There isn’t much that hasn’t already been said about Joe Goode, a fixture in the Bay Area dance scene since the 1980s. What’s notable is how his work continues to resonate and take on greater meaning over time.
This week, the Joe Goode Performance Group reprises two of his signature works, “Wonderboy” and the tour de force “29 Effeminate Gestures,” at Z Space in The City.
The encore of “29 Effeminate Gestures” was made possible through a National Endowment for the Arts grant that called it a “major American masterpiece.” Says Goode, “I started it in 1988. It took a long time to make and was performed in different increments. It was the beginning of my move away from traditional choreography into my personal statement in the theater of ideas.”
Goode began the piece as an academic exercise: take two big, mostly angry, gestures and try to get from one to the other. But when he observed himself performing them in the mirror he was horrified. He says, “They were so lavish and extreme and effeminate. I had been openly gay all my career and didn’t think I had any issues. But when I saw this effeminate creature emerge from these gestures, I was repulsed and realized this was something I really needed to grapple with.”
He created a compelling, heartbreaking and ultimately triumphant tale.
In the work, company member Melecio Estrella (Goode, now in his 60s, no longer performs it) first appears onstage in overalls, speaking, and then almost shouting, a personal credo of sorts. The sound score includes a power saw and power drill; it’s a dangerous and moving juxtaposition to the movement.
“Wonderboy,” developed with puppeteer Basil Twist, is the story of a puppet-child who sits apart and outside from the vitality of the world, expressed in vignettes by Goode’s remarkable dancers.
“I saw Basil do a piece at the Magic Theatre. The puppets were so vulnerable and so human,” says Goode, adding, “He has an artistic way of looking at the world. It kind of becomes the story of the classic artist’s journey.”
In the dance world, where identity and gender issues are widely explored, Goode continues to bring something unique to the table: non-self-indulgent authenticity. His work is a reminder that sensitivity and humanity are not the realm of an exclusive club.
IF YOU GO
Joe Goode Performance Group
Where: Z Space, 450 Florida St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and Oct. 2 and Oct. 4; 3 p.m. Sunday, 3 and 8 p.m. Oct. 4
Tickets: $15 to $100
Contact: (866) 811-4111, www.zspace.org