act," in Dances that Describe Themselves (Susan Leigh Foster), and "Crossing the Great Divides" in Taken by Surprise (Ann Cooper Albright and David Gere). As a performer, he has appeared worldwide in his works and in the work of artists such as Miguel Gutierrez, Keith Henessy, and Patrick Scully. He curated Platform 2012 Parallels: Black Choreographers and Postmodernism at Danspace Project, and returns in 2016 with Lost and Found, probing the generation of artists lost to AIDS and the legacy of that loss. He teaches at New York University and University of the Arts in Philadelphia.

  • Photo Credit: Eric McNatt
  • Ishmael Houston-Jones- THEM (2010): /126950958
    THEM (2010)
  • Ishmael Houston-Jones- 13 Love Songs: dot dot dot (2014): /126956470
    13 Love Songs: dot dot dot (2014)
  • Photo Credit: Ian Douglas
    THEM (2010)
  • Photo Credit: Ian Douglas
    THEM (2010)
  • Photo Credit: Ian Douglas
    THEM (2010)
  • Photo Credit: Takahiro Yamamoto
    Without Hope (2010)

Suppose you just met someone who didn't know your work. What project from the past 10 years would you direct them to as an entry point to you and your work, and why?

In recent years there have been three major threads to my work – choreographing, teaching, and curating. Since the pleasure I derive from teaching seems self-evident, I’ll focus on examples of my choreography and curating. While currently I am creating less work for performance, the revival of my 1986 THEM in 2010 was an important occurrence in my artistic development – reimagining a piece for an ensemble of male dancers that improvisationally addressed issues of aggression and sexuality that had premiered at the height of the AIDS hysteria demanded that I be a translator as well as choreographer. In 2012 I curated PLATFORM 2012: Parallels at Danspace Project. I oversaw two months of performances, panels, screenings, and special events that examined the relationship between dance makers of the African Diaspora and postmodern choreography. I am planning another platform in the fall of 2016 that investigates the effects that losses due to AIDS deaths has had on dances made today.