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Goode, Joe (b. 1951)  

The most original contribution of the work of choreographer Joe Goode is its challenge to traditional assumptions involving gender. Like the dance theater pieces of Bill T. Jones and other openly gay choreographers, Goode's work incorporates spoken word, music, and visual imagery in varying combinations. His dances often tell stories about being gay in the age of AIDS.

Goode was born into a working-class family in Presque Isle, Maine on March 13, 1951. Depressed and suicidal as a high school student in the 1960s, Goode found solace in the poetry of Allen Ginsberg, which he read as a message from an alternative world where it was possible to be Jewish, intellectual, politically radical, and gay.

"I didn't see how I was going to fit in and have a whole, meaningful life. My sexuality and my sensitivity and my whole being seemed wrong," Goode later told a reporter for The Washington Blade.

Goode earned a B.F.A. in drama from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1973 and then studied dance in New York City with Merce Cunningham and Viola Farber.

However, he was unhappy during his years as a young artist in New York City. "All the great choreographers were big old fags," he told the Blade, but "their work was dogmatically heterosexual, even in abstraction." The sight of so many male/female, implicitly heterosexual couples, with men lifting and leading the women, impressed Goode as a dishonest spectacle.

Like other maverick spirits before him, Goode went west in search of freedom. In 1979, he left New York for California, where he felt it would be easier to break out of such restrictive roles. The Joe Goode Performance Group, headquartered in San Francisco, was incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in 1986. The company has performed internationally and has been honored with numerous grants and prizes.

One of Goode's most noted pieces, Deeply There (Stories of a Neighborhood), which premiered in 1998, explores the impact of AIDS on San Francisco's Castro district. Another, The Maverick Strain (1996), is an examination of the stubbornly individualist streak in American culture; it puts pioneer women and cowboys on yesterday's range and in today's AIDS wards to make a complex statement about the strengths and weaknesses of the American character.

Other works with significant gay content include Remembering the Pool at the Best Western (1990), which meditates on AIDS and life after death, and Convenience Boy (1993), which examines the plight of gay and lesbian workers in the sex industry.

The women in Goode's company often lift their male colleagues. In this way and in others, Goode presents images of the softness of men and the strength of women. "I'm just interested in those images because they're so fearful to our culture," Goode told the Blade.

But Goode's creative impulse is not entirely confrontational. The comic performer in him loves to make people laugh. Indeed, humor helps to defuse his risky subject matter, rendering it less threatening to viewers who might otherwise be put off.

Goode's work explores the importance of "inappropriate" behavior. In a mission statement, Goode wrote that he aims to "pierce the veil of toughness that we all have in our lives and to uncover the vulnerable center, the confused, flailing human part of us that we conceal and avoid." Among his goals, he wrote, is "to make the world a more compassionate place."

With his troupe, Goode has done outreach work with various population groups, including gay youth. He has taught at several academic institutions and he has received numerous awards, including multiple Isadora Duncan awards and National Endowment for the Arts and Irvine Dance fellowships.

Greg Varner


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arts >> Overview:  Dance

Artistic dance has proven to be a haven for glbtq people, who have made significant contributions in almost every area, including as choreographers, performers, and teachers.

arts >> Cunningham, Merce

One of the twentieth-century's most influential dancers and choreographers, Merce Cunningham avoided political statement and self-expression in his work, but his collaborative model may be said to represent a queering of the creative process.

literature >> Ginsberg, Allen

The forthrightly gay Allen Ginsberg is probably the best-known American poet to emerge in the post-World War II period.

arts >> Jones, Bill T.

A charismatic performer, gifted choreographer, and long-term survivor of AIDS, Bill T. Jones has created an impressive body of dance that frequently merges the private and the public.

arts >> Wheeldon, Christopher

Christopher Wheeldon is one of the most innovative and acclaimed classical ballet choreographers working in the dance world today.


Goode, Joe. "Mission Statement."

Varner, Greg. "Strong Women, Pretty Men: Maverick Dancer Defies Gender Assumptions." The Washington Blade (March 20, 1998): 45.


    Citation Information
    Author: Varner, Greg  
    Entry Title: Goode, Joe  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated October 7, 2002  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc.  


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