Not-About-AIDS-Dance (1994)

Sold-out 12th Anniversary revival of the critically acclaimed Not-About-AIDS-Dance at DTW in 2006 (the 25th anniversary-year of the AIDS epidemic)
2006 revival on the ‘Best Dance of 2006 Top Ten’ list by Apollinaire Scherr in New York Newsday: ’Not-About-AIDS-Dance should be revived not every 12 years, but every year.’
‘one of the year’s 10 best’ by Jennifer Dunning of The New York Times
two 1995 ‘Bessie’ Awards: choreography and lighting design

Not-About-AIDS-Dance was created in response to a horrific year in the choreographer’s life in which he lost his brother, AIDS activist Jon Greenberg, and eight other friends to AIDS. Before these events, and before the dance acquired its name, Greenberg had conceptualized a work in which the audience would receive extra-dance information about the dancers that usually remains hidden or unspoken, altering the relationship between audience and performers. Not-About-AIDS-Dance is a development of this previously planned dance. Via Greenberg’s signature use of slide projections of written text, the audience learns of the deaths of Greenberg’s brother and friends and the death of the mother of one of the dancers, all of which occurred during the rehearsal process.

The text also refers to Greenberg's HIV+ status, with the goal of giving this its due weight and integrating this information into his identity and the total landscape of the community of people on stage. In his use of text, Greenberg shows both his sly humor and his ability to create intimacy through unexpected disclosure.

Not-About-AIDS-Dance premiered at The Kitchen in New York City
50 minutes, five dancers
Music fragments: Zeena Parkins
Lighting: Michael Stiller
Originally Performed by: Ellen Barnaby, Christopher Batenhorst, Neil Greenberg, Justine Lynch, Jo McKendry

  1. “A profoundly truthful, unsentimental masterwork
    about illness and life… By integrating dance, snatches of music and sentences projected on the back wall of the stage, he has simply created a spare replication of a life. In the process, he has also created an important, moving and very beautiful work… Not-About-AIDS-Dance manages to convey, without sentimentality, not only the horror of death, illness and disappointment, but also the meaningful ways in which life does doggedly continue… The piece also suggests that to be human is to be more than the sum of one’s sadness.”
    Jennifer Dunning, New York Times
  2. “The supertitles that appear over the heads
    of the even-keeled dancers in Neil Greenberg’s widely acclaimed,yet rarely seen, 1994 masterpiece dispassionately describe the dance’s own creation—and the AIDS epidemic: While the choreographer was making this work, his friends were dying all around him. Weaving life and art together in a rich, contradictory web, Not-About-AIDS-Dance should be revived not every 12 years, but every year.”
    Apollinaire Scherr, Newsday
  3. “Neil Greenberg’s astringency is a good thing.
    His absolute refusal to fall victim to wet grief, self-pity or polemics creates a distancing effect that broadens the emotional spectrum of Not-About-AIDS-Dance. This work also exhibits his self-deprecating humor, tenderness, and goosey gravity. N-A-A-D is an ‘immortality project’ about a dance in progress- about the haphazard ways the evolution of a piece is disrupted by cruel facts in the universe, about how the road to creation is rife with bumps, digressions, flashbacks, and stark signposts, of which AIDS is one of the most horrifying… The turning point in N-A-A-D is the public admission of his HIV-positive status. Amid all his dislocation, the dance continues to be a steadying factor. A slide projects his musing: ‘I wonder if it will work.’ It does.”
    Randy Gener, Village Voice
  4. “The perspectives become deliciously complex…
    I gave it one of the three spontaneous standing ovations of my life. It was profound and funny and moving and intensely personal in such a way as to be earth-shatteringly political… But what is most striking and truly extraordinary is Neil’s generosity and sense of inclusion with respect to us, the audience… I am, as viewer, left free to construct the intersection between the intimate information I’m being told and the balletically elegant movement being done in front of me… Although loss and death and even the trauma of everyday life constantly threaten to crush, Neil and company continue to find the energy to push it off just enough to find room to breathe, to create, to love, to make this wonderfully abstract and ridiculous thing called dance… In doing so he locates hope in a landscape of loss.”
    Lucy Sexton, Juice / a dance and performance journal
  5. “To note that Greenberg is one of the season’s more exciting discoveries is to underrate the cumulative power of this piece…
    Highly intelligent, emotionally infused dancemaking is rare today. Respect for the sheer craft of linking steps into charged statements is even rarer. And Greenberg offers us all of them in ravishingly expressive and controlled sequences. He has fashioned from autobiography the uncommonly affecting Not-About-AIDS-Dance… In his own manner he mourns; but he subsumes his grief in a tapestry of recalled experiences. He does not cloak himself in the conventional pieties. This, granted, is not the easy way. But it is the heroic way and, ultimately, it is the way of the genuine artist…”
    Allan Ulrich, San Francisco Examiner(source)
  6. “Greenberg presents a nose to the grindstone work
    of unrelenting, interlocking, deep-lunged dance. The piece is wintry, isolated, yet heated with concentration, hurtling forward. …The only backward glance occurs when Greenberg arranges himself into a careful picture, behind him the words ‘This is how my brother Jon looked in his coma.’ The intimacy of the moment is stabbing, an ache moated by the abstraction around it, ennobled by Greenberg’s classical stance, its echo through centuries of premature deaths. Two months later, this spare dance stands clearer and taller in memory, like white marble columns, an ode to stoicism.”
    Don Daniels, Ballet Review, 2006
  7. “I wonder what Arlene Croce
    would have made of Neil Greenberg’s Not-About-AIDS-Dance. This is not a work that demands pity for the choreographer. It’s about the process of artistic creation set parallel to the life that’s being lived. …it’s like a rebirth.”
    Deborah Jowitt, Village Voice
© Tom Brazil
©Paula Court
©Paula Court

Not-About-AIDS-Dance was made possible by support from the New York State Council on the Arts, the Harkness Foundation for Dance and the Purchase College Faculty Support Fund.