Freedom Practice

freedom practice is a container jesse hewit and i work with in teaching situations. here’s our letter to participants. anyone can be a participant. find a friend or several and talk about the slippery and multifarious concept of “freedom.”

the quotidian practice (homework) is included at the bottom.

Dear Freedom Practitioners,

An observation/proposal from Larry and Jesse:

Freedom comes from disruption, comes from feeling familiarity, comes from sudden dislocation and disorientation. So arguably, making art and thinking about the power of art are both processes of getting free. It’s a weird and humbling thing to think about, as we are – more than ever – so hugely aware of how embedded we are in the prisons and ruts of contemporary social and political systems. But when we look around and feel scared and frustrated, the two of us can’t shake the feeling that we have a choice; and the choice is about what we practice*. And so, Freedom Practice is about studying our quotidian impulses and behaviors, and learning their innards in a effort to infuse beauty, hope, and impracticality into each and every little thing we do.

But… it’s fucking personal. So, we need you to collaborate with us, please. We need you to ignite your own ideas and experiences of choice, of resistance, of madness, of body intelligence and survival. We want to build a new behavior, and this time of practicing with you is our research. We hoped that dropping the word “freedom” – as an object – into a text about a dance workshop might get your mind working on how, with our dance/art practice, we can begin to re-animate such a word; a word that comes with such a big blasting bombastic charge (a charge that is sometimes useful and other times not useful at all). It seems that a word like FREEDOM gets tossed around with such frequency that its potency becomes diluted by the sheer volume of its occurrence. Still… we think that we kinda know exactly what we mean, when we say FREEDOM. It’s a bodily state. It’s a way of being together. And when we can’t muster much action around any of this, it is at least an intention. One distillation of all of this is what ye olde dictionary (online) says, just to get pedantic on ourselves:

freedom- the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action


So…In order to really work at generating new theories that can come from any direction in the room, we want to address FREEDOM in relation to the teaching environment. It is both personally and politically important to us to complicate the codified nature of the dance workshop. In an attempt to activate that definition, we came up with a couple of ideas to lay out as a baseline for how we engage with each other during Freedom PRACTICE.


-whoever shows up are the right people.

-whatever happens is what happened.

-all systems of value are by their nature subjective. questions of good and bad / right and wrong can be engaged however the systems / ideas that created those values should also be engaged.

-the structures of power in this room are subjective. jesse and larry are acting as teachers and will thereby be negotiating within and around the precarious framework of the workshop. there are implicit dynamics of power in that framework. engage / question/ submit / refuse/ play with that as you see fit. as an aside we’ll ask you consider the group body and be respectful of the other folks in the room.

-nobody in this room is accountable for being entertaining / pleasing / interesting / clever / beautiful / ugly etc. for yourself or for anyone else. You can always  however, choose to personally engage these qualities and thrill yourself.

-You are encouraged to recognize that you are constantly making choices. We propose that agency and choice can be quiet and small, and can also be huge and momentous. There is so much active power in us. Therefore, we invite you to constantly question and investigate HOW and WHY you make these choices.

-What else?

this list will get complicated as the week goes on. we want your input and want to practice strategizing freedom TOGETHER. So if you’ve got thoughts you wanna share, do it!

We’ll include the workshop description here:


Freedom Practice leans into and tones the necessary behaviors to exist in a politicized body. Guided by concepts of resistance, joy, and obsession, we believe in enacting a continuous state of research and improvisation, in articulating the wild and contradictory powers and ideas of the dancing body, and in allowing the grit and madness of our contemporary state to fuel our physical impulses. This workshop will focus on: long-form ecstatic moving states to push the breakage of pattern/posturing in our performance practices; focused sensory response research to identify which elements we each have the strongest individual dynamics with; total image ball/runway/witnessed solos to create dreams and magic and instant art works; and texts and discussion about bodies, time, and what’s going on around us.

We’ll be working the studio, but as a counter-point we’ll also be engaging “quotidian practices.” We’ll create scores/rituals that we can take home and invite into the minutiae of our bodies, our homes, our beds, our dreams. We extend the practice to excavate the creative viability of the big wide world around us. Using the practice as both a personal and political tool to unlock the total possibility of LIVING ART. Let’s try hard! It is our personal belief, that the world needs these shake ups RIGHT. now. The potential of art/creativity/ritual/magic need to be unhinged from the pivots of “career” and “profession,” and allowed to seep into the totality of our being/living.


