Dance Brigade is sumptuous dancing; biting, intellectual, insightful wit; and provocative originality. This dynamic multi-racial troupe of women proves that socially relevant dance can be technically brilliant, as well as exuberant with down-home hilarious fun. This company dances at full throttle. Artistic Director, Krissy Keefer explores the intersection between art and social issues with fierce inventiveness and a deft comic touch. Her content driven choreographies are a high-energy blend of ballet, modern dance, jazz, song, text, sign language and explosive Taiko drumming. The company has created over 10 full-length concerts of contemporary dance theater including Pandora's Box, Ballet of the Banshees, Cinderella, Queen of Sheba, CaveWomen, Spell, The Revolutionary Nutcracker Sweetie, and The Great Liberation Upon Hearing. For these productions, they received numerous grants and awards. Dance Brigade resides in the heart of the Mission District in San Francisco at Dance Mission Theater, where they operate a 140-seat theater, dance studios, adult and youth classes, Grrrl Brigade and produce groundbreaking events.
In 1984 Krissy Keefer and Nina Fichter, original members of Wallflower Order, founded Dance Brigade to create and perform dance-theater that addresses the complex problems of contemporary American women. Artistic Director Krissy Keefer co-founded the Wallflower Order in 1975 as the nation’s first feminist dance company. Wallflower toured the nation for almost a decade, and staged many original pieces before large, enthusiastic, and predominantly feminist audiences. They developed a new kind of modern dance-theater that was stylistically rooted in martial arts, athleticism, and social justice. As the Wallflower Order’s members went their separate ways, Keefer and Fichter created the Dance Brigade to carry forward their activist vision. Their original works continued to explore social issues such as war, poverty, breast cancer, women’s history, death and dying, and spirituality from a feminist perspective.
In 1998, Dance Brigade began to operate Dance Mission at 24th and Mission Streets in San Francisco. At Dance Mission, they created an affordable 140-seat theater and rehearsal space for San Francisco dancers and artists. They expanded the Adult and Youth Dance Programs to include a full range of dance classes in Hip-Hop, Salsa, Bhangra, Brazilian, Bollywood, Afro-Haitian, modern, ballet and more. Some of the groundbreaking events Dance Brigade has presented and pioneered include the CubaCaribe Festival, SkyDancers, Women on the Drum, Women Against War, and the Manifesti-val for Social Change. Each year Dance Mission helps emerging artists launch their professional careers through the bi-annual Choreographers Showcase and the Down & Dirty Dance Series. In 2004, the Grrrl Brigade was formed as an intensive dance/leadership development program designed to provide high quality dance training, performance opportunities, and a sense of self-empowerment for San Francisco's girls ages 9 to18. This program began with 10 girls and has now over 60 girls participating.
Krissy Keefer has a long history of collaborating with a wide array of artists, companies and non-arts community groups. In the highly successful 2002 & 2008 productions of Women Against War at the Herbst Theater, she brought together prominent feminist activists, veteran feminist musicians, both established and emerging dance companies, and Grrrl Brigade. In 2006, Dance Brigade performed as the Greek chorus in San Jose Repertory Theatre’s production Euripides’s anti-war play, Iphigenia at Aulis, directed by Timothy Near. Keefer served as co-director and choreographer for this production. In 2008, she also worked with feminist scholars and students in the New College Women’s Spirituality Masters’ Program and with Quan Yin Healing Arts Center to create “The Valencia Street Project,” honoring 30 years of local feminist history and institution building through original dance theater and public education events.
Keefer’s latest work on death and dying was a fiery interpretation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead called The Great Liberation Upon Hearing. The performances were enthusiastically received by sold out audiences at both Dance Mission in February 2009 and at Laney College in Oakland in November 2009. An adaptation of Great Liberation was performed at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival August 2010. In 2011 The Great Liberation Upon Hearing will tour to New York City for week of performances at the Dance Theater Workshop and back to San Francisco for a run at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.
With the creation of the Grrrl Brigade, the Dance Brigade has revived choreography and adapted material to reflect current events to teach to the girls. In May 2010, the girls performed a version of “On the Edge of the World, a People’s History of the U.S.” Dance Brigade originally performed this production in 1992 to mark the quincentennial of Columbus’ voyage to the New World. The revival was to honor the late Howard Zinn who past away early 2010. This December (2010) the Grrrl Brigade will perform in the 4th annual revival of The Revolutionary Nutcracker Sweetie at the Brava Theater along with the teachers and students of Dance Missions Youth Program. This mesmerizing adaptation is loads of holiday fun while in Dance Brigade fashion is poignant and eye-opening.
Dance Brigade has two new projects in the works. Krissy Keefer is collaborating with Director Emeritus of San Jose Repertory, Timothy Near and playwright Aaron Loeb along with the Iraq Veterans Against the War to create Shooting Rabbits, dance drama addressing the high rate of suicide amongst Veterans. This will be presented in November 2011.
In the wake of the Gulf oil spill, Dance Brigade is performing a new piece called, Swan Song as part of the 2010 up coming Manifesti-val for Social Change. This year’s Manifesti-val, Like Oil and Water is going to be 2 weekends, November 12 21 at Dance Mission Theater and will feature other Bay Area activist performers.