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I Am A Miserable And Selfish Person (Kick Me Dance)19926 dancers28 min

I have some mixed feelings about this work. 

Thanks to the largest grant I had received to date, I was able to again collaborate with composer Zeena Parkins, who created a score, mixed live, for which she drew inspiration from the affectively tonal background tracks used for soap operas (e.g., Guilty, Scared, Sad, etc.). It was a big undertaking, but I think we both were pleased with the results.

The grant also freed up other resources that allowed me to collaborate with visual artist Cary S. Leibowitz/Candyass, whose work I had flipped for when I first saw his 1990 show of mechanically produced multiples at Stux Gallery. Indeed, the title of the dance comes from work I saw at that show: silver wallpaper bearing the phrase “I am a miserable and selfish person” in Cary’s unfussy handwriting, with “I really am very lucky” running in much smaller print along the bottom, almost as an afterthought; and XXL polyester pants with “KICK ME” spelled out in multicolored appliqué on the XXL ass - that we recreated, albeit sized correctly for each dancer, as costume pieces for the dance.  

The three doors of decreasing heights that the dancers wheeled around the space were also based on one of Cary’s works, a pie chart showing large slices of “sad” and “guilty” and just the tiniest sliver of “happy.” While the carpenter didn’t get the proportions of the doors quite right (and no time or $ for a do-over), Cary did indeed label the doors with the corresponding mental states, in hues determined by whatever the paint store had lying around, as per Cary’s aesthetic (mostly custom mixed paint that hadn’t been picked up).

Cary also contributed the graphics for the custom printed t-shirts we wore as costumes. We began the dance in shirts emblazoned with “My friend went to see Neil Greenberg dance and all I got was this lousy t-shirt,” and toward the end of the dance we changed into “Vote 4 Neil” t-shirts, complete with a photo of my face (it was an election year, after all). Cary and I shopped together for the large carpet remnant, reminiscent of a rec-room rug, that the dancers unfurled, danced upon, and then rolled up again during the piece.

Yet I still have some lingering qualms about my employment of Cary’s designs and ideas, all of which he provided so freely and generously. I’m good with the badly executed cartwheels that I placed throughout the work (I asked the dancers to cartwheel on their “wrong side”), the human wheelbarrow entrances, and my other choices of intentionally awkward, verging on ugly, movement. I had a lot of fun with the continual re-arrangement of the doors within the stage space, so no regrets there. But the false drama of my encounter with the “happy” door as a conclusion of the work, this feels wrong to me. It reads too much as a kind of facile therapy, not thoroughly enough complicated by the discordant chords and eerie lighting of the sequence. I’ll confess to being relatively new to psychotherapy at the time, but still…

Premiered April 2, 1992 at La MaMa E.T.C.’s Annex Theater


Choreography: Neil Greenberg

Performed by: Thomas Caley, Neil Greenberg, Nathaniel Lee, Justine Lynch, Jo McKendry, Julienne Pollitt

Music composed and mixed live by: Zeena Parkins
Set and Costume Design: Cary S. Leibowitz/Candyass

Set Construction: Mark Tambella

Costume Construction: Nancy Coenen & Lesley Alderman

Sound Assistant: Colin Hodson

Portions of the music recorded and mixed at Harmonic Ranch with Brooks Williams and Tim Sternberg, March 1992, with musicians: Laura Seaton - violin; Margaret Parkins - cello; Sebastian Steinberg - string bass; Zeena Parkins - sampler keyboard; Ikue Mori - el. percussion; Jim Pugliese - drums; Catherine Jauniaux - solo voice in "Guilty"

The title for this dance comes from the work of Cary S. Leibowitz/Candyass.

Recorded April 5, 1992 by Character Generators / Video, Michael Schwartz, Director,
at La Mama E.T.C.’s Annex Theater, NYC

Cameraperson: Michael Schwartz


Composer and choreographer commission fees f\were made possible by a grant from Meet The Composer's Composer/Choreographer Project, a national program funded by the Ford Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts.

New York State Council on the Arts

National Endowment for the Arts

Metropolitan Life Foundation's Emerging Dance Program

Harkness Foundations for Dance

SUNY Purchase College Foundation Faculty Support Fund


Jack Anderson, New York Times, 1992

Deborah Jowitt, Village Voice, 1993

Otis Stuart, NYQ, 1992 

L-R: Jo McKendry, Julienne Pollitt (foreground); Justine Lynch, Thomas Caley, Neil Greenberg (background)
© Paula Court, 1992

L-R: Thomas Caley, Neil Greenberg, Julienne Pollitt
© Paula Court, 1992

L-R: Julienne Pollitt, Jo McKendry
© Paula Court, 1992

L-R:Julienne Pollitt, Neil Greenberg
© Paula Court, 1992

Neil Greenberg
© Paula Court, 1992