We’re fucking stoked.

with love,

Jesse and Larry

*The variant contexts of freedom require some contextualizing for a dance class. There is a Prison Industrial Complex, child slavery, still-unmitigated worldwide effects of the Atlantic slave trade, but that doesn’t mean we can’t discuss freedom as a personal thing. We focus on the frame of the dance class while still considering the myriad of other reads freedom has as a wide-ranging and often brutal issue,  not necessarily out of guilt so much as out of a desire to build culture that acknowledges wider political context gracefully, mirthfully, and with integrity.

quotidian practice day 1/ PLEASURE BINGE

quotidian practice day 2 / SCALES

quotidian practice day 3 / SUBMISSION

quotidian practice day 4 / DESIRECHOICEDESIRE

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ADULT -we recognize that one thing does not lead to the next

i normally don’t care so much about providing dramaturgical and personal inspiration for work i make. ADULT is something else, and while i’m not so worried about it making sense, i want to share some of where the work is located in both jesse and my body. so here are some big wide open doors.

“The great scientific simplification of psychoanalysis is the concept that the whole of early experience is an attempt by the child to deny the anxiety of his emergence, his fear of losing his support, of standing alone, helpless and afraid. The child’s character, his style of life, is his way of using the power of others, the support of the things and ideas of his culture, to banish from his awareness the actual fact of his natural impotence. Not only his impotence to avoid death, but his impotence to stand alone, firmly rooted on his own powers. In the face of the terror of the world, the miracle of creation, the crushing power of reality, not even the tiger has secure and limitless power, much less the child. His world is a transcendent mystery; even the parents to whom he relates in a natural and secure dependency are primary miracles. How else could they appear? The mother is the first awesome miracle that haunts the child his whole life, whether he lives within her powerful aura or rebels against it. The superordinacy of his world intrudes upon him in the form of fantastic faces smiling up close through gaping teeth, rolling eery eyes, piercing him from afar with burning and threatening glances. He lives in a world of flesh-and-blood Kwakiutl masks that mock his self-sufficiency. The only way he could securely oppose them would be to know that he is as godlike as they, but he can never know this straightforwardly and unambiguously. There is no secure answer to the awesome mystery of the human face that scrutinizes itself in the mirror; no answer, at any rate, that can come from the person himself, from his own center. One’s own face may be godlike in its miraculousness, but one lacks the godlike power to know what it means, the godlike strength to have been responsible for its emergence.
In these way, then, we understand that if the child were to give in to the overpowering character of reality and experience he would not be able to act with the kind of equanimity we need in our non-instinctive world. So one of the first things a child has to do is to learn to ‘abandon ecstasy,’ to do without awe, to leave fear and trembling behind. Only then can he act with a certain oblivious self-confidence, when he has naturalized his world. We say ‘naturalized’but we mean unnaturalized, falsified, with the truth obscured, the despair of the human condition hidden, a despair that the child glimpses in his night terrors and daytime phobias and neuroses. This despair he avoids by building defenses; and these defenses allow him to feel a basic sense of self-worth, of meaningfulness, of power. They allow him to feel that he controlshis life and his death, that he really does live and act as a willful free individual, that he has a unique and self-fashioned identity, that he is somebody—not just a trembling accident germinated on a hothouse planet that Carlyle for all time called a ‘hall of doom.’”
Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death


Musee des Beaux Arts

W. H. Auden

About suffering they were never wrong,

The old Masters: how well they understood

Its human position: how it takes place

While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;

How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting

For the miraculous birth, there always must be

Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating

On a pond at the edge of the wood:

They never forgot

That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course

Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot

Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse

Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away

Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may

Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,

But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone

As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green

Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen

Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,

Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.


“It’s not that students don’t “get” Kafka’s humor but that we’ve taught them to see humor as something you get — the same way we’ve taught them that a self is something you just have. No wonder they cannot appreciate the really central Kafka joke — that the horrific struggle to establish a human self results in a self whose humanity is inseparable from that horrific struggle. That our endless and impossible journey toward home is in fact our home. It’s hard to put into words up at the blackboard, believe me. You can tell them that maybe it’s good they don’t “get” Kafka. You can ask them to imagine his art as a kind of door. To envision us readers coming up and pounding on this door, pounding and pounding, not just wanting admission but needing it, we don’t know what it is but we can feel it, this total desperation to enter, pounding and pushing and kicking, etc. That, finally, the door opens…and it opens outward: we’ve been inside what we wanted all along. Das ist komisch.”

