The Swedish Dance History (and my contribution to it)


(and my contribution to it)

I contributed a few texts and images to The Swedish Dance History book, edited and published at Impulstanz in Vienna, August 2010. Because I haven’t seen the book yet, and because there is no index for the 1000+ pages and uncounted contributions, I’m not sure which writings or photos were chosen for publication.

Here is an excerpt from Rani Nair’s description of the book/process:

The history of dance is initiated through dance, but it is writers that fasten it and it is readers that secure it. The Swedish Dance History is dance’s claim on its own history, a history created and authorized by us who create dance and choreography. The Swedish Dance History is a collective effort to realize this history and ultimately to claim the right to our future. Read more,


The Swedish Dance History 2010 – it’s our history and it’s on the move!

History must be written and those who write it define the future. Dance, understood as a volatile medium needs its history but who has the authority to write it and to what authorities do those authors answer? TSDH is an open question and a claim of history by its participants. Within ImPulsTanz10, INPEX - in collaboration with the wealth of artists present at the festival – will produce (July 24+25) and release (August 13) a 1000-pages dance book (plus its sound version).

Here is the blog

site for the 2009 edition with audio files.

How to get a book?

The book is freely distributed at an ongoing series of release parties and readings around the world. I will host some kind of party event when Ben Evans (Paris) and Moriah Evans (NY) visit San Francisco in late October.

I wrote the following immediately upon arrival in Vienna as a very last-minute contribution to the book. It’s a shameless name-dropping journal about meeting Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker (or not), negotiating my performance fee (or not), and asserting my name and work into dance history (or not). The text was accompanied by the above photo voyeuristic peak into my own underwear. Mårtin Spånberg, an instigator of the project, had suggested that the electric guitar and rock n' roll were motifs or themes for the project, so I interpreted that as shameless self promotion and self-centered provocation.


I arrive in Vienna, Sun July 25, 2010. The nice guy Martin Z from Impulstanz is there to greet me. My name HENNESSY is on a sign with two other names including DE KEERSMAEKER. We smile, shake hands. He apologizes that he doesn’t have per diem $ for me but reminds me that I can get it at The Arsenal from Rio tomorrow when I pick up my BIKE. We wait.

Anne Teresa and a young man arrive. After they greet Martin I offer my hand and say Keith. We walk in silence to the garage. In the elevator there is a sign warning us about TRICKSTERS. They operate in groups and visitors to Vienna should beware. Generally I like tricksters but I have been to Impulstanz before so I appreciate the warning. We all read the sign but no one speaks. I take a PICTURE with my phone. We arrive at the car. The Belgians get in the back and I get in the front. We call the front passenger seat SHOTGUN. Riding shotgun means that I have the gun ready while you focus on driving the car.

Martin spirals the car smoothly quickly down down seven floors down. Speaking softly, trying to avoid filling all social and sonic space, trying to avoid PERFORMING too much or too US American, I say: Your TECHNIQUE reveals your experience with this SPIRAL. He says that the last person he picked up at the airport encouraged him to go faster faster yah yah like rock n roll.

As we left the airport, the young man asked in English if they could be dropped off at The Odeon. There was a short EXCHANGE about dropping the luggage off at the hotel. Then no one speaks for the next 30 minutes. Our collective silence has WEIGHT, not heavy but still substantial, tangible.

I realize that I expect people to be CURIOUS. Are you performing or teaching in the festival? Where are you from? But when I try to imagine speaking it all seems so banal. Is there any way to acknowledge De Keersmaeker’s WORK without invading her PRIVACY? Are we just four introverts in need of an extrovert, one of those people who talks to strangers as if it were normal? Why don’t I CAPITALIZE stranger or normal?

They get out when we arrive at The Odeon. Then Martin drives me to an apartment next to ST. JOSEF’S bio veggie café. Marina is so good in finding me a temporary home next to the place I eat almost every day. I don’t have energy or time or interest to discover and catalogue restaurants here. I STRUGGLE with deciding whether to go down to Museums Quartier to see Benoît & Louise & Hahn in the piece that was cancelled last year and perhaps the year before that also. I use their first names as if I know them, as if we’re related. I do know Hahn and I used to live in Montréal and we’re all performing in the same festival. Is that a RELATIONSHIP?

I decide to stay home, do laundry, and watch the DVD as a kind of rehearsal. I unpack and archive all the props for CROTCH (all the Joseph Beuys references in the world cannot heal the pain, confusion, regret, cruelty, betrayal or trauma…). Where are the scissors? Make a note. Did I remember to ask for a dozen lemons? Another note. There’s the new thimble so I won’t puncture my thumb when trying to stick the sewing needle through the thick scars in my arms. Good thing I packed a second pair of green underwear since I found out that Karl has added a second performance.

I find out everything from others because Karl doesn’t use email and I almost never answer my phone. So I’m here, and my photo is in the festival PROGRAM but I don’t have a contract because I never returned Karl’s phone calls, even when he gave me his personal number. It’s a terrible ridiculous that embarrasses me.

Writing this must have been some kind of MAGIC SPELL. Karl just called me and I answered the phone! We both apologized. I said, no problem I don’t care about contracts. He said, me too. He asked if we could agree to a fee of 5000 euros for 3 performances. I said yes wondering if it is smart not to NEGOTIATE for more. He said, I am responding to your (email) request to get paid the same amount as others with comparable experience. I said, THANK YOU.

Keith Hennessy / Zero Performance / San Francisco

July 2010