Keith Hennessy's SARA (THE SMUGGLER) Set for CounterPulse This Weekend

After the successful New York and Bay Area premieres of the dance ritual Bear/Skin, Keith Hennessy is back with the World Premiere of Sara (the smuggler). This dynamic solo performance by Sara Shelton Mann pays tribute to her iconic and iconoclastic role in Bay Area and international dance history, starting with her years in NYC with Alwin Nikolais and Murray Louis through her decade plus as the choreographer of Contraband to her subsequent collaborations with local and international artists.

Taking risks with history-making, friendship, and borrowed choreographic structures, Hennessy will honor Sara's extraordinary life in dance to create a lasting document of her embodied wit, magic, and intelligence. Sara (the smuggler) will focus on an ongoing thread in Sara's work that links dance to energy and energy to magic, healing, community, and liberation. While Sara at 70 reveals an aging body and hip pain that slows her down, she is peaking in abilities to sense and shape subtle energies. The time is now.

Sara (the smuggler) is inspired by Growing Up In Public, a dance performed by Hennessy's teacher Lucas Hoving and choreographed by Remy Charlip in 1984 when Hoving was 72. In this autobiographical talking dance, Hoving recalled stand-out moments with José Limon in the 40s and 50s, as well as his early experiences with legendary choreographers Kurt Joos and Martha Graham. Sara (the smuggler) is also inspired by Veronique Doisneau (2004), an interview-based, talking-dance solo by Jerome Bêl for Doisneau, a retiring dancer with the Paris Opera Ballet.

Sara (the smuggler) will include dancing, talking, and a ritual of ghosts conjured by a dancing body in the here and now. The performance will include spoken stories, responding to many of the same interview questions that Charlip asked Hoving 30 years ago. Stories, used to trigger bodily memories, will then spark short dances, fragments of previous choreographies and embodied experiences from Sara's 50 years of professional dancing. The set will evoke the non-ordinary, unseen, and ephemeral worlds that inspire Sara's esoteric and healing studies that then motivate her choreographic inquiry.

Sara Shelton Mann is a choreographer, teacher, dancer, and founder of the collaborative dance-music-performance company Contraband. Mann has pioneered unique approaches to dance, performance, and healing that have influenced two generations of Bay Area artists, several of whom are currently working internationally, including Kim Epifano, Jess Curtis, Kathleen Hermesdorf, Yannis Adoniou, Jorge de Hoyos, Hana Erdman, Maria Francesca Scaroni, Christine Bonansea, Jules Beckman, Jesse Hewit, Keith Hennessy...

Keith Hennessy danced with Sara in Contraband from 1985-1994, a radical experience that continues to influence his work. With this project Hennessy will reverse a long-standing relationship with Sara in which he becomes the choreographer and she becomes the dancer. It will be the first solo that Hennessy creates for someone other than himself. Sara and Keith had an extraordinarily generative relationship from 1985-1994 that each artist credits as one of their key artistic partnerships. To revisit that relationship, with the roles reversed, will only happen once in dance history.

Composer and sound designer Norman Rutherford is working closely with Hennessy and Mann to realize the work. Rutherford was a core member of Mann's Contraband from 1986-96, and has been collaborating with Mann ever since. Documentary filmmaker Laura Plotkin will make a high-quality documentary movie of the performance for international and online distribution. Sara (the smuggler) coincides with upcoming projects instigated by David Szlaza to archive Mann's work through gallery exhibition, restored video archive, performance, and publishing. Szlaza and Mann will stage this archive in a major event presented by YBCA in December 2015.

About Circo Zero: Circo Zero, instigated by Keith Hennessy in 2001, is one of the most prolific and widely touring of West Coast dance-performance companies. The company engages a diverse team of artists who create hybrid spectacles for theaters, streets, and festivals. The work is interdisciplinary and experimental, operating within the tensions between intimacy and spectacle, rhetoric and ritual, personal and social. Circo Zero evolves performance language and builds community through collaboration, while crossing lines of artistic discipline, personal and cultural identity, and social expectations. We participate in local and global struggles for justice; functioning as a public laboratory for investigations of spiritual, artistic, sexual, and political concerns.