David Foster Wallace, Consider the Lobster and Other Essays

what do you get when you cross a dick and a potato?
a dictator

what do you get if you shrink that dictator and make him very very small.


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ADULT by Jarry (Laura Arrington and Jesse Hewit)
July 8-14 Ponderosa Tanzland (residency/teaching)
July 17, 18, 19, 20 Doc 11 Berlin Germany (performances)
July 22-26 workshop Firkin Crane, Cork Ireland
July 26 Firkin Crane (performance)
September 12-22 PICA’s TBA Festival

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2013 Jesse Hewit and I begin work on ADULT

First Work in progress showing Feb 1-3rd at CounterPULSE. ADULT is an attempt to create a work that visually and choreographically honors/satirizes/queers/exploits/cradles collectively expressed ideas about living and dying, whilst structurally reconfiguring how we understand the building of a career, previously based on an accumulation of pieces (a fear of scarcity?), and
now based on a long-term inquiry into how ideas and interests and affinities simply do grow and change. We hysterically celebrate that we ultimately make the same piece over and over again, we costume ourselves as the monsters that we always knew we were, we reject the construct of a finished work and instead invest in the rigor of a truthfully fragile composition that exists in a LIVE space. It is a reflection of how we see our world and our lives already beginning to wind
down to an end, and we are exploring the states of life and death in that context of experience.
Feb 1-3rd Work in Progress at CounterPULSE
March- Headlands Residency
Fall Premiere TBD

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Friends and Neighbors! It seems I’ve been utter crap at updating the ole website. The last few months have had me sucked up into a project I could write a damn book about, Keith Hennessy’s Turbulence
Though we’ve been touring/working for almost 2 years, we’re about to “premiere” at PICA’s TBA festival, we’ll then be heading to Seattle, San Francisco, and New York. Come see us!
Here’s Keith’s description of the work

Performer/collaborators: Julie Phelps, Emily Leap, Laura Arrington, Jesse Hewit, Jorge De Hoyos, Hana Erdman (Berlin/SF), Gabriel Todd, Ruairi O’Donovan (Cork), Empress Jupiter, Keith Hennessy, with additional guest artists at each venue.

Unstable structures supported by unsustainable systems, this dance cannot stand up on its own. Turbulence (a dance about the economy) is a bodily response to economic crisis.

Turbulence engages the frictions between economic crisis, disaster capitalism, debt, precarity, propaganda, torture, union busting, magic, collaboration, war, and physical performance.

Instigated before the recent Occupy Wall Street actions, Turbulence is intended as both provocation and affirmation of global movement for economic justice.

Responding both to economic and ecological crises, Turbulence is an experiment not only in performance, but also in developing alternative modes of producing performance. Integrating new cast members (as generative collaborators) for each performance, the work resists fixed or predetermined outcomes. Improvisation is both survival strategy and political tactic. The economy of making dances and being a dancer will focus the investigation of this research-based performance experiment.

Accumulating dances, images, texts, and tactics with each cast, the process was tested at venues in San Francisco, Stolzenhagen and Vienna in 2011. The work will continue to be developed in Portand, SF, Stolzenhagen and Pontempeyrat through 2012.

The US premier of Turbulence will be at PICA’s TBA Festival September 12-15, 2012, followed by performances in Seattle at Velocity Dance Center Sep 20-21, in SF at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Sep 27-29, and at New York Live Arts Oct 4-6, 2012.

2011 residencies include Ponderosa (Stolzenhagen, Jul 18-23), Impulstanz (Vienna, Aug 1-5), and CounterPULSE (San Francisco, Dec 10-18).

Summer 2012 residencies include Regards et Mouvements (Pontempeyrat, France), PICA (Portland), CounterPULSE (SF) and Ponderosa (Stolzenhagen).

Portland: Roya Amirsoleymani, Keyon Gaskin, Takahiro Yamamoto
Seattle: Markeith Wiley, Joan Hanna (tentative)
San Francisco: Ray Chung, others TBA
New York: Ishmael Houston-Jones, Dana Michel (Montréal), other TBA.

