FOUNDER | ARTISTIC DIRECTOR
Margaret Jenkins is a choreographer, teacher, and mentor to many artists as well as a designer of unique community-based dance projects. Jenkins began her early training in San Francisco at the Peters Wright School of Dance. In the sixties, she moved to New York to study at Juilliard, continued her training at UCLA and returned to New York to dance in the companies of Jack Moore, Viola Farber, Judy Dunn, James Cunningham, Gus Solomons, Jr. and Twyla Tharp's original company with Sara Rudner. In addition, Jenkins was a member of the faculty of the Merce Cunningham Studio and restaged his works for companies in Europe and the United States for over 12 years.
In 1970 Jenkins returned to San Francisco, and in 1973, formed the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company (MJDC). She opened one of the West Coast's first studio-performing spaces and a school for the training of professional modern dancers. This venue quickly became the center for local and traveling companies to show their work. Viola Farber and Merce Cunningham were frequent guests, and dozens of young choreographers had the chance to experiment and take risks. This San Francisco rehearsal and performance space also became the "stage" for Jenkins and her Company. Jenkins takes great pride in being one part of the revitalization of the West Coast as a major center for dance activity. In 2022/2023, Jenkins will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of her Company.
In the last five decades, she has created an impressive body of work, with over 90 works created on her Company, as well as resident companies in the United States, Asia and Europe. Jenkins has received commissions from renowned national and international arts presenters and cultural institutions, including the Clarice Smith Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Maryland, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA), The Dance Center of Columbia College in Chicago, National Dance Project (NDP), Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, Arizona State University, University of Arizona, New Dance Ensemble in Minneapolis, Repertory Dance Theatre in Salt Lake City, Oakland Ballet, Cullberg Ballet of Sweden, and Ginko, a modern dance company in Tokyo, Japan. In 2008, Jenkins was commissioned to create a new work, Thread, for the 75th anniversary of the San Francisco Ballet. In addition, she has set work on dancers within various college and university dance departments.
From 2006 - 2014, Ms. Jenkins' choreographic attention was focused on cross-cultural collaborations between her Company and international artists, including the Tanusree Shankar Dance Company of India, and the Guangzhou Modern Dance Company of China and the Amir Kolben Company of Israel. She has also developed ambitious multi-disciplinary works such as Light Moves, an evening-length dance created in collaboration with visual and media artist Naomie Kremer. A proponent of a fully realized collaborative art, Jenkins has worked with writer Michael Palmer throughout her career, as well as designer Alexander V. Nichols and composer Paul Dresher for over 37 years. Other important collaborators to Ms. Jenkins have been writer, singer, performance artist Rinde Eckert and music and visual arts luminaries including Terry Allen, Alvin Curran, David Lang, Bruce Nauman, Yoko Ono among others.
In 2007, Jenkins and her Company performed in a poetry and dance festival in Tokyo, Japan, which featured Michael Palmer. They conducted a five-city domestic tour of A Slipping Glimpse including performances in India. The complete Other Suns trilogy had its world premiere in September 2009 at YBCA, followed by a highly successful five-week tour in the U.S. and a tour of China. In 2013, Jenkins and her Company traveled to Israel for a month-long residency with the Kolben Dance Company of Jerusalem to collaborate on a new work that premiered during the MJDC's 40th Anniversary Season after which they returned to Israel for its premiere in Jerusalem. The Company has toured extensively in Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union and to Sweden between 1989 and 2018.
As an organizer and enthusiast for dance, Jenkins served as Artistic Consultant to Dance About, a dance facility at the UC Berkeley Extension in San Francisco; sat on the steering committee for the 2002 International Women's Day Conference in San Francisco; and she facilitated a showcase for presenters to be introduced to the work of Swedish choreographers in Stockholm. She was a founding member of the Bay Area Dance Coalition and of Dance/USA, serving on its first Boardss of Directors and six years on the Board of Directors of YBCA in San Francisco. She remains an active participant on panels across the United States.
Jenkins is committed to advancing the health and future of the field of dance through a variety of projects. In 2004, she and her Company launched CHIME (Choreographers in Mentorship Exchange). CHIME is a unique ongoing mentorship program that fosters creative exchange and long-term relationships between emerging and established choreographers, creating an arena for the critical analysis of choreography outside of the academic environment. Coinciding with the commencement of CHIME, she opened her new studio, the Margaret Jenkins Dance Lab, which for 15 years was her home and a welcome arena for other working artists. Her newest program Encounters over 60 which launched in 2019 continues.
Jenkins conceived The National Dance Lab (NDL) a "product-driven," as opposed to "market-driven," model for creativity in the performing arts. Jenkins has also helped to structure and implement Choreographers in Action (CIA), a unique gathering of Bay Area choreographers who, in combination and collaboration, posit solutions to the myriad of issues that surround the working artist. Similarly, Jenkins was one of the founding members of the Center for Creative Research (CCR) based in New York, which was a collection of eleven senior choreographers who came together under the leadership of Sam Miller and Dana Whitco to create artistic research residencies within universities.
For her unique artistic vision, Jenkins has received numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Irvine Fellowship in Dance, the San Francisco Arts Commission Award of Honor, three Isadora Duncan Awards (Izzies), a Sustained Achievement award in 2015, and the Bernard Osher Cultural Award for her outstanding contributions to the arts community in San Francisco and the Bay Area. April 24, 2003 was declared "Margaret Jenkins Day" by San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown. On that day, she also received a Governor's Commendation from Governor Gray Davis. In 2013, she was awarded a residency at The Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center in Italy.