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Not-About-AIDS-Dance19945 dancers50 min

Not-About-AIDS-Dance was created during a horrific year in my life during which my brother, AIDS activist Jon Greenberg, and eight other friends died of AIDS. 

Before these events, and before the dance acquired its name, I had conceptualized a work in which the audience would receive extra-dance information about the dancers that usually remains hidden or unspoken, altering the relationship between audience and performers. Not-About-AIDS-Dance was a development of this previously planned dance. Via slide projections of written text, the audience learns of the deaths of my brother and friends and the death of the mother of one of the dancers, all of which occurred during the rehearsal process, along with additional information about each dancer that I collected through interviews.

The text also refers to my HIV+ status. I had planned to come out as having HIV+ from the start of the project. Then my brother died of AIDS. I remember being unsure when the dancers and I started rehearsals for the work whether I’d be able to continue with the project. My world had turned upside down. I’ll always be grateful to Ellen, Christopher, Jo and Justine  for sticking with me through this difficult time. 

In some of my earlier works I also employed text projections, but as a kind of burlesque on meaning-making through tongue-in-cheek reflections on the process of choreography (“This material may be in the wrong place.” “Don’t believe her. She’s lying.”). I conceived the idea to employ non-fictional statements about the performers, in part, as a strategy toward providing a door for viewers into the more abstract potencies of the dancing. After all, I thought, maybe what made my experience of watching Merce Cunningham’s dances rehearsed in the studio so rich was that I knew the dancers personally, knew something about their lives. I think with Not-About-AIDS-Dance I was using the self-revelations of the performers as a tactic, thinking that maybe if viewers knew something about the dancers, they’d be able to connect to the dancing.

About the music: Though Not-About-AIDS-Dance was performed mostly in silence, snippets of recorded music - six in all - are played intermittently throughout the work. Zeena Parkins had asked each of the dancers to contribute some music that was important to us. Zeena sampled the records we brought to her to create those short tracks. Zeena at one point questioned whether the tracks should be used, but we eventually hit on the idea of the music as sound objects, the equivalent of the few props and costume pieces that appear in the dance. To me they open up the studio-world of the dance.

Premiered at The Kitchen in May 1994.
Revival at Dance Theater Workshop in June 2006. 

Choreographer: Neil Greenberg
Performed by: Ellen Barnaby, Christopher Batenhorst, Neil Greenberg, Justine Lynch, Jo McKendry

Music fragments compiled and arranged by: Zeena Parkins

Lighting: Michael Stiller

Projection Design: John Masterson

Projectionist: Melissa Arra

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

Recorded December 15, 1994 at The Kitchen, NYC by High Risk Productions, Steve Brown, Director

New York State Council on the Arts

The Harkness Foundations for Dance

SUNY Purchase Faculty Support Fund


Jennifer Dunning, The New York Times, 1994
Randy Gener, Village Voice, 1994
Susan Kraft, Staten Island Advance, 1994
Allan Ulrich, San Francisco Examiner, 1996

Lucy Sexton, Juice / a dance and performance journal, 1994
Catherine Massey, The Brooklyn Rail, 2006

Gia Kourlas, The New York Times, 2006

Claudia La Rocca, The New York Times, 2006

Jack Anderson, New York Theatre Wire, 2006

Don Daniels, Gay City News, 2006

Leigh Witchel, danceviewtimes, 2006

Elizabeth Zimmer, The Village Voice, 2006

Additional Links

Text for “Not-About-AIDS-Dance” (original production)

4-minute excerpt from Not-About-AIDS-Dance
On “Not-About-AIDS-Dance” - Zeena Parkins
On “Not-About-AIDS-Dance” - Jo McKendry, Justine Lynch, Ellen Barnaby and Christopher Batenhorst

Excerpt of improvised material used in Not-About-AIDS-Dance

Conversation between Neil Greenberg and Miguel Gutierrez from Critical Correspondence, Movement Research Publishing, 1 May, 2006: Part 1     Part 2

L-R: Neil Greenberg, Justine Lynch
© Tom Brazil, 1994

L-R:  Justine Lynch, Neil Greenberg (sitting) Jo McKendry, Ellen Barnaby
© Paula Court, 1994

Neil Greenberg  
© Paula Court, 1994

L-R: Christopher Batenhorst, Justine Lynch, Neil Greenberg
© Tom Brazil, 19994

L-R: Neil Greenberg, Antonio Ramos
© Paula Court, 2006

Excerpt of improvised material used in Not-About-AIDS-Dance

On “Not-About-AIDS-Dance” - Zeena Parkins

On “Not-About-AIDS-Dance” - Jo McKendry, Justine Lynch, Ellen Barnaby and Christopher Batenhorst