American Realness

Claire Cunningham and Jess Curtis

The Way You Look (at me) Tonight

Presented by Gibney Dance


Wednesday, January 10, 8:30pm
Thursday, January 11, 8:30pm with pre-show touch tour
Friday, January 12, 8:30pm with ASL interpretation
Saturday, January 13, 6:30pm 
Run Time: 100 minutes
Audio Description available every night
Gibney Dance, Studio H, 280 Broadway (Entrance at 53A Chambers Street), Manhattan
Single Tickets $25 / Gibney Festival Pass $20

Single Tickets Festival Pass

How do we look at each other? How do we allow ourselves to be seen? How do our physicalities shape how we perceive the world around us? How much can we affect the way we see others? Can we learn to see across lines of difference in new ways?

The Way You Look (at me) Tonight
is a social sculpture and sensory journey for two performers and audience. Leading UK disabled artist Claire Cunningham and San Francisco/Berlin based choreographer and performer Jess Curtis, combine performance, original music, and video to wrestle (sometimes literally) with important questions about our habits and practices of perceiving each other and the world. In collaboration with noted author and philosopher of perception Dr. Alva Noë, video artist Yoann Trellu, composer Matthias Herrmann, and dramaturge Luke Pell, Cunningham and Curtis perform an evening-length duet that excavates their own ways of seeing each other.

Funding provided by Dance/NYC’s Disability. Dance. Artistry Fund, made possible by the Ford Foundation. Additional support provided by the Mertz Gilmore Foundation.

The Way You Look (at me) Tonight was created with support from Unlimited, celebrating the work of disabled artists, using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, Arts Council of Wales, Creative Scotland and Spirit of 2012, co-commissioned by Tramway Glasgow and supported by The Place London, Norfolk & Norwich Festival and British Council; the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with additional support from The Kenneth Rainin Foundation, The San Francisco Arts Commission, The Zellerbach Family Foundation, San Francisco Grants for the Arts; Fonds Darstellende Künste, Kofinanzierungsfonds des Regierenden Bürgermeisters von Berlin – Senatskanzlei | Kulturelle Angelegenheiten.

Photo by Robbie Sweeny

Created and Performed by: Claire Cunningham and Jess Curtis
Philosophical Consultation by: Alva Noë
Dramaturgy by: Luke Pell
Video Design by: Yoann Trellu
Composed by: Matthias Hermann
Lighting Design by: Chris Copland
Costume Design by: Michiel Keuper

Claire Cunningham is a performer and creator of multi-disciplinary performance based in Glasgow, Scotland. One of the UK’s most acclaimed and internationally renowned disabled artists, Cunningham’s work is often rooted in the study and use/misuse of her crutches and the exploration of the potential of her own specific physicality with a conscious rejection of traditional dance techniques (developed for non-disabled bodies) or the attempt to move with the pretence of a body or aesthetic other than her own. A self-identifying disabled artist, Cunningham’s work combines multiple artforms and ranges from the intimate solo show ME (Mobile/Evolution) (2009), to the large ensemble work “12” made for Candoco Dance Company. In 2014 she created a new solo: Give me a reason to live, inspired by the work of Dutch medieval painter Hieronymus Bosch and the role of beggars/cripples in his work, and the full length show Guide Gods, looking at the perspectives of the major Faith traditions towards the issue of disability. She is a former Artist-in–Residence at the Women of the World Festival at the Southbank, London and of the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queens. In 2016 she is the Artist in Residence with Perth International Arts Festival, Australia and Associate Artist at Tramway, Glasgow, and she has recently been awarded an Unlimited Commission for a new duet with choreographer Jess Curtis.

Jess Curtis is an award-winning choreographer and performance artist who is committed to an art-making practice that is informed by experimentation, innovation, critical discourse, and social relevance at the intersections of fine art and popular culture. Curtis co-founded the radical performance collective CORE, and created and performed multi-disciplinary dance theater throughout the U.S., Europe, and the former Soviet Union with Contraband in the 80’s and 90’s. In 2000, after 15 years of making dance in the Bay Area as an independent choreographer, Curtis founded his own company, Jess Curtis/Gravity. Known for his interdisciplinary and cross-genre work, Curtis has collaborated with some of the most innovative artists working today, including Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Jules Beckman, Keith Hennessy, Angela Schubot, Ingo Reulecke, Jochen Roller, Sommer Ulrickson, Maria Francesca Scaroni, Jörg Müller, Claire Cunningham, and many others. He has been commissioned or co-commissioned to create works for Artblau, the LOFT Theater, Schloss Bröllin, Berlin Senat, and Fabrik Potsdam (Germany); ContactArt (Italy); Theatre de Cachan and Chien Cru (France); Blue Eyed Soul Dance Company and DaDa Fest (England); Croi Glan Integrated Dance (Ireland); Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the San Francisco Edge Festival, the Florida Dance Association/ Tigertail Productions, the National Performance Network, and ODC Theater (US.) The 2011 winner of the prestigious Alpert Award in the Arts for choreography, Curtis’s other honors include six Isadora Duncan Dance awards, a Fringe First Award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and two SF Weekly Black Box Awards. Curtis is active as an advocate and community organizer in the field of dance and disability, and teaches Dance, Contact Improvisation, and Interdisciplinary Performance for individuals of all abilities throughout the US and Europe. He has been a visiting professor at UC Berkeley and and the University of the Arts in Berlin. He holds an MFA in Choreography and PhD in Performance Studies from UC Davis.

