One man at UCD has danced his way to success.
Keith Hennessy, who teaches the class “Theater, Performance and Culture” at UCD this Winter Quarter, ended 2012 with quite a bang: he received a prestigious award from the United States Arts Fellowship for his contributions to the field of dance.
Hennessy is perhaps most well known as the founder and artistic director of Zero Performance and Circo Zero, “a contemporary circus,” according to the press release Cirque du Soleil with modern influences. According to the official website, Hennessy’s circuses “make live performance sparked by current and historic social realities.” Among dance performances, Zero Performance is unique in that it encourages interaction between the audience and the dancers themselves. “It fuses performance art with community activism while often breaking the barrier between audience and performer,” declared the USA Fellowship press release.
Zero Performance also stands out due to its interdisciplinary nature. Unique in the world of dance, the show is highly experimental, often changing with the times. “Rooted in contemporary dance and performance we also engage circus, theatre, music, visual and conceptual art. Under the influence of queer ideas, aesthetics and histories, Zero Performance evolves performance language and builds community through collaboration, crossing lines of artistic discipline, personal and cultural identity, and social expectations,” the website stated.
After founding Zero Performance in 2001, Hennessy went on to obtain his Master of Fine Arts in Choreography from UCD in 2007 and is now heading for his Ph.D. He continues to work on his performances, expanding and changing them.
While the Fellowship is a high honor, it is not the first award that Hennessy has received. In 1999, 2000 and 2009 he was the recipient of Isadora Duncan Dance Awards. Additionally, his 2009 performance “Crotch”–based on the works of artist Joseph Beuys–won a Bessie Award.
“Keith is one of the most important performers in the Bay area,” stated Lynette Hunter, chair of the Department of Theater and Dance, one of Hennessy’s teachers and his contemporary. “It’s very challenging working with him because the quality of the work is outstanding. He is a long term social justice activist; he has really been one of the most dedicated and committed people.” Regarding Hennessy’s Fellowship, Hunter stated that, “It’s probably the most important annual award in the United States.”
When asked what’s next for Hennessy, Hunter said, “Keith is one of those people that really recognizes that there’s so much more to done. He understands that if he really wants to articulate social values, he can do it through his performances.”
BRETT BUNGE can be reached at email@example.com.