Photos by Bonnie Kamin
The Margaret Jenkins Dance Company (MJDC) has been
a part of the cultural fabric of San Francisco for over three
decades—dedicated to the making and touring of new work,
international exchange, and programs that support process, choreographic
mentorship and performance opportunities. At the heart of the
organization's mission is Ms. Jenkins belief that it is incumbent
on us as artists to be in conversation through our work—to
break the isolation and expand who sees and responds to the arts.
The MJDC was founded in San Francisco in 1973. Margaret Jenkins
herself is a fifth-generation San Franciscan, steeped in its particular
cultural and artistic traditions. Yet the origins of the Company's
singular artistic philosophy can undoubtedly be found among the
radical developments that took place in all the arts in the New
York of the 1960’s.
While studying and working with Merce Cunningham during that time,
Jenkins began to reimagine the concepts of both choreographer
and dance company. It was in the environment of Cunningham and
John Cage that she was first exposed to the collaborative efforts
of Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol and many others,
as well as to the music of Earle Brown, Gordon Mumma, Morton Feldman
and Cage himself.
Jenkins returned to San Francisco in 1970 and immediately began
to teach and make works prior to the formal founding of her Company
three years later. Her goal was less to create a choreographic
entity in the traditional sense than to fashion a fluid site for
exploratory, collaborative interaction among all the arts, a place
of "company" in its deepest meaning.
dancers have been critical to the development of this highly physical
and gestural world that is her signature. The Company creates
dances by continually layering, disrupting rhythms and shattering
spatial planes. There is a loose and brazen quality to their explorations,
with an abundance of information offered through movement, music
and spoken text. Jenkins has continued to emphasize this focus
across her entire career, welcoming the participation of such
multi-disciplinary artists as Rinde Eckert, Bruce Nauman, Terry
Allen and Yoko Ono, and composers Paul Dresher, Jay Cloidt, Bill
Fontana, Alvin Curran, David Lang, among others.
MJDC began touring extensively in the late 1970s. During the NEA’s
National Dance Touring Program, the Company traveled throughout
the United States on a regular basis. The Company has also traveled
internationally in Western and Eastern Europe, as well as Asia.
Dances have been commissioned by a long list of presenters, including
the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco,CA, BAM (Brooklyn
Academy of Music), NY, Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at
the University of Maryland, College Park, MD, the Krannert Center
in Urbana, IL, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, MN, Jacob's
Pillow Dance Festival in Lee, MA, Cal Performances in Berkeley,
CA, Arizona State University and University of Arizona, AZ, Peak
Performances at Montclair University, NJ and on a number of occasions
by Dance Center of Columbia College and the Museum of Contemporary
Art, Chicago, IL.
In the summer of 2004, the MJDC opened a new studio in San Francisco.
The Margaret Jenkins Dance Lab
(MJDL) is the home of all MJDC creative activities and provides
the community with a vital space for new types of exchange. No
other space in San Francisco can afford to devote its entire day
to creative research, open rehearsals, and free lectures and demonstrations
of interdisciplinary work, uninterrupted by “training”
classes or the daily array of demanding activities of a resident
company/space-owner. The particular emphasis of this space and
for the MJDC is to create programs and interactions among choreographers
that emphasize process not product. Among the organization’s
• Choreographers in Mentorship Exchange (CHIME):
Margaret Jenkins has a deep concern for both establishing and
guiding the next generation of choreographers and dancers, which
she considers part of her artistic legacy. Ongoing dialogue strengthens
artists and their art, thereby fostering that interactive cycle
of doing, teaching, and learning. To that end, the MJDC launched
CHIME in the San Francisco Bay Area. Now in its sixth year, this
innovative mentorship program fosters creative exchange and long-term
relationships between emerging and established choreographers.
CHIME, which has served more than 65 artists since its inception,
has already expanded to southern California and will expand to
other metropolitan areas in the coming seasons. Additionally,
a new extension, CHIME Across Borders, brings internationally
renowned choreographers to mentor a group of local choreographers
over the course of one year. Click
here for more information about CHIME.
• International collaborations: the making
of new works abroad in conjunction with other groups (as with
A Slipping Glimpse, made with the Tanusree Shankar Dance Group
in Kolkata, India in 2005-2006) or the mounting of Jenkins choreography
on international companies (as with GINKO in Tokyo, Japan in 2002)
is a primary focus of the organization. In 2009, the MJDC completed Other Suns (A Trilogy) in collaboration with the Guangdong Modern
Dance Company of Guangzhou, China. In 2014, the MJDC will premiere The Gate of Winds, a collaboration with the Kolben Dance Company of Jerusalem. Click here to learn more.
• Choreography for new audiences: For
the 40th anniversary of her Company, Margaret Jenkins is creating a new, full-length work in collaboration with Visual Designer Alexander V. Nichols, Composer Paul Dresher and Poet Michael Palmer. Times Bones has been co-commissioned by the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center of the University of Maryland, and they will also host the world premiere in September 2013. A national tour of Times Bones will conclude in April 2014 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, who is also a co-commissioner. Click here for more
information about Times Bones.
Audience engagement: The Margaret Jenkins Dance Lab is
a community resource which hosts year-round programming, including,
“Leaders at the Lab,”
where leaders in the field of choreography engage in an intimate
dialogue about their work with Ms. Jenkins and the audience; CHIME
LIVE! lecture/ demonstrations with the CHIME mentorship pairs;
and a variety of open rehearsals and workshops hosted and performed
by the MJDC. These points of interaction give audiences an intimate
window into the artistic process, and deepen their experience