Berkeley Dance Project 2014 – ‘Intimate Distance’ brings choreographers from near & far to Zellerbach Playhouse April 17-26

With both people and places, sometimes the further away we are, the closer we feel. “Intimate Distance” is the theme of this year’s Berkeley Dance Project, an evening of choreography that will explore the relationship of distance and intimacy. The final production of UC Berkeley Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies’s Mainstage season runs April 17-26 in Zellerbach Playhouse. Directed by Professor Lisa Wymore, it features new works by Jack Gray (visiting from New Zealand), Katie Faulkner (working here in Berkeley), and Ashley Ferro-Murray (choreographing from New York).

“I created this theme to instigate new ways of imagining dance on the stage – asking the choreographers to both compress and expand their choreography in the same piece,” says BDP Director and Professor Lisa Wymore. “I am so excited for these three new works to come forth with the assistance and collaboration of the design and production teams here at TDPS. My hope is that the works will evoke memories and stories, challenge how we understand knowing others, and expand time and space on the stage.” 

In Tūrangawaewae, Guest Choreographer Jack Gray, founder of New Zealand’s Atamira Dance Company, explores how we individually and collectively connect to a sense of belonging to the land. The title of the piece is a Maori word that translates as “standing place,” and it refers to belonging through residence, kinship and genealogy. The work, which he is co-devising with a group of students and members of the Bay Area indigenous community, “seeks to dedicate a process of interaction with the different levels of politicized, spiritual, cultural and human land holders/guardians,” says Gray. “It is specific to Berkeley and will acknowledge the relationships – both fraught and inspired – and monitor how creativity can be used as a means of planting ourselves in the earth – literally and metaphorically. Above all it is about a sharing of life force and breath and addressing the challenges of finding close intimate distance with each other.”

Bay Area-based choreographer Katie Faulkner is co-devising a piece with eight students about traveling on a long and unpredictable road that seems to have no end. “The imagery centers around attempts to arrive at some knowable “horizon” in your own psyche, the notion that there exists within and among us a “vanishing point” of unknowable distance.” The mirror-like choreography evokes a dreamy, Rorschach print effect. This is Faulkner’s third time choreographing for Berkeley Dance Project. She says, “Creating the work is its own journey.The dancers always surprise me with their insights, their contributions, and their humor. They are unfailingly smart, creative, and generous.”

Ashley Ferro-Murray explores the practice of distance-based collaborations in MOOCing?, which investigates how dances can be made in an online setting. MOOC is the acronym for “Massively Open Online Course” – an interactive educational class offered to an unlimited audience through the Internet. “As an ensemble cast,” says Ferro-Murray, “MOOCing?” performers consider what it means to learn movement from someone who is not physically present – who is at a distance.”The twenty-minute dance is the product of Internet-based interactions between Ferro-Murray, working from New York City and six student choreographer/dancers in Berkeley. All rehearsals for the dance are conducted over video chat, and the rehearsal process is chronicled on a blog at“While making the dance online has been the greatest challenge, the interactions that we’ve had online have surprised us as being more intimate than those that we might have in a traditional studio setting,” says Ferro-Murray. She hopes the work will put dance at the center of conversations about the future of online instruction within higher education. “Geographical distance and online distance does not necessarily translate to a lack of physical intimacy, or an inability to physically connect.”


Berkeley Dance Project 2014 opens on Thursday, April 17 at the Zellerbach Playhouse on the UC Berkeley campus (at Spieker Plaza across from the Haas Pavilion) and runs on weekends through Saturday, April 26.

Presented Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 8pm

Tickets required: $10.00 Students, Seniors, UC Faculty/Staff, and $15.00 General Admission. Tickets can be purchased online at, or by leaving a message at the Zellerbach Playhouse box office at (510) 642-8827. The box office also opens one hour prior to each performance for will call and ticket sales for that day’s performance.