(a dance about the economy)

A collective failure instigated by Keith Hennessy and produced by Circo Zero.

Created and performed by Julie Phelps, Emily Leap, Laura Arrington, Jesse Hewit, Jorge Rodolfo De Hoyos, Hana Erdman, Gabriel Todd, Ruairí Donovan, Empress Jupiter, Jassem Hindi, Keyon Gaskin, Keith Hennessy.

Unstable structures supported by unsustainable systems, this dance cannot stand up on its own.

Turbulence (a dance about the economy) plays with normative disruptions and calculated disregard for generally accepted rules of engagement. A collaborative creation, the work is an experimental hybrid of contemporary dance, improvised happening, and political theater; it is a bodily response to economic crisis. Instigated before Occupy and engaging questions of debt, value, and exchange, Turbulence is intended as both provocation and affirmation of global movement for economic justice.       

More frictions that drive the work: economic crisis, disaster capitalism, debt, precarity, propaganda, torture, union busting, magic, collaboration, war, and physical performance.

Responding both to economic and ecological crises, Turbulence is an experiment not only in performance, but also in developing alternative modes of producing performance. Integrating new cast members as generative collaborators for each performance, the work resists fixed or predetermined outcomes. Improvisation is both survival strategy and political tactic. The economies of making dances and being an artist also impacts our research.

Accumulating dances, images, texts, songs and tactics with each cast, the process was tested at venues in San Francisco, Stolzenhagen/Germany, Vienna, Portland, and Pontempeyrat/France from 2010-12.


Nov 25-26, 2017 :: University of Toronto's Blackwood Gallery
Presented as part of Running with Concepts: Infrastructures and Aesthetics of Mutual Aid
Toronto, Canada :: click here for info and tickets

This engagement is supported by Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation through USArtists International in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Guest artists

Portland/TBA Festival: Roya Amirsoleymani, Keyon Gaskin, Takahiro Yamamoto
Seattle/Velocity: Markeith Wiley, Joan Hanna, Alice Gosti
San Francisco/YBCA: Ray Chung, Anna Martine Whitehead, Brontez Purnell
New York/NYLA: Ishmael Houston-Jones, Dana Michel (Montréal), AK Burns.
New York/American Realness: Anna Martine Whitehead, Ishmael Houston-Jones, Keyon Gaskin
Hamburg/Kampnagel: Maria Francesca Scaroni, Antonija Livingston, Peter Pleyer
Krems/donaufestival: Amanda Piña, Fahim Amir
Mannheim/Theater der Welt: Jo Koppe, Nadia Buyse


"A glorious mess that's shot through with enough rigor, humor, and heart to entertain and incite." - Aaron Scott, Portland Monthly Mag 

Turbulence is one of the most incoherent, messy pieces I’ve ever seen. Yet... it keeps changing. There are often two or more things happening at once, and the spirit that emerges is funny, permissive, unsensational and inquiring.” - Alistair Macaulay, New York Times

Turbulence (a dance about the economy) is a wreck that resembles a pop-up version of Occupy Wall Street. At any given moment in Turbulence, situations, both inconsequential and those charged with political meaning, erupt all over the stage.”
- Gia Kourlas, New York Times

Turbulence is listed in critic's 2012 Top 10 Lists: Top 10 Dance, Rita Felciano, SF Bay Guardian; Best Ensemble 2012, Robert Avila, SF Bay Guardian; Top 10 New York Theater, Don Shewey


Turbulence was made possible by the New England Foundation for the Arts¹ National Dance Project, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and additional funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the MetLife Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional funding includes Zellerbach Family Foundation, the New Stages in Dance grant, the SF Arts Commission OPG and 126 individual donors. The Spring 2014 Euro tours were supported by the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation through USArtists International in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Director’s Notes

Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine revealed how many of us have prioritized human rights issues (and identity politics) at the expense of economic injustice and more lasting structural change. I set out, over two years ago, to challenge my own ignorance about financialization, about the roots of economic turbulence, and to sharpen my understanding of extreme wealth disparity. The mythological association of capitalism to democracy to freedom must be troubled, contested, and ultimately destroyed. Ok that’s a manifesto. How can a manifesto inspire a dance?

