Joe Goode celebrates with a retrospective

Remembering the Pool.jpg


Living the here and now forever

Joe Goode seems ambivalent about the 30-year-anniversary celebration of the Joe Goode Performance Group. “30 years. How is it even possible?” he writes in the program, “My internet dating profile says that I’m only 45.”

The celebration, which took place this past weekend at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, showcased excerpts from Goode’s work alongside a performance of his recently created piece, “Nobody Lives Here Now.” All of which showed Goode’s range of humor and wit, spiced with dance that was both energetic and fresh.

The program opened with an excerpt from “Grace” (2004), which has gone through several versions, including one performed at Grace Cathedral. And cycled through “Rambler” (2011), a spoof on the Western and cowboy mentality that plagues Americans, and “Wonderboy” (2009), a complex theatrical piece that includes puppetry along with dance, singing and recitation. All of these pieces address issues of sexual and gender identity and the alienation and confusion that rigid social definitions cause. These have always been and remain at the forefront of Goode’s creativity.

The first half closed with “Remembering the Pool at the Best Western (1991). In this near magical piece, Goode is confronted by “vestigial dream people” as he sits reconstructing his dreams from the night before. A puff of smoke. And a strangely talkative woman in a preposterously large white wig appears. She is played by Liz Burritt, a member of the original Joe Goode Performance Group who was instrumental in developing over 30 pieces over the course of 21 years of collaboration, and she wants to ferret out the meanings of these dreams. While the two swap questions in dialog, strange rag-tag creatures dance in the darkness upstage. The dancers hover like sensations vaguely felt but never defined. The piece ends with an ironically philosophical comment by Goode: “It was a ride we never intended to take.” But what a ride!

This sense of magic and imagination was also clearly presented in “Nobody Lives Here Now.” Developed during a 2016 summer workshop in southern France, the piece was inspired by photographs of a village that disappeared completely during WW2. These last material traces of a populace that lived posed the question to Goode of what it means to disappear – the fate of every living creature.

In “Nobody Lives Here Now” this profoundly distressing topic is transformed lightly into the trope of a magician. With the help of “handsome, oddly sexualized assistants” magicians make things disappear. And reappear. And so does Goode, this time with his long-time performer-collaborators: Felipe Barrueto-Cabello, Marit Brook-Kothlow, Molly Katzman and Andrew Ward. All spinning through a rich comic mélange in which the primary disappearance is that of boundaries, so that, finally, words, music, dance, youth, sex and death appear, shift, transform and condense into the moment in which the performer stands and says, “I am the liminal space.”

The performance was accompanied by the Thalea String Quartet, currently San Francisco Conservatory’s first quartet-in-residence, in a mix of works from Shostakovich, Mendelssohn, Debussy, Stravinsky and Adès.

Keep mixing it up, Joe.

– Jaime Robles


Photo: Melecio Estrella performs in an excerpt from “Remembering the Pool at the Best Western” in Joe Goode Performance Group’s 30-year anniversary celebration at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Photo by Yvonne Portra.