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(like a vase)20106 dancers55 min

I titled (like a vase) largely in response to an assumption I was encountering that I dubbed “the speech metaphor,” that equated artistic production to verbal communication - as in “what is this performance/movement/artist saying?,” or even “what questions are they asking?” In my attempts to suggest an alternative way of encountering a performance I found myself thinking about how one might encounter certain art objects - “you know, like a vase” I would explain - without necessarily asking “what is this (vase) saying?”

The movement in (like a vase), as in most of my work, was  all culled from videotaped improvisations that we learned as close to “verbatim” as possible. In (like a vase) most of the movement material came from the other dancers’ solo improvisations (prior to 2006 I recorded only my own). We improvised largely to mockup recordings that Zeena Parkins provided of her score, which ultimately was performed live by harp, keyboard, percussion and electronics.  

I made that opening quartet toward the end of a 3-year stint in Los Angeles, working with Johnni Durango - who continued in the work after I moved back to NYC - along with Taisha Paggett and Robbie Shaw. The opening is set to a recording by the celebrated monologuist Ruth Draper, A Class in Greek Poise, to which we four dancers had each improvised, alone, during the initial movement generation process. I was interested in the way this introduction sets up the rest of the work, in effect bombarding the audience with interpretive possibilities, after which a viewer might be relieved to abandon such efforts, and perhaps let that part of their mind take a back seat so they might experience more of the “isness” of the performance moments. Deborah Jowitt wrote that  the opening “throws down a challenge to our built-in lust for interpretation” (Village Voice).  I like that. 

The duet for Johnni Durango and me was also made in L.A. before my return to NYC. I’m amused by the positioning of this duet within the timeline of the dance as the penultimate section, as if it were the grand pas de deux in the final act of a queer 19th century ballet.  

A detail: Listen for the new arrangement by Zeena and Preshish Moments of a Henry Mancini track, Something for Sophia, that comes in near the end of the opening quartet, once the musicians take their places onstage. I had employed the Mancini track during the movement generation process and set the end of the quartet to it. Once Zeena set to work on the score we needed to decide what to do, musically, with this pre-existing choreography. Her solution: this fabulous new arrangement.

Premiered November 2010 at Dance Theater Workshop in New York City.


Choreography and Text: Neil Greenberg
Performed by: Johnni Durango, Neil Greenberg, Paige Martin, Luke Miller, Mina Nishimura, Colin Stilwell
Music: Zeena Parkins

Musicians: Shayna Dunkelman, Preshish Moments, Zeena Parkins
Additional sound: A Class in Greek Poise, by Ruth Draper

Lighting: Michael Stiller
Sag-Crotch Costumes: James Kidd
Production Design: Jmy Leary, Neil Greenberg and Michael Stiller

Videotaped by the Dance Collection of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts for preservation in the Jerome Robbins Archive of the Recorded Moving Image  

Recorded Nov. 12, 2010 at Dance Theater Workshop by Sathya Production Services, Molly McBride, Director


Commissioned by Dance Theater Workshop's Commissioning and Creative Residency Program with the support of donors to The Fund for Continuing Innovation. This presentation was made possible, in part, by the generous support of Judy and Steven Gluckstern through the David R. White Producers' Circle.
Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Creative Exploration Fund
Leonard and Sophie Davis Fund

James E. Robison Foundation

The Harkness Foundation for Dance

Research funds from Eugene Lang College, The New School for Liberal Arts and UC Riverside
Creative residency at Pieter PASD studio in Los Angeles.

American Music Center Live Music for Dance Program.


Gia Kourlas, Time Out/New York, 1995

Jack Anderson, The New York Times, 1995

Jack Anderson, The New York Times, 1996

Deborah Jowitt, Village Voice, 1996
Rick Whitaker, Ballet Review, 1996
Don Daniels, Ballet Review, 1996
Ann Daly, Dance Theatre Journal, 1997
Jennifer Dunning, The New York Times, 1997

Additional Links

Excerpts from (like a vase)
10-minute excerpt from (like a vase)

L-R: Neil Greenberg, Johnni Durango
© Yi-Chun Wu

Paige Martin
© Yi-Chun Wu

L-R: Luke Miller, Mina Nishimura, Colin Stilwell
© Ryutaro Mishima

L-R: Neil Greenberg, Johnni Durango
© Frank Mullaney

L-R: Paige Martin, Luke Miller
© Frank Mullaney