I’m sick of the left policing itself to the exclusion of movement building. I’m sick of mainstream culture demanding that I name my desires on an hourly basis so that I can rush to Amazon and fulfill those desires through consumption or shout someone else’s desires down on social media. I’m sick of a culture that enabled a narcissist to be elected who now “governs” based on the myopic whims of his lumbering ego.
I want to refuse these distortions of self.
And I still want to listen my desires. Aren’t they the key to my freedom?
How do we create ourselves on the cultural margins without succumbing to the toxic trappings of selfhood that drive the mainstream? How do we free ourselves without using the “master’s tools” (Audre Lorde)?
In this struggle, I place faith in poetry. Because “poetic language erodes and destroys the subject.” (Judith Butler) Poetry can unmake the self that culture has made. Poetry can create space for a self that does not belong. Because “what does not belong in this world is the only thing worth making.” (Paul Chan).
When I speak of poetry, I speak of dance.
My primary tool in making dance is deconstruction. I break down movement to get at strangeness. I break down movement to excavate a voice closer to the bone. Making a dance feels like doing a million close readings—of the body. I break down movement to get somewhere unfamiliar. Because “we are most ourselves when we are not ourselves.” (Hilton Als). I break down movement to push against the traditions of white formalism that have shaped me (Merce Cunningham, Trisha Brown, Lucinda Childs).
I don’t know where I’m going but I’ll get there in fragments. Maybe in the spaces between fragments there is a possibility of belonging to something bigger than me. Something oceanic.
Hope Mohr is a choreographer, curator and writer. She trained at S.F. Ballet School, studied theater at Yale and earned her B.A. at Stanford, where she wrote her honors thesis on the women's movement in Nicaragua. After working as an Americorps Team Leader in South Central LA, Mohr moved to NYC to train on scholarship at the Merce Cunningham and Trisha Brown Studios. She performed in the companies of dance pioneers Lucinda Childs and Trisha Brown. Passionate about pursuing both community organizing and dance, Mohr earned a J.D. from Columbia Law School, where she was a Columbia Human Rights Fellow. In 2007, Mohr returned to San Francisco to establish Hope Mohr Dance to create, present and foster outstanding art at the intersection of critical thinking and the body. Mohr has held residencies at Stanford Arts Institute, ODC Theater, Montalvo Arts Center, and the Interdisciplinary Laboratory for Art, Nature and Dance. She was named to the YBCA 100 in 2015 and was a 2016 Fellow at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. She recently held open rehearsals at SFMOMA as part of painter Liam Everett's 2017 SECA Award exhibit. HMD's signature curatorial platform the Bridge Project approaches curating as community organizing to convene cultural conversations that cross discipline, geography, and perspective. Mohr's work organizing programs to support other artists “goes beyond [her] work as choreographer and artistic director to lead processes often executed by performing arts presenters and venues” (ODC Theater Director Julie Potter). In 2014, Dance Magazine editor-in-chief Wendy Perron named Mohr as one of the “women leaders” in the dance field. HMD is currently a company in residence at ODC Theater. 2017 is the 10th anniversary of Hope Mohr Dance.
Hope Mohr founded Hope Mohr Dance in 2007 after performing around the world in the companies of a number of pioneers of modern dance, including Trisha Brown, Lucinda Childs, and Margaret Jenkins. She trained at San Francisco Ballet School and on scholarship at the Merce Cunningham and Trisha Brown Studios in New York. While in New York, Mohr also freelanced with Liz Gerring, Douglas Dunn, Trajal Herrell, and Pat Catterson.
Mohr studied theater at Yale and then transferred to Stanford, where she earned her B.A. in women’s studies ('94). She earned a J.D. from Columbia while dancing professionally. She has taught dance around the world, including at the London School of Contemporary Dance, P.A.R.T.S. in Brussels, UCLA Department of World Arts and Cultures, Stanford University, and the Trisha Brown Studio.
In 2015, Mohr was named one of the YBCA 100, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts' annual nationwide compilation of artists posing important questions about contemporary culture. She was named to the YBCA 100 in 2015 and was a 2016 YBCA Fellow. Mohr has enjoyed residencies at the Stanford Arts Institute, ODC Theater; Montalvo Arts Center; and Jennifer Monson’s Interdisciplinary Laboratory for Art, Nature and Dance. She was a two-time participant in Choreographers in Mentorship Exchange, a program of the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company, with mentor Dana Reitz (2014) and Molissa Fenley (2009). In 2015, she co-directed Anne Carson's Antigonick with Mark Jackson for Shotgun Players in Berkeley. In 2005 she assisted Lucinda Childs on Dr. Atomic for S.F. Opera. Mohr and poet Brenda Hillman were nominated for an Isadora Duncan Dance Award for their text for Mohr’s Far From Perfect (2010). Mohr’s article The Language of the Listening Body was published in Women & Performance: a journal of feminist theory.
Since her 1994 choreographic debut in ODC’s Pilot 13, Mohr has presented her work throughout the country, including at the Alvin Ailey Center and Judson Church in New York, Velocity in Seattle, and The Mouth in Portland. Her work has been presented and/or commissioned by Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco International Arts Festival, West Wave Festival, Montalvo Arts Center, ODC Theater, Stanford University, Motion Pacific, Lines Ballet BFA Program, and the S.F. VA Hospital’s Office of Patient Centered Care and Cultural Transformation.
In keeping with HMD’s mission to not only create, but also to foster outstanding dance, HMD’s Bridge Project brings notable master teachers and choreographers to the Bay Area. Past and current Bridge Project artists include Deborah Hay, Jeanine Durning, Stephanie Skura, Simone Forti, Anna Halprin, Liz Gerring, Dusan Tynek, Molissa Fenley, and Susan Rethorst.
Mohr recently held open rehearsals at SFMOMA as part of painter Liam Everett's 2017 SECA Award exhibit. HMD's signature curatorial platform the Bridge Project approaches curating as community organizing to convene cultural conversations that cross discipline, geography, and perspective. Mohr's tireless work organizing programs to support other artists “goes beyond [her] work as choreographer and artistic director to lead processes often executed by performing arts presenters and venues” (ODC Theater Director Julie Potter). In 2014, Dance Magazine editor-in-chief Wendy Perron named Mohr as one of the “women leaders” in the dance field. 2017 is the 10th anniversary of Hope Mohr Dance.
Sources of institutional support for Mohr's work include the NEA, California Arts Council, San Francisco's Grants for the Arts, the San Francisco Arts Commission, the Andrew M. Mellon Foundation, Center for Cultural Innovation (Investing in Tomorrow Grant and Creative Capacity Fund), Phyllis C. Wattis Foundation, Zellerbach Family Foundation, William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, Kenneth Rainin Foundation, Lighting Artists in Dance/Dancers' Group and CA$H/Theatre Bay Area.
HMD is currently a company in residence at ODC.