Photo by Eric McMatt

Photo by Eric McMatt


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.”

Current Works

Variations and Themes from Lost and Found






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.

Poster designed by Fred Holland

Poster designed by Fred Holland

Parallels 1982

“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.”


Souleymane Badolo and Nora Chipaumire   Photo by Ian Douglas

Souleymane Badolo and Nora Chipaumire

Photo by Ian Douglas

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

Brother(hood) Dance!   Photo by Jaime Dzandu

Brother(hood) Dance!

Photo by Jaime Dzandu

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

Danspace Project at St.Mark’s Church in the Bowery.   Photo: Anya Hitzenberger

Danspace Project at St.Mark’s Church in the Bowery.

Photo: Anya Hitzenberger


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


West Coast Contact Improvisation Jam     Teachers’ performance     Photo: Rob Kunkle 07/02/2017

West Coast Contact Improvisation Jam Teachers’ performance

Photo: Rob Kunkle 07/02/2017

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.


“Ishmael Houston-Jones is a figure revered for his perspicacity and his work in several cultural fields simultaneously ... He is a choreographer, author, performer, teacher, curator and arts advocate known for his improvisational dance and language work. But in his writing one feels one is coming to the man’s essence.”
— Dodie Bellamy and Kevin Killian, editors of Writers Who Love Too Much: New Narrative 1977–1997
“I’ve been telling some of you for decades to trust me that Ishmael Houston-Jones is as brilliant and charismatic a writer as he is a dancer and choreographer. Now my trustworthiness is finally beside the point, and here’s all the proof you’ll ever need.”
— Dennis Cooper, author of Frisk, and The Sluts

IH-J reading Prologue to the End of Everything, included in FAT and Writers Who Love to Much


Ishmael Houston-Jones' essays, fiction, interviews, and performance texts have been anthologized in these books