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Dancer/Choreographer Kathy Wildberger Speaks About Her Work with Jeff Duncan, Co-founder of Dance Theater Workshop

Dancer/Choreographer Kathy Wildberger Speaks About Her Work with Jeff Duncan, Co-founder of Dance Theater Workshop
Christine Jowers/Follow @cmmjowers on Instagram

By Christine Jowers/Follow @cmmjowers on Instagram
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Published on September 7, 2009

Wildberger will be performing Duncan’s “La Mesa Del Brujo” on the evening of September 12th at 8pm as part of The American Dance Guild Festival. The festival is running from Thursday Sept 10th- Sunday Sept 13th at Manhattan Movement and Arts Center-248 West 60th.

For more information re shows, locations, tickets, and artists contact:

By Christine Jowers

It is ironic to realize that the man who created a home for modern dance- Dance Theater Workshop- in his floor board challenged 20th street New York City loft  (along with friends and fellow artists, Art Bauman and Jack Moore) never found a home of his own.

Kathy Wildberger- On meeting Jeff Duncan and Their Relationship
Meredith Monk, Bob Dunn, Epiphany, and Transformation
Death,Dance, and The Twilight Sky
Jeff Duncan, A Modern Expressionist

The last section of Jeff Duncan’s seminal solo  “ La Mesa Del Brujo” set to Meredith Monk’s “Songs From The Hill” is about trying to find a place to belong, thinking it has been discovered, only to realize, no, the search must continue. This reality says Kathy Wildberger was present to Duncan not only in this section of his solo called  “ Ghost Dances” but throughout his life.


"He had a way of taking rhythm, and the rhythm had an emotion... 'It' told a story. It is in every piece that he has done. It is not the rhythm of the music necessarily. He finds the rhythm within the music, around the music, and in the spaces..."

- Kathy Wildberger, about Jeff Duncan

Wildberger- dancer, artistic director, choreographer, and currently Professor of Dance at Vassar College- met Duncan in 1977 when he left New York City behind for a promising job in academia at the University Of Maryland. He created Impetus, a company for which Wildberger danced and made works, while she directed her own group- Path.

There was an instant artistic connection between the pair that blossomed into deep friendship. It began as he peeked through the blinds of a window to watch her rehearse, continued with him calling her choreography his own (for that’s how close he felt to it), proceeded with Duncan making works for her, the two dancing together, and finally drew to a close –though I believe, it is impossible for such a connection to ever end- as Duncan taught Wildberger, “ La Mesa Del Brujo”- a solo that he had pointedly never let anyone else dance- as he was in the hospital dying of AIDS.  Wildberger would bring video of her rehearsals to him and would take his coaching notes at the hospital bedside.

Wildberger first performed the solo at the University of Maryland Baltimore County in 1989.  Duncan, who was carried  into the theater on a stretcher, grandly sporting a silk kimono and dashing wool cap, was surrounded by his New York City friends among them -Art Bauman, and Anna Sokolow -for whom he danced for twelve years.  As she moved, Wildberger could feel him in the audience dancing with her.  “ It is so good to honor someone while they are alive” she smiles, recalling that evening, and then pondering,  “ It was part of his leaving to teach that dance.”  Duncan died shortly thereafter.

Twenty years later, the dance just came back to her. She can still hear his voice at times.

His notes.

It is not like dancing alone.



Jeff Duncan began his career as a musician. When he saw dance he knew he had to become a dancer. He worked with all the early modern dance greats: Hanya Holm, Martha Graham, Jose Limon, Doris Humphrey (for whom he was a rehearsal assistant at the 92nd Street Y), Alwin Nikolais, and Anna Sokolow, with whom he danced for 12 years creating many original roles. He also performed on Broadway. Duncan choreographed over 50 works. He started DTW in the mid -60s with Art Bauman and Jack Moore. He died of AIDS at age 59 in May of 1989.

Deborah Jowitt talks about him and the early group in this DTW link (3rd section of 3).

Also see:

Kathy Wildberger at 18 years old was one of the founding members of The Toronto Dance Theatre in Canada. She performed and choreographed for Jeff Duncan’s Impetus and founded, directed, and danced for one of Maryland’s highly renowned award winning modern dance companies- Path Dance Company -which she ran for 12 years. Wildberger is recognized as The Human Repository for Jeff Duncan’s works . He entrusted his estate to her.


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