Foolishly, I decided to make a BIG BIG project during a time of economic contraction and precarity for most artists. Of course precarity and violence for the vast majority is directly linked to an overwhelming concentration in the offshore tax free accounts of the very few. My rage is always close to the surface but the bank bailouts really pissed me off. And somehow I’ve received much more money to make this work than I’ve ever received before. So I’m paying as many artists as I can to play with me, to ask questions and share their bodies, and to collaborate in making a poetic response to the economy. In the studio and on stage, Halberstam’s Queer Art of Failure dialogues with academic texts on neoliberal financialization and activist tracts from Occupy blogs. I propose movement scores about unsustainable structures and others respond with personal stories that reveal gender and racial class hierarchies. We work on everything at once, producing almost nothing coherent or clear…

We joke that Turbulence is a failed political theater collective. We recognize the critique that contemporary dancers embody the ultimate neoliberal subject: dedicated to individual freedoms we are always working and rarely payed, prioritizing career over community we are internationally mobile, serving corporations who acknowledge us only as free content providers on facebook and youtube… And still we play, theorize, dream and struggle in a queer utopia of our own collective imagining and embodiment.

Without delivering a coherent critique nor a totalizing vision of resistance and reconstruction, we hope to inspire broader public engagement, discussion and action with regards to the economy, particularly its violence, corruption, and injustice.

A couple of quotes that I carry into the studio with me:
1. All clarity is ideological (Trinh T. Minh-ha)
2. Love, despite its toxicity and violence, can bring us closer to the possibility of expressing human tenderness. If one is ambitious enough to want to create a shared history, then one must be willing to risk an impossible dance, one that pivots on a desire to outmuscle exhaustion, a desire alive to our wavering capacities to bestow and receive responses, and an apparently insatiable desire to question these capacities and what motivates and blocks them, repeatedly. 
(Peggy Phelan)

Turbulence: what we have learned and practiced while making A dance about the economy. 

Notes after Hamburg/Kampnagel, Sep 2013

The dance company is no longer a company but a temporary gathering of flexible, nomadic, freelance, neoliberal bitches willing to devalue their training, creativity, time, labor, home, lovers, and their own bodies for almost any opportunity to "work."

The (dancer's) body has and does not have a market value. Structures break down when collective bodies can no longer sustain their increasing precarity. Staging collapse can be entertaining, beautiful, banal, satisfying, frustrating, and/or depressing. Most bodies can be replaced. Increasing the violence against bodies, psyches, ecologies, and identities helps to sustain the unsustainable for longer than we might think possible. 

Torture is a foundational practice of capitalist democracy. No nation, no community, has accepted neoliberalism without a violent shock (Klein). Throughout the Americas, torture practices learned at the School of the Americas in Georgia USA, have been used to destroy popular movements and terrorize entire populations. Consistently, torture is proven to be useless at gaining information. It's real goal - of breaking individuals, terrorizing communities, and eliminating resistance - is rarely discussed. 

Queer is a political and aesthetic tactic, perspective, identity, and tool. It is most problematic as an identity but still it works (occasionally) to inspire fresh practices of solidarity, resistance, mutual aid, and love. Politically self-conscious LGBTqueers mobilize their experiences as dissident fuckers and de-classed citizens to re-imagine and manifest the not-yet said and done. Failure can be generative. 

Queer failure is active resistance to hegemonic norms (gender, class, race, sexuality, body, fashion/drag...). We all fail at being normal. Simultaneously, structural norms also fail to completely control or eliminate that which is queer. Queers delight in this failure or, to survive violent segregation, use this failure as material (semiotic, symbolic, poetic, performative) to reconstruct a life worth living (Halberstam).

The language of financialization dominates the language of social relations and everyday life as the primary dialect for discourses of time, space, friendship, family, pleasure, leisure, art, play... In Turbulence we learned to recognize the depth, complexity and sheer banality of our role in the ideology and practice of global finance. And we considered this role as "individuals" and as makers of a performance in the scene-community-market of contemporary dance. 

A re-imagination of social relations is crucial to a life beyond the current financial dictatorship (Berardi). We "do not know what will happen in the coming years..."

Turbulence is a laboratory for anti-or non-capitalist, queered social relations. We accept our failure as a political theater collective. We produce and reproduce while critiquing both production and reproduction. We play within economies of (queer) friendship using gifts, fake healing, shared dancing-singing-reading, improvisation, heart circle, direct action and representation, cheap costumes, and mutual witness to nurture social relations we have previously neither experienced nor envisioned.

Click here for our Process Blog - notes to guest artists, excerpts from interviews, responses to audience inquiry...