Alva Noë is a writer and a philosopher living in Berkeley and New York. He works on the nature of mind and human experience. He is the author of Action in Perception (MIT Press, 2004); Out of Our Heads (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2009); and Varieties of Presence (Harvard University Press, 2012). The central idea of these books is that consciousness is not something that happens inside us, or to us. It is something we do. Alva’s new book on art and human nature, Strange Tools, was released by Farrar, Straus and Giroux on September 22, 2015. Alva received his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1995 and is a professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, where he is also a member of the Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences and the Center for New Media. He previously was a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He has been philosopher-in-residence with The Forsythe Company and has also collaborated with dance artists Deborah Hay, Nicole Peisl, Jess Curtis, Claire Cunningham, Katye Coe, and Charlie Morrissey. Alva is a 2012 recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship and a former fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. He is a weekly contributor to National Public Radio’s science blog 13.7: Cosmos and Culture.

Luke Pell is fascinated by detail, nuances of time, texture, memory and landscape, He is an artist living in Scotland working in and in between spaces of dance, theatre and live art. A maker and curator, he collaborates with other artists and organizations imagining alternative contexts for performance, participation and discourse that might reveal wisdoms for living. Noticing threads that weave between people and place his work takes form as intimate encounters, poetic objects, installations and designed environments for physical and virtual spaces. Approaching these large and small-scale works as responsive dances and choreographies that attend to notions of loss and landscape, memory and materiality through the poetry of the body. Committed to artist and art-form development Pell’s curatorial projects create spaces for artists and experts from different fields and realities to gather and explore relationships between words and movement, periphery and community. Arriving at new perspectives, articulations and understandings of what it is to be in the world, through interdisciplinary collaboration. Pell is an Associate Artist with Candoco Dance Company, Fevered Sleep and Janice Parker Projects.

Yoann Trellu is a french video artist based in Berlin since 2003. He started working with live projections in Nantes, France, in 1999, first using photography and slide projections, but quickly moved to computer, video projection and real time media software such as Max/Msp/Jitter. He creates video content and develop custom video applications for performance and theater. Since 10 years he worked on more than 40 productions in Germany, France and USA: Post-Theater (Berlin, New York, Tokyo), Konzert theater Bern (Switzerland), Landestheater Coburg (Germany), Jess Curtis-Gravity (Berlin, San-Francisco), Tatraum Projekte Schmidt (Germany), Ten Pen Chii (Berlin), Shang Chi Sun (Berlin, Taiwan), Junge Staatsoper (Berlin), Theater Strahl (Berlin).

Matthias Hermann studied cello with Rudolf Mandalka at the Robert Schumann Hochschule, Düsseldorf, Germany. He has created numerous award-winning scores for the productions of international dance theatre companies including Do Theater (St. Petersburg, Russia), Fabrik Company (Potsdam, Germany), Howard Katz (Berlin/New York) and Jess Curtis/Gravity (San Francisco/Berlin). He co-founded the internationally touring band PostHolocaustPop.

Chris Copland graduated from Goldsmiths College with a MA Theatre Arts in 2001. He has worked extensively in theatre and dance since 1993. He has worked as Production Manager for such companies as Bedlam Dance, Nigel Charnock, Ursula Martinez, Laila Diallo and Wendy Houstoun, and Flexer & Sandiland amongst many others. Lighting design credits include “Stupid Men”, “One Dixon Road” and “Ten Men” for Nigel Charnock: “Ostrich” for H2 Dance: “Heart of Darkness’ and “City of Tribes” for Tavaziva Dance: “Still” for Candoco, “My Stories Your emails’ and Free Admission for Ursula Martinez: “All Ears’ for Kate McIntosh: “Pact with Pointlessness” for Wendy Houstoun. Chris also regularly lectures in acting and devising for the theatre.

Michiel Keuper graduated in fashion design from ArtEz the Institute of the Arts in Arnhem (NL). With his fashion label Keupr/van Bentm he presented his collections during Paris Fashion Week for several years and his autonomous fashion work has been included in museum collections and has been exhibited internationally. Alongside working as a freelance women’s wear designer for companies such as G-star RAW and PUMA Black Station, he has been teaching design at BA and MA courses in the Netherlands and Germany. In the past years he extended his practice to fine arts, performance and art direction, involving painting, set and costume design for contemporary dance as well as singing. Recently he has worked with Hana Lee Erdman, Jeremy Wade, Miguel Gutierrez, Antonija Lvingstone and Sheena McGrandles.

“It’s an eclectic, provocative and often fascinating view of the capabilities of the human form, of social perceptions, and of how far the art of dance can be pushed.”
– The San Francisco Chronicle

“I have never been so transfixed.”
– The Glasgow Guardian

“Walking into a dance rehearsal, one doesn’t expect to see a philosophy professor rolling on the floor doing contact improvisation. But when the choreographer is Jess Curtis, it’s best to expect the unexpected.”
– The San Francisco Chronicle

“The evening was a thought-provoking, thought-challenging experience that left me more aware of my preconceptions about myself and about others, and prodded me to choose my thoughts more carefully.”
– Leigh Donlan, Ballet to the People

Watch Me Watch You
Workshop with Jess Curtis & Claire Cunningham
Part of Movement Research MELT Winter 2018

Monday – Friday, January 15-19, 3:30-6:30pm

Abrons Arts Center, Studio G05
$175, Register at

Drawing on scores, ideas, and themes from their work The Way You Look (at me) Tonight — developed in collaboration with philosopher of perception Alva Noë — Curtis and Cunningham lead an investigation through movement, language, writing, watching, listening and feeling, of how difference — of physicality or lived experience — can shape, and is shaped by, the way we ‘perform’ our perceptions. This workshop is accessible to people of diverse physicalities.