Joe Goode dares audiences to risk intimacy

Architects and dancers create intimate relationships with space. Designing rooms and choreographing movement both are explorations of shapes and patterns, environments and connections. Joe Goode knows this well. For 30 years, his dance company has created kinetic journeys filled with evocative moments, sometimes in atypical venues.

In his newest, in-progress project “Poetics of Space” – inspired by a book of the same name by French philosopher Gaston Bachelard – patrons will be able to choose where they go and what they see.

Goode says preview performances at the Joe Goode Annex this week are “beta-testing” the piece (which is slated to open in September) because so many variables are at play: audience interaction, music cues, dialogue, and a section in which four dancers tethered in harnesses are suspended 20 feet above the audience.

At a rehearsal in mid-April, Joe Goode Performance Group dancers turned the studio into a construction site, but instead of building walls and ceilings, they molded space and shifted moods via Goode’s choreography. Black curtains divided the large space, offering nooks and corners, and designer Sean Riley’s enormous set boasted scaffolding, a stairway, and ledges for hovering.

This scenery and movement – plus music, songs and dialogue – transform the annex into a richly layered, yet rare, world. It’s a type of piece that’s difficult to produce because costs are high.

“I love performance installation, but I have to save up to do it. It’s incredibly expensive,” says Goode.

As fees for dancers and collaborators add up, audiences remain limited. Only 60 people can move through the performance at a time, so three performances means a maximum of 180 tickets sold. (When Goode’s company appears at Z Space, about 2,000 tickets are sold in a two-week engagement.)

Despite the challenges, Goode still finds working in an intimate setting particularly worthwhile.

“We live in an interactive world. No one wants to sit in a velvet seat in the dark and have no volition at all. The kind of theater where audiences are relegated to such gross passivity is a dinosaur,” he says.

Finding that today’s technological, interactive world is severly lacking in unexpected connections, he says he hopes “Poetics of Space” gives audiences a place where they can “risk intimacy,” even if only for a moment.


Joe Goode Performance Group

Where: Joe Goode Annex, 499 Alabama St., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. April 30-May 2

Tickets: $15 to $25

Contact: (415) 561-6565,

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