Turbulence was made possible by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Projet, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and additional funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the MetLife Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Additional funding includes Zellerbach Family Foundation, the New Stages in Dance grant, and the SF Arts Commission OPG.

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Lab/class/work with me at The Off Center…

a weekly dance/performance class with Laura Arrington and whoever shows up.

What are you interested in and how do you participate with it? wait, what? Why do we make work? why do we perform? what does that even mean? what are you talking about? what is training, does it help? wait, help who? who needs help? well, we all need help. we do? and we all need to help eachother. we do?
this class is about us helping eachother get better at helping the work by being obsessed with what we do, be it ballet or burlesque. we’ll do a lot of stuff.
Tuesdays 10-1130ish beginning March 6th
$5-10 suggested NOTAFLOF

848 Divisidero, at McAllister

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Video of WAG-Dec, 2011 Z Space/the dog show

Here’s a teensy little reel of clips from wag!

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Photos from Wag 12/08 Z Space Theater

These were taken by the talented Robbie Sweeny. Thanks to all who came out to see the work.

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The Dog Show December 8-11, 2011 Z Space

Save the date. We’re workin hard on our new work Wag

*we’d like to thank KUNST-STOFF ARTS for supporting us with a generous space residency. This work was also supported by Headlands Center for the Arts, Dancer’s Group New Stages for dance program, CounterPULSE, THEOFFCENTER, Thetare Bay Area’s CA$H Grant, and Zellerbach Family Foundation

Press Release

The Dog Show
Laura Arrington and Jesse Hewit/Strong Behavior
Thursday, December 8 – Sunday, December 11 at 8pm (Sunday at 7pm)at Z Space.

San Francisco, December 2011–The Dog Show is a shared evening of two premiere performance works; Wag by Laura Arrington and Freedom by Jesse Hewit/Strong Behavior.

Wag and Freedom are interrogations of domestication, love, and our constantly fluctuating ability to create our own selves. We dig through the catastrophic nature of power, invert the ways that dominant narratives about us have become formed and locked, and work to subvert the muddying fear of our deep and dynamic capabilities as animals/doers/creators/killers. We’re fighting to learn more about our roles, and simultaneously, we’re fighting to get free.

Both works are made possible through funding from the New Stages for Dance pilot award, The Zellerbach Family Foundation, Theater Bay Area’s CA$H Grants, and production support from Z Space, CounterPULSE, TheOffCenter, and Dancers’ group.

About Arrington’s Wag:
The fox has been domesticated; friendlier and with a new coat. The dog knows to wag his tail before we get in the door. Love is a competition on TV, and queers demand the right to fight in the army and get legally married. We make shows for granting institutions and write press releases for folks we don’t know. We all work in systems and systems are always working on us. Wag measures the spaces between obedience and loyalty, exploring how we create structure in society, love, and family. Influenced by the foxes new coat and the feeling of a broken heart, Wag’s process has been one of cultivating discipline and obedience, pushing past duty in an attempt to find something else, to transcend the score, and move beyond the structure.

Laura Arrington directs Atosa Babaoff, Rachael Dichter, Mica Sigourney, and Liz Tenuto in a new performance work with lighting by Darl Andrew Packard.
Wag imagines that the world is ending. It has always been ending. It’s just happening very slowly.

About Hewit’s Freedom:
Freedom investigates the possibility of inverting dominant narratives about media-created “monsters.” It is a visual and sonic reproach to assumptions about who is good and who is evil and why. In Freedom, we embark on the execution of large visceral actions, and reconsider why our responses to such actions come out looking like they do. Are we jealous of the manifestation of impulse? Are we antagonized by sexuality? Are we quite afraid of our own selves and what we are capable of? How do “monster” narratives keep us safe from ourselves, but also securely trapped in a political system fueled by demonization, assumed pathologies, and constant moral panics? How is it that we are and are not free?

Jesse Hewit directs and choreographs in collaboration with performers Melecio Estrella, Evan Johnson, Shawnrey Notto, and Loren Robertson, with lighting by Jerry Lee Abram, sound by Robbie Beahrs, and looks by Dia Vergados.
Freedom is a contemporary confession/act of defiance about how wild and violent and capable we really are.

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another little workshop opp. with brother Jesse Hewit.

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