SPEAK: Robert Moses

By Robert Moses


On arriving in San Francisco in 1985 and on my way to audition for ODC (Oberlin Dance Collective) I saw an addict noodling with a needle in his arm on the steps of a home not a full block away from the old new Performance Gallery building (the space now known as ODC theater). I had arrived from Long Beach, California by bus using my last less than sixty dollars to come up and audition. I can’t remember the exact amount in my pocket but I do know it was enough to arrive at and return from the greyhound station at 7th street between market and mission, very close to the current LINES Ballet building. At any rate, I know I thought to myself, this is how it starts: this is how a life, of contours built on moments that become memories saturated by sensations that bloom at the end of unexpected and desperate journeys in the lost cities of our souls, begins. Truthfully the thought was likely, this is how it begins?

Soon after my arrival I watched a performance in relative safety from the lip of a precipice at 16th Street and Valencia while a vision of what might be described as the burning of Rome took place during a portion of a Contraband event, they were committing what appeared to me to be consecutive sins of some sort to live music of their own making in a pit that looked like some kind of perfect hell. And sometime after that I witnessed incendiary genre bending performances by Robert Henry Johnson Dance Company, and then provocative couture and programming by Dean Beck-Stewart, and Joanna Haigood in flight and on and on witnessing many more mavericks of that time and I thought yes, this is how it starts! I think I can live here! Ten years later I founded Robert Moses’ Kin.

This coming season marks the start of my company’s twentieth season and the start of programming projects and teaching in a studio. It’s been 20 years of beginnings, and the same number of belligerent optimism where starting anything is a risk and reassuring; new ventures honor previous efforts. For two decades I have been in over my head and I have enjoyed every nard straining moment of building a shitload of dances, spending time in loud rooms with passionate people consumed with all the things that fall from a physically expressed spirited life, which itself is brimming with the lives and deaths of, aspirations married to his smell or her embrace, inspirations that hold your heart like a love worn T, moments that I have looked at men and women in motion and thought, “put that away before you hurt yourself, that seal should be broken only by God.” In over my head! In just the last 12 months I, or the company, have traveled to Australia, India and Mexico. Presented two seasons of dance, held workshops for dancers from San Francisco, New Mexico and Vietnam. Had the women of the company profiled on television by ESPN. Been part of three film projects. Created new work in a museum setting. Provided opportunities for colleagues to set work on Alcatraz Island. Commissioned dances from three choreographers, collaborated with a dozen more. Finished one new musical score. And completed three company commissions including my first work for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

In over my head! I’ve carried too much debt, pissed off all the wrong people, been ticked off by a lot of the right people, disappointed some good folks (read the reviews), surprised others, (still hereeeeee), gotten help at the moment of truth, and most importantly, lived an artist’s life. I’m interested in dances that reach into this world and live in the same way that characters in a novel live. They land on the page (our bodies) after having been pulled to this world, and can only be held in any real way on the page. Our bodies hold the realities they build. But they—these journeys, the movements and the memories they provide—are delicate and could shatter at the edge of your imagination while falling from your mind to your body. They are made of transparent hopes, loves, needs, and longing. Becoming wholly intangible movement only after placing themselves in service to your will and body. When a dance is done you can recall its weight and rhythm, when during it it loved you most, but with dance you can’t lift the book and turn the pages unless you live it, dance it again. That’s the best part, here’s the better. Without having become the great American novel Dances stop, jobs end, or worse in some cases – continue, tours collapse. Tastes change tastes because we keep cooking, dancers train your heart and bounce, and on the way to all of this, there are always new forks in the road. At the start of our third decade, Robert Moses’ Kin is starting a school. Our new venture is Studio 200 located at 301 8th at Folsom, (inside the Margaret Jenkins Dance Lab). So on the cusp of this new beginning I invite you to move with us, to live fully, deeply and with love and hope through the next 20 years.

For information and class schedule, go to robertmoseskin.org

This article appeared in the March 2015 issue of In Dance.

Artistic Director Robert Moses has created a broad repertory of works of varying styles and genres. His work explores topics ranging from oral traditions in African American culture (Word of Mouth), the life, times, and work of author James Baldwin (Biography), and the dark side of contemporary urban culture (Cause), to the nuanced complexities of parentage and identity (The Cinderella Principle). In addition to his work for RMK, Robert has choreographed for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, San Francisco Opera, Ailey II, Philadanco, Cincinnati Ballet, Eco Arts, Transitions Dance Company of the Laban Center in London, African Cultural Exchange (UK), Bare Bones (UK), Oakland Ballet, Moving People Dance, and Robert Henry Johnson Dance Company, among others. He has choreographed for film, theater and opera, with major productions for the Lorraine Hansberry Theater, New Conservatory Theater, Los Angeles Prime Moves Festival (L.A.C.E.), and Olympic Arts Festival. Since founding Robert Moses’ Kin in 1995 in San Francisco, choreographer Robert Moses has collaborated with prominent dancers, musicians, composers, sculptors, authors, poets, and designers to realize the concept of dance as a unifying form of art, an art form that speaks broadly from a specifi c place. While touring nationally and creating over 90 original works, Robert Moses’ Kin has earned a host of awards, including four Isadora Duncan Awards (IZZIES), the Bonnie Bird North American Choreography Award, a Bay Guardian Outstanding Local Discovery Award in Dance (Goldie) and a SF Weekly Black Box Award for Choreography.