Mary Armentrout is a dance artist who works primarily with repetition and duration to uncover aspects of intentionality and presence. Influenced by contemporary philosophical concerns as well as the ongoing critical investigations started by the Judson Church dance deconstructions, she makes works that embody the contradictions of contemporary life, both our conflicted, fractured sense of self, and our discontinuous, collage sense of being-in-the-world. She grounds her work in her ongoing investigations of the Feldenkrais mind-body practice, drawing on the rich ways its awareness practice embodies and problematizes issues of intentionality and presence. From the conflictions and dislocations she finds there, her work spills out to build odd and compelling structures exhibiting contradictory aspects of our self-awareness and being-in-the-world. Her choreography consists of small fragments of everyday movement, words, and environments that are distilled, distorted, polished, and stripped down to reveal the layers of ambiguity, pathos, and absurdity underneath the surface. Repetitive and deconstructed gestures, utterances, and objects/pieces of the outside world are layered and allowed to build and morph, crumble and change, creating absorbing, yet unstable environments which allow some of the other truths covered over in the everyday to surface, come into focus, and, paradoxically, display their contradictions. Her works are puzzles, designed to imperfectly capture moments of presence-in-performance and human intentionality.
Mary Armentrout calls her works performance installations. Drawing both raves and interested puzzlement from the critics - "a performance artist of tremendous range" (Dance View Times), "a quirky idiosyncratic choreographer who assembles works that appear illogical on the surface, but somehow her twisted humor, comic timing, and odd use of furniture and bodies coalesce into meaningful dance" (The East Bay Monthly) - she is engaged in "inventing a new kind of dance theater right before our eyes" (Dance View Times).
She received her BA from Sarah Lawrence College, concentrating particularly on dance and philosophy. After many years of making and performing work on the East and West Coasts and in Europe, she formed the Mary Armentrout Dance Theater in the Bay Area in 2000. The company currently consists of herself, Merlin Coleman, Jennifer Maytorena Taylor, Natalie Greene, April Taylor, Christy Funsch, Nol Simonse, Frances Rosario, and Rodney Johnson, and is, as it has been for the last ten years, a fluid blend of dancers, actors, and sound and media artists. Armentrout also maintains on-going collaborative relationships with sound artists Pamela Z, Evelyn Ficcara, and Merlin Coleman, and media artists Ian Winters and Bulkfoodveyor (Phil Bonner).
She installs work in both conventional and site-specific venues, and the Mary Armentrout Dance Theater has been presented at numerous venues all over the San Francisco Bay Area, including ODC Theater, The LAB, and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, as well as in less proscenium-oriented spaces including a bathroom, the beach, and a car. Her work has also been presented at such venues as Movement Research at the Judson Church and Danspace Project in New York City, Highways in Los Angeles, the Dance Place in Washington D.C., le Centre Americain in Paris, and Tanzfabrik in Berlin, as well as in many festivals including Dadafest, the Tenderloin "Festival In The Street," the Retail Dance Festival, the DUMBO (NY) Dance Festival, the SFFringe Festival, the "Women on the Edge" Series, and the Hunter Mountain (NY) Performing Series. She recently co-curated a Movement Research (NY) Studies Project on new work from the Bay Area with Trajal Harrel, and assisted Jonah Bokaer in a “Food for Thought” project on contemporary Bay Area dance at Danspace Project.
Armentrout has received support from the Zellerbach Family Foundation and the CA$H Grant program, and has had residencies at Djerassi, The LAB, and CounterPULSE. She teaches on-going technique classes at Danspace and Shawl Anderson and facilitates Fieldwork workshops, usually in the East Bay, and has also taught at Sarah Lawrence College, Cal State East Bay (Hayward) and UC Berkeley. She is the organizer of the Dance Discourse Project, an on-going series of artist-curated discussions of the Bay Area dance scene, co-presented by Dancers’ Group and CounterPULSE, and co-curates the mixed performance salon "The Milk Bar" at The Biscuit Factory in Oakland, along with Merlin Coleman and Ian Winters. She is happy to be the president of the board of Dancers' Group, considered the most important dance service organization in the Bay Area, and is getting her Feldenkrais certification in her spare time.
read Mary’s life story….