Ishmael Houston-Jones is an award winning choreographer, author, performer, teacher, and curator. His improvised dance and text work has been performed in New York, across the US, and in Europe, Canada, Australia, and Latin America. Drawn to collaborations as a way to move beyond boundaries and the known, Houston-Jones celebrates the political aspect of cooperation.
Houston-Jones and Fred Holland shared a 1984 New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Award for Cowboys, Dreams and Ladders, which reintroduced the erased narrative of the Black cowboy back into the mythology of the American west. He was awarded his second “Bessie” Award for the 2010 revival of THEM, his 1985/86 collaboration with writer Dennis Cooper and composer Chris Cochrane. In 2017 he received a third “Bessie” for Variations on Themes from Lost and Found: Scenes from a Life and other Works by John Bernd. Houston-Jones is the DraftWork curator for works-in-progress at Danspace Project in New York. He has curated Platform 2012: Parallels which focused on choreographers from the African diaspora and postmodernism and co-curated with Will Rawls Platform 2016: Lost & Found, Dance, New York, HIV/AIDS, Then and Now both at Danspace Project.
As an author Houston-Jones' essays, fiction, interviews, and performance texts have been published in several anthologies and in numerous journals and magazines. His FAT and Other Stories: Some Writing About Sex was published in June 2018 by Yonkers International Press.
Ishmael Houston-Jones sits on the Board of Directors of Movement Research and Performance Space New York and is a member of Middle Collegiate Church and Dias y Flores Community Garden. He has received awards from The Herb Alpert Foundation, The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, The Foundation for Contemporary Arts and The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation.
Ishmael Houston-Jones received the 2019 Edwin Booth Award, given annually by the Doctoral Theatre Students’ Association of City University of New York which honors “an individual or organization that has had a significant impact on theatre and performance in New York.”
Ishmael Houston-Jones was the curator for the Parallels series in 1982, Platform 2012 Parallels and co-curator for Platform 2016: Lost and Found and is currently the curator for DraftWork works-in-progress series, all at Danspace project.
“I chose the name Parallels for the series because while all the choreographers participating are Black and in some ways relate to the rich tradition of Afro‐American dance, each has chosen a form outside of that tradition and even outside the tradition of mainstream modern dance… this new generation of Black artists—who exist in the parallel worlds of Black America and of new dance—is producing work that is richly diverse.”
Platform 2012: Parallels
“In 2012, it had been thirty years since Blondell Cummings, Fred Holland, Rrata Christine Jones, Ralph Lemon, Bebe Miller, Harry Sheppard, Gus Solomons jr. and I performed on the first Parallels series at Danspace Project… My questions then were: "Is there such a thing as Black Dance in America? Is there “mainstream” Black Dance? And if it did exist, who was pushing the boundaries of that mainstream? Platform 2012: Parallels was my attempt to revisit and answer those questions.”
-IH-J curator’s statement
Platform 2016: Lost and Found, Dance, New York, HIV/AIDS, then and now
“We were baffled. We were angry. We were terrified. We were wary of sharing a glass of water. But we also learned how to nurture and care for the sick and the dying. We made art, those of us who were dying and those of us who survived. Surviving love and death. …But we also rallied; we shouted; we marched in the streets.”
-IH-J curator’s statement
Danspace Project's Platform 2016: Lost & Found, curated by Ishmael Houston-Jones and Will Rawls
Curated by Ishmael Houston-Jones, the DraftWork series hosts informal Saturday afternoon performances that offer choreographers an opportunity to show their work in various stages of development. Performances are followed by discussions and informal receptions, allowing for conversation and exchange between artists and audiences. Read more
Other curations include:
Festival of New Swiss Dance as part of New Europe 1999, The Swiss Institute, New York in collaboration with Yvonne Meier
Guest curator for Mad Alex Presents reading series, New York, 1998
Dive In Festival of Dance Improvisation, Danspace Project, New York, 1993-95
Ishmael Houston-Jones is currently an adjunct professor at The Experimental Theater Wing of NYU/Tisch School of the Arts and a master lecturer at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. In addition, he has been a visiting or part-time professor at:
Sarah Lawrence College
Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts at The New School
California Institute of the Arts
Hollins University, (Virginia)
University of California, Los Angeles - UCLA
Bennington College, (Vermont)
Temple University, (Philadelphia)
University of Memphis
New York University, (Department of Dance/Tisch School of the Arts, and Playwrights Horizons)
Wesleyan University, (Connecticut)
the American Dance Festival at Duke University
Movement Research, (New York)
The European Dance Development Center and the School for New Dance Development in The Netherlands
La Escuela de Danza Nacional in Managua, Nicaragua
El Instituto de la Danza Moderna in Caracas, Venezuela
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago
The London International Summer School 2002, (Greenwich Dance Agency, Chisenhale Dance Space and Independent Dance)
The Anti-Static Festival, Sydney, Australia
The Seattle Festival of Alternative Dance and Improvisation (SFADI)
Urban Bush Women Summer Institute at Florida State University
Numerous Performing Arts Festivals worldwide.