Instrument in Progress: Chris Black

This week, de Young Artist Fellow Monique Jenkinson debuts Instrument, the culminating performance of her yearlong fellowship. Inspired in part by the special exhibition Rudolf Nureyev: A Life in Dance (on view at the de Young through February 17, 2013), the performance piece will make its world premiere at CounterPULSE, a collaborating partner, on November 29. To create Instrument, Jenkinson partnered with three different choreographers, with each collaboration taking place in isolation. All three choreographers remain unaware of the work of the other two participants, and like us, they will not see the work in its entirety until the premiere.

This is the final post in a three-part series documenting Jenkinson’s work with each of these diverse choreographers. Chris Black, falls somewhere between the experimental process of Miguel Gutierrez and the more structured ballet techniques of Amy Seiwert.


Since 1993, Black has choreographed and presented over 25 new dances in the Bay Area. She has won both an Isadora Duncan Award and a Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award for Best Choreography, and received three grants from the SF Arts Commission.

For Black, intense physical discipline is at the heart of the art form. Like Rudolf Nureyev, Black has no desire to watch dance that lacks joy, life, or passion. On watching Nureyev dance, Black asserts, “What I find most compelling is the need you can see when he dances. He doesn’t seem to have a choice but do it. That quality is viscerally intoxicating and can be heartbreaking.”


As a choreographer, Black is usually responsible for the entire shape of a performance, but her work on Instrument only represents one third of Jenkinson’s piece. “This has been a very liberating experience for me to have this period of time to simply make dance movement and not worry about the overall arc of the piece in its entirety,” she added.


In Black’s work, the performer’s body is used to communicate the content of the dance to the audience while simultaneously revealing the dancer as an individual. “I never make work in which a dancer is supposed to be anyone other than themselves, ” says Black.


Instrument is a joint presentation by the de Young, CounterPULSE, and Dancers’ Group and premieres at CounterPULSE Thursday, November 29 at 8 pm and runs through December 9 (Thursdays–Sundays).

Advance tickets are on sale now.