Photo © Paula Court
© Paula Court


I recently finished working with choreographer Dean Moss on an original evening-length work called johnbrown. The piece had its New York premiere at The Kitchen in the fall of 2014, the 150th anniversary of the Thirteenth Amendment: America’s abolishment of slavery.

In 2015 the worked toured to Diverseworks (Houston, TX), and The Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN).

"Moss’ second performance collaboration with the painter Laylah Ali, (the first being figures on a field in 2005), johnbrown meditates the legacy and violent compassion of John Brown, the 19th century white abolitionist. The work integrates experimental dance, text, video, and visual design with community participation, and utilizes not only its presentation but its pre-performance production, to confront audiences with their own sense of radicalism.

We’re interested in the environment of the 1850's before the civil war: its political polarity and the parallels to now. We’re excavating landscapes, weather, forced migrations, and the struggle to survive the promise and severity of the new west. We’re beginning a process that offers up our imagined radical selves to the magma of contemporary culture, hoping to sense in the flash of flame a trace of John Brown."

- From

Voluntaries - a thirty minute segment of johnbrown including Moss as a performer - was commissioned by The Museum of Modern Art in New York as part of their performance series Some Sweet Day, curated by Ralph Lemon with Jenny Schlenzka and presented in the Atrium space in October 2012.

Visit for more details.

NYT review here. Hyperallergic review here. Brooklyn Rail review here.

Video of the Kitchen premiere below.

johnbrown (2014) from Dean Moss on Vimeo.