Exploring How Performance is Experienced


In this episode of DanceCast, Silva interviews Jess Curtis, an award-winning choreographer, performer, and scholar based in San Francisco and Berlin. Jess reflects on his entrance to dance through skiing and how he was immediately hooked to being onstage. He shares how his career took a turn when he accepted a job in an interdisciplinary nouveau cirque company in France, and how he later established himself in Berlin while still running his company Jess Curtis/Gravity in the Bay Area. A pivotal working relationship with Scottish disability dance artist Claire Cunningham turned Jess’ focus toward integrating access accommodations like sign language interpretation or audio descriptions into performance. This work also informed his PhD, which looked at phenomenologies of perception and how vision is over-utilized in performance.


A headshot of Jess Curtis

Photo by Sven A Hagolani

Jess Curtis is committed to an art-making practice informed by experimentation, innovation, critical discourse, and social relevance at the intersections of fine art and popular culture. He has created and performed multidisciplinary dance performance throughout the US and Europe with seminal group Contraband, the radical performance collective CORE and the experimental French circus company Cahin-Caha, Cirque Batard. From 1991 to 1998, he co-directed the ground-breaking San Francisco performance venue 848 Community Space with Keith Hennessy and Michael Whitson. In 2000, Jess founded his own trans-continental performance company, Jess Curtis/Gravity, based in Berlin and San Francisco. In 2011 he was presented the prestigious Alpert Award in the Arts for choreography and the Homer Avila Award for innovation in physically diverse performance. Jess is active as a writer, advocate, and community organizer in the fields of contemporary dance and performance, and teaches dance, contact improvisation and interdisciplinary performance for individuals of all abilities throughout the US and Europe. He has been a visiting professor at the University of California at Berkeley and the University of the Arts in Berlin. He holds an MFA in Choreography and a PhD in Performance Studies  from the University of California at Davis.  

Five people sit onstage, one with a cane. The lighting is red, and a silvery set piece seems to swirl behind them.

Photo by Sven A Hagolani

To learn more, visit www.jesscurtisgravity.org.