dendy/donovan projects

dendy/donovan projects was formed in 2008, with longtime collaborators MARK DENDY and STEPHEN DONOVAN, to create socially conscious dance-theater work. Works include Golden Belt, set in an abandoned tobacco-processing factory in North Carolina, at the American Dance Festival (premiere 2009); Ritual Cyclical, an epic site-specific work for 80 dancers, at Lincoln Center Out of Doors (premiere 2013); Dystopian Distractions! at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara (premiere 2014); Labyrinth at Abrons Arts Center (premiere 2014); and NEWYORKnewyork @Astor Place at Joe’s Pub (premiere 2015).


MARK DENDY ARTISTIC DIRECTOR has worked in a variety of dance genres, ranging from experimental dance and edgy East Village drag to high-end Broadway productions, prominent ballet companies and opera to large-scale site-specific works. His dance and theatre work has been presented at PS 122, the American Dance Festival, Bates Dance Festival, The Joyce Theater, Jacob’s Pillow, Lincoln Center, Central Park SummerStage, and Dance Theater Workshop, as well as numerous national and international venues. Dendy has been commissioned by both modern and ballet companies worldwide, most notably Pacific Northwest Ballet. He has collaborated with directors Julie Taymor, Tina Landau, Gabriel Barre, Ellen Hemphill, Rebecca Taichman, and Timothy Sheader; writers Neil Simon and Charles Busch; and composers Boy George, Heather Christian, Don Byron, Andrew Lippa, Jim Steinman, and Stephen Schwartz. His commercial theater credits include choreography for Taboo and The Pirate Queen (Broadway); The Wild Party, The Miracle Brothers and Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well... (Off-Broadway); Pippin, Camille Claudel and Hair (regional and national tours); The Magic Flute (The Metropolitan Opera); Orpheus (NYC Opera); and Rappaccini’s Daughter (Gotham Chamber Opera). He has received several awards and honors, most notably a 1997 Bessie Award, a 2000 Obie Award, the National Society of Arts and Letters Sustained Achievement Award (1990), the Herb Alpert Award and the Joe A. Calloway Award (both in 2000), as well as numerous grants. 


In 2008, Artistic Director, Mark Dendy re-evaluated his artistic journey and sought creative autonomy once again, focusing on large-scale site work, postmodern myth, social justice work and environmental advocacy. He rededicated himself to a daily physical practice in the studio, studied yoga and body mind centering.  He rediscovered skeletal, deep tissue and organ movement, began an exploration of gesture both in the abstract and as character driven.  

Mark’s current approach is a holistic one, focused not just on the work, but the life that is making it.  His work in politics, social justice and for the environment informs his work today.

He has become increasingly interested in utilizing and juxtaposing seemingly disparate aesthetics to achieve a paradoxical whole, thereby assigning dramaturgical meaning to techniques that are normally viewed as totally abstract. He joined The Field and began weekly Fieldwork, a process of showing work and giving and receiving feedback with peers that is rigorous and supportive.  He has collaborated with Pooh Kaye, Sally Silvers, K.J. Holmes, Michelle Boule, Antonio Ramos, Julian Barnett, Leslie Cuyget, Sean Donovan and Abigail Levine.  In 2012 he created Modern Myths Productions with long time collaborator Stephen Donovan as part of Mark Dendy Projects to create socially conscious theatre/movement work.

Throughout his career Mark Dendy has steadily defied the expectation to work in defined categories and in standard ways. Without apology or caprice, Dendy has traveled from experimental dance, edgy East Village drag to Broadway to ballet and opera to site-specific works, refusing to capitulate to the dance hegemony that often dictates artists’ choices. His work is known for its wit, searing social commentary, intense physicality and tour de force acting. 

Mark has explored theatrical portraiture, drag, impersonation, and highly transformative, idiosyncratic characters.  In 1990 he started work in text, gesture and non-linear narrative with Jane Comfort playing Amanda Wingfield in Comfort’s 1992 Faith Healing - a deconstruction of The Glass Menagerie. He began to experiment with character portraiture with an emphasis on transgressive drag and portrayal of women characters and the idea of gender as illusion and social construct.  His creations were not two-dimensional “drag” but three-dimensional psychological beings with political agendas and complicated pasts.  He performed in nightclubs, notably the Pyramid where he created and introduced televangelist transvestite Sandy Sheets, a televangelist transvestite who preaches fire and brimstone against homophobes and who was later part of his 1994 work Busride to Heaven. Other character’s he created are Vinnie, an alcoholic, racist southerner in Comfort’s Deportment, southern socialite Mavis Danton and transgendered biracial prostitute addict Pawnie.  The work was political and subversive.  In these guises Dendy did film work, legit theater and explored gender further in his own dance and theatrical work.  His early work was an exploration of gender and sexuality, and explosive endurance based physicality often with identical costumes for the sexes.

Another main thrust of Dendy’s work has been unique hybrid of dance/theater.  That deftly weaves autobiographical material and characters (both from his childhood in Weaverville, North Carolina and adult life as an artist in New York) with sometimes abstract non linear narratives and an idiosyncratic personal movement vocabulary. He utilizes improvisational structures, nuanced gesture work with authentic movement and a deconstructivist approach to performative work.  

Dendy experimented with a hybrid dance/theater form in the late 1990’s.  This culminated in the creation of the seminal Dream Analysis a psychotherapeutic odyssey that had several parallel meandering story lines, doubles of every character, high and low drag and deconstructed classic dances of Nijinsky and Martha Graham.  He delivered an uncanny double Graham impersonation with protégé Richard Move as his reflection in the mirror. 

Mark Dendy Projects, recently premiered Ritual Cyclical, an epic site specific work for 80 diverse dancers at Lincoln Center Out of Doors.  Golden Belt, set in an abandoned tobacco-processing factory, premiered at the 2009 American Dance Festival evoking the spirit and physicality of the workers who toiled there.  Both of these works fulfill our on going mission to present free public performances in alternative spaces as a political act that democratizes the access to challenging and experimental work.  

In the past year the company has performed at Actors Equity Arts Performing Arts Center, Danspace, Dixon Place, Barking Legs in Chattanooga and has been in residence at Silo and Dance Place DC.  The company had a commissioned residency in April at DANCEworks Santa Barbara to create a new anti war piece Dystopian Distractions! Part 1.

Since 2011 and throughout 2012-13 Dendy has been researching, developing and performing material for his new work Labyrinth at different venues across the country and teaching and facilitating Labyrinth workshops. The work premieres at Abrons Arts Center on October 9, 2014.