Recent accomplishments include the world premiere of Keith Hennessy's new solo show Bear/Skinat American Realness in NYC; major NDP funding for Turbulence (a dance about the economy) with tours to 4 US and 5 European cities; Negotiate (Dakar, 2011), a collaboration with dancers from Togo, Senegal and DRCongo; and 2013-14 inclusion in the festivals Theater der Welt (Mannheim), TBA (Portland), Impulstanz (Vienna), Zodiac (Helsinki), Works at Work (Copenhagen), BONE (Bern), and American Realness (NYC).

About The Artists:

Sara Shelton Mann (Performer) - Sara Shelton Mann is a legendary dance artist who has played a significant role in shaping contemporary dance performance and choreography. She is a protégé of Nikolais and Louis in NYC in the 60s, Sara is also deeply influenced by Contact Improvisation. From 1979-96 Sara directed Contraband, a ground-breaking troupe of artists working at the leading edges of contemporary dance, ritual, and music. She has received five Isadora Duncan Awards, a SFBG Goldie for Lifetime Achievement, and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellow. Integrating chi cultivation and improvisation, Sara has taught dance in the Bay Area and internationally for over four decades. Sara has many years of study in various spiritual traditions, shamanic practices, and healing trainings. Her healing practice is deeply woven or embodied in her approaches to dancing, choreography, teaching, activism, writing, and community building.

Norman Rutherford (Music Score / Sound Design) - Norman Rutherford has been creating music for works by Sara Shelton Mann for nearly 30-years. His first collaboration was in 1986 when he co-created the musical score for the first version of Contraband's ground breaking piece Religare with Rinde Ekert, Gwen Jones, and Richard Klein. He then joined Contraband full time in 1989 to compose and direct the music for, and perform in, the 2nd version of Religare (also with Gwen Jones and Richard Klein), and all 3 pieces from theMira Cycles. After Contraband disbanded in 1996, Norman worked with Anna Halprin, Bob Ernst, Keith Hennessy, and others, while continuing to create scores for Sara Shelton Mann and record with the instrumental group Closer To Carbon. Works by Sara that Norman has scored since the late 90's include: Extravaganza, Monk at the Met, Monk, Lotus 695, Red Gold Sky, Tribes, and three of her recent solo works in the Eye of Leo series - The Love of Emptyness, C, and Future Life.

Keith Hennessy (Choreographer) - Keith Hennessy was born in northern Ontario, lives in San Francisco and tours internationally. His interdisciplinary research engages improvisation, ritual and public action as tools for investigating political realities. Hennessy directs CIRCO ZERO, and was a member of the collaborative performance companies: Contraband, CORE, and Cahin-caha, cirque bâtard. His new soloBear/Skin premiers at American Realness in NYC in Jan 2015 and then tours the west coast. 2013-14 teaching includes Ponderosa (Germany), Impulstanz (Vienna), AEx-Corps (Dakar), UBC (Kelowna), UC Davis, Texas Women's University, HZT/Berlin, University of Performing Arts/Copenhagen, and La Alternativa (SF).

Hennessy directs Circo Zero, a laboratory for live performance that plays with genre and expectation. Rooted in dance, Hennessy's work embodies a unique hybrid of performance art, music, visual and conceptual art, circus, and ritual. Keith has an MFA in Choreography and is a PhD candidate in Performance Studies at UC Davis. Despite narrowly surviving the last two waves of violent eviction and gentrification, and the forced relocation of way too many of his close colleagues, Hennessy still lives in San Francisco.


SARA (the smuggler)

Who: Choreographed by Keith Hennessy, Performed by Sara Shelton Mann, Music Score and Sound Design by Norman Rutherford

What: Sara (the smuggler) is a performance about dance legends, friendship, history, and love. It is a solo dance converging the legendary Bay Area artists Keith Hennessy (choreography), Sara Shelton Mann (performance), and Norman Rutherford (music). Sara (the smuggler) is inspired byGrowing Up in Public, a solo dance performance by Lucas Hoving, choreographed by Remy Charlip in 1984, to explore artistic lineage and dance history.

When: April 17th-19th, 2015 with performances Friday - Sunday at 8:00pm

Where: CounterPulse (1310 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94103)

Tickets: $15-$25 available at

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