Hennessy's Bear/Skin appropriates Nijinksy's choreography for The Rite of Spring to explore the tensions between killer cops and virgin sacrifice, imaginary activism and plastic shamanism, modernism and cultural appropriation.

Director's Note

"Yes there will be bear dances that have little to do with gay bears and everything to do with Le Sacre du Printemps, native bear dances, teddy bears, mylar mountains, springtime in the northern hemisphere, the land I grew up on and where my parents are buried, and the land I now live on where my uncle and many others are buried. But it’s mostly also about dancing, and how dancing implicates history, ritual, appropriation, and the paradox of settler and indigenous… Come to heal and be healed, or not."


Choreography, Text, Design: Keith Hennessy
except for choreography from Le Sacre du Printemps, Vaslav Nijinsky, 1913, reconstructed by Millicent Hodson, 1987. 

Music: Helpless, Neil Young, performed by Patti Smith / 4 Bear Songs, Hennessy / Sacre du Printemps, Igor Stravinsky / Tessa Wills / Out of body experience, Rabbit In The Moon (Hardkiss brothers).
Tessa's score features Gabriel Todd singing in an old French church with the Turbulence gang, morning prayers blasted from neighborhood speakers in Dakar, a protest, my landlord Frances, and a virtuosic bird on Treat St @ 22nd. 

Shaman costume inspired by the photo book Wilder Mann by Charles Fréger (2012) which documents contemporary folk costumes in Europe. Floral tights, inheritance from Remy Charlip / Plaid blanket skirt, inheritance from my family / Pompom tail, Lisu people in northern Thailand / Embroidered neck piece, fabric market in Dakar, Senegal / credit cards, personal collection.

Production Manager: Alec White


Full Show

Excerpts from a one hour dance near 16th & Mission in San Francisco, and Clarion Alley, home to the Clarion Alley Mural Project. Camera: Mark McBeth

Excerpts from a one hour intervention on Market Street, San Francisco, 12 Sep 2014.


"Hennessy creates the opportunity for the audience to struggle with communal participation as a form of both evolution and complicity."
- InDance

"The piece builds intelligently, shrewdly toward this new climax, with a kind of honesty few artists can manage so well."
- San Francisco Bay Guardian

Keith Hennessy Pulls on a Bear/Skin – Lydia Chavez, Mission Local (2015)

Keith HennessyNEW YORK, at Abrons Art Center –  Abbe Schriber, Art in America (2015)

Keith Hennessy shows off his Bear/Skin – Chris Dupuis, Daily Xtra (2015)

Bear/Skin: A Review – Julia Davidson, Dancer’s Group (2015)

At Abrons, Avant-Garde With Bear Costumes – Paddy Johnson, Art F City (2015)

Bearing it all – Robert Avila, 48 Hills (2014)

Production History

Sep 16, 2017 :: Los Angeles, CA :: Pieter Performance Space
Sep 15, 2017 :: San Diego, CA :: San Diego State University
Mar 4-5 2016 :: Portland, OR ::  Studio 2/PICA
Mar 9 2016 :: Walla Walla, WA  ::  Whitman College
Mar 13 2016 :: Seattle, WA ::  Velocity Dance Theater
Jan 30-31, 2015 :: Oakland, CA :: Omni Commons
Jan 24-25, 2015 :: San Francisco, CA :: The Joe Goode Annex
January 8-11, 2015 :: New York, NY :: American Realness at Abrons Art Center

In Process Showings:
Sep 23-24, 2014 at The Joe Goode Annex, San Francisco
Previous showings include PPP at Subterranean Arthouse in Berkeley and CounterPulse in SF, both in 2013.

Additionally a series of street actions featuring the bear and the fake shaman have happened in both San Francisco and Rome, with small video documentations distributed online. The short video Bear/Skin (Roma) will be exhibited at the American Academy in Rome in 2015.

Thank You

to the dancestors
& to The Annex, CounterPULSE, Salta & PPP where it all began, American Realness, Gabriel for non-stop stomping, Jesse and Mica for motivating the shaman, Mark McBeth for following me into the street, my studio witnesses Tessa Wills, Margit Galanter, Larry Arrington, Sara Shelton Mann, & to Ian, Ruairí, Alec, Chani, Andres, Julie, my Davis queer critical race posse, SF Grants for the Arts, and you.


Bear/Skin was made possible with support from The Zellerbach Family Foundation and San Francisco Grants for the Arts