From 500 Capp Street: Dancing with David Ireland

By Dancers' Group

September 1, 2016, PUBLISHED BY IN DANCE

Editor’s Note: Performances at 500 Capp Street have been postponed until further notice. Updates will be posted here and on the DG Weekly e-bulletin once confirmed. Contact with any questions.

The faintly grey house perches on the corner of 20th and Capp Street in the Mission District of San Francisco. A man, an artist, a community member, a friend—used to live here; his name was David Ireland. The house endures as what most consider his most important work. I know it as a living breathing self-portrait of David’s practice that we have been invited to move with.

To make a new piece titled Moving Not Knowing, Being Not Making, Ongoing Not Finished: Not=Nothing Owns Time. Site-specific, house tour, dance-theater, movement installation; all words to describe what we are after in the David Ireland House.


In rehearsals, a timed ritual has formed. 1: We begin every evening in stillness. 2: We tend to our spines. 3: We generate heat. 4: We stretch. 3 minutes, 3 minutes, 3 minutes, 3 minutes. We all do this in our own methods, to sync together: older man (Yope), older woman (Sharon), young boy (Zenon), another man (Don), three women (myself) (Amelia) (Natalie), 500 Capp expert (Antonio). The stillness always becomes quite loud as the sun sets: my watch clicks, the skateboard rides by, the watermelon slices get sold just outside the window. When I lay down to take this self-portrait in the first still 3 minutes, a small splinter wedges itself into my leg, a hello from the house.

“You can’t make art by making art” —David Ireland

“From the time that I stepped out of the house after that first visit, I looked at the world differently. He disregarded the erudite, rarefied element of what art should be. His ethos was that anything could be art. He looked at cracks in the walls and regarded them as beautiful. It made me look at the world in a different way… Movement was hugely important to David. Yes, he collaborated with choreographers and dance companies, but I think he also regarded the movement of his body within the space as performance. Sweeping the front steps was a meditative thing and it was also a performance. He called it action rather than work, imbuing it with a more forward-thinking attitude versus it just being drudgery.” —Carlie Wilmans, 500 Capp Street Foundation Director

“Art occurs in the practice of life” —David Ireland

We’ve been listening to the house breathe. We’re trying to trace the cracks in the walls, the curves in the halls. We’re following the impetus each wire / sardine tin / Dumbball / splinter / reflection / pillow offers us, towards defining a movement or a sequence or a choreographed image. Inside the amber glow of David Ireland’s self-portrait, we’re listening—like you listen in contact improvisation to the weight of your partner.


They [Ann Hatch and Ed Gilbert] walked me through the house, and I just started experiencing it. I had seen it in photos, but seeing it in photos is nothing like being inside that house… I walked through the house and experienced different features of the house, I was moved, in particular by the upstairs copper window, the Untitled (View from the window) piece. When I experienced that piece, there was a little kind of light bulb that went on. I thought, this piece is AMAZING and it will lose any kind of meaning if somebody were to attempt to cut it out and put it in a museum, or a gallery or something. We did the tour in kind of a similar fashion to your performance: starting in the hallway and moving upstairs, moving back down the stairs, and finishing up in the dining room.” —Carlie Wilmans

We will lead you through the David Ireland House, in small audiences of 10, twice a night. We, as in all the performers, and the project’s collaborators: Amie Dowling, Elaine Buckholtz, Natalie Greene, Sebastian Alvarez. And David in spirit.

Open your eyes. Look for things you wouldn’t expect. Look. Just look. Look at the house through the lens of your own life and your own experience” —Carlie Wilmans