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. Circo Zero engages a diverse team of artists who create hybrid spectacles for theaters, streets, dance studios, 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: performances of future friend/ships (Kampnagel, 2015 & American Realness 2016) a duet with Jassem Hindi about Syria and the potential of Arab Futurism; the world premiere of Sara (the smuggler) (SF, 2015, NY 2016) a solo directed by Hennessy and performed by Sara Shelton Mann and Norman Rutherford celebrating Mann’s legacy, history, and impact on the field of dance; the world premiere of Bear/Skin (New York, 2015) a solo performance engaging the meaning of art-making, ritual, modernism, and cultural appropriation; and a MAP Fund to support the 2016 premier of Blank Map featuring an all-Black team of collaborators.

Artistic Director Keith Hennessy has been crafting works of genuine imagination and originality since the early 80s. These performances have been awarded a USA (Kjenner) Fellowship (2012), a NY Bessie (2009), several Isadora Duncan Awards, a Goldie (2007), and the Alpert/MacDowell Fellowship in Dance (2005). Read more below about Hennessy...


Photo by Robbie Sweeny

Photo by Robbie Sweeny

Keith Hennessy, Artistic Director

Keith Hennessy was born in a mining town in Northern Ontario, Canada, lives in San Francisco, and works regularly in Europe. He is an award-winning performer, choreographer, teacher and organizer. 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.

Hennessy was a member of Sara Shelton Mann’s legendary Contraband (85-94), as well as the collaborative performance companies CORE (95-98) and the France-based Cahin-caha, cirque bâtard (98-02). His work is featured in several books and documentaries, including Composing While Dancing (Melinda Buckwalter, U of Wisconsin: 2010), How To Make Dances in an Epidemic (David Gere, Univ of Wisconsin: 2004), Gay Ideas (Richard Mohr, Beacon: 1992), and Dancers in Exile (RAPT Productions, 2000). Hennessy is a co-founder of 848 Community Space/CounterPULSE a thriving performance and culture space in San Francisco.

Awards include the United States Artist Kjenner Fellowship (2012), a Bilinski Fellowship (2011), a NY Bessie (2009) for Crotch, two Isadora Duncan Awards (2009) for Sol niger, a Goldie (2007) and the Alpert/MacDowell Fellowship in Dance (2005). In 2009-10, Keith was awarded residencies at The MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and Djerassi. Commissions include National Dance Project (Turbulence 2012), RADAR Series (Sissy 2009, Howlin 2010), Arsenic, Lausanne (Crotch, 2008), Centre ChorÈgraphique National, Belfort (Sol niger, 2007), Les Subsistances, Lyon (Sol niger 2007, Homeless USA, 2005), Les Laboratoires, Paris (American Tweaker, 2006). Hennessy teaches internationally at festivals, universities and independent studios. Recent teaching includes UC Davis, imPulsTanz/Vienna, TSEH/Moscow, Circuit Est/Montreal, HZT/Berlin, AEx-Corps/Dakar, Stary Bowar/Poland, Movement Research/NY, Tanzfabrik/Berlin, Sandberg Institute/Amsterdam, Texas Women's University, UBC/Kelowna, PSU and PNCA/Portland, Ponderosa/Germany, and FRESH Festival/SF. Hennessy has an MFA in Choreography and a PhD (ABD) in Performance Studies from UC Davis.


Circo Zero is currently supported by MAP Fund, San Francisco Grants for the Arts, The Kenneth Rainin Foundation, The Zellerbach Family Foundation, The San Francisco Arts Commission, and generous individual donors.

Circo Zero is a fiscally sponsored project of CounterPulse and supported by CounterPulse's House Program.