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.

"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

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."

Upcoming Events

Fri Sep 15th 8:00pm @ San Diego State University, San Diego, CA

Sat Sep 16th 8:30pm @ Pieter in Los Angeles, CA


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


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

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. 

Production History

Mar 3rd 2016 Portland, OR - PSU MFA Lecture Series  ::   Portland State University
Mar 4th-5th 2016 Portland, OR -  Bear/Skin  ::  Studio 2/PICA
Mar 9th 2016 Walla Walla, WA - Bear/Skin  ::  Whitman College
Mar 13th 2016 Seattle, WA - Bear/Skin  ::  Velocity Dance Theater

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.