Katherine Profeta





Dramaturgy in Motion innovatively examines the work of the dramaturg in contemporary dance and movement performance. Katherine Profeta, a working dramaturg for more than fifteen years, shifts the focus from asking “Who is the dramaturg?” to “What does the dramaturg think about?”

Profeta explores five arenas for the dramaturg’s attention—text and language, research, audience, movement, and interculturalism. Drawing on her extended collaboration with choreographer and visual artist Ralph Lemon, she grounds her thinking in actual rehearsal-room examples and situates practice within theoretical discourse about contemporary dramaturgy. Moving between theory and practice, word and movement, question and answer until these distinctions blur, she develops the foundational concept of dramaturgical labor as a quality of motion.

“Finally an answer to that vexed question, ‘What is dance dramaturgy?’ This is a brilliantly nuanced account of a new role in contemporary performance, drawing on an extended collaboration but relevant for the entire field.”
            —Susan Manning, Northwestern University




This catalogue accompanied Danspace Project’s Platform 2010: i get lost curated by Ralph Lemon.  It was edited by Katherine Profeta and features contributions by Souleymane Badolo, Djédjé Djédjé Gervais, Maria Hassabi, Judy Hussie-Taylor, Ralph Lemon, Katherine Profeta, Judith Sánchez Ruíz, Robert Steijn, and David Zambrano.

“…The liberation of spirit…stripped bare to something concise, emphatic, simple, and as a consequence, practicing a position of ‘universal doubt.’ Becoming universally human, and therefore powerfully vulnerable. And therefore, generous....Universal doubt, one of our few profound truths. (Death is another one.) Communicating this may be the best art…This is meant for anybody who dances, I guess.”
–  Ralph Lemon



Chapters in Books

Ralph Lemon: MOMA DANCE
[forthcoming august 2016]

Born in Cincinnati in 1952 and raised in Minnesota, Ralph Lemon is one of the most significant figures to emerge from New York’s downtown dance community in the 1980s. His politically resonant and deeply personal projects are investigations of race, identity, memory and mourning. A polymath and self-described conceptualist, he combines dance with visual art, film and ethnography, creating works that live on the theater stage, in print and in the museum. The book features texts by scholars and performers, an original photo essay by Lemon and an extensive chronology, greatly enhancing the understanding and appreciation of Lemon’s boundary-pushing body of work.

Edited with text by Thomas J. Lax. Text by Doryun Chong, Adrienne Edwards, Saidiya Hartman, Deborah Jowitt, Ralph Lemon, André Lepecki, Fred Moten, Okwui Okpokwasili, Katherine Profeta, Will Rawls.

Katherine Profeta’s chapter is entitled “The Geography Trilogy: take your body apart and put it back together.” It considers Lemon’s work from 1997-2004, and to a lesser extent works since, through the figure of the disassembled and reassembled body (anatomical, or technical, or even a body of work).


Dance Dramaturgy: Modes of Agency, Awareness and Engagement

Ten international dramaturg-scholars advance proposals that reset notions of agency in contemporary dance creation. Dramaturgy becomes driven by artistic inquiry, distributed among collaborating artists, embedded in improvisation tasks, or weaved through audience engagement, and the dramaturg becomes a facilitator of dramaturgical awareness.

Edited by Pil Hansen and Darcey Callison, with contributions from Bojana Bauer, André Lepecki, Maaike Bleeker, Freya Vass-Rhee, Vida L. Midgelow, Nanako Nakajima, Katherine Profeta, Thomas F. DeFrantz, and Bonnie Brooks.

The chapter “Field Notes: In the Studio with Ralph Lemon and Donald Byrd” was written collaboratively by Katherine Profeta and Thomas F. DeFrantz. It stages a virtual conversation regarding their longstanding dramaturgical collaborations with the two artists of the title, highlighting issues of collaborative motion, split focus, ‘simpatico’ chemistry, and productive tension.



Vanguard Performance Beyond Left and Right challenges assumptions regarding “radical” and “experimental” performance that have long dominated thinking about the avant-garde. The book brings to light vanguard performances rarely discussed: those that support totalitarian regimes, promote conservative values, or have been effectively snapped up by right-wing regimes the performances intended to oppose. In so doing, the volume explores a central paradox: how innovative performances that challenge oppressive power structures can also be deployed in deliberate, passionate support of oppressive power. Essays by leading international scholars pose engaging questions about the historical avant-garde, vanguard acts, and the complex role of artistic innovation and live performance in global politics. Focusing on performances that work against progressive and democratic ideas (including scripted drama, staged suicide, choral dance, terrorism, rallies, and espionage), the book demonstrates how many compelling performance ideals—unification, exaltation, immersion—are, in themselves, neither moral nor immoral; they are only emotional and aesthetic urges that can be powerfully channeled into a variety of social and political outlets.

Edited by Kimberly Jannarone, with contributions from Alan Filewod, Richard Schechner, Patricia Gaborik, Monica Achen, Graham White, Kara Reilly, Odai Johnson, Katherine Profeta, Ann Pellegrini, Erik Butler, James Harding, Kim Solga, Liz Tomlin, and Mike Sell.

Katherine Profeta’s chapter is “Beijing 2008,” treating the mass aesthetics and embedded politics of the opening ceremonies to the 2008 Olympics.

“Theoretically sharp and featuring diverse case studies, Jannarone's collection compels us to reevaluate the connections between experimental performance and politics, and further to rethink the role of political performance both historically and in contemporary culture. It's an important and timely book that will challenge much of what we think we know of political theatre and the avant-gardes.”

            —Sarah Bay-Cheng, Bowdoin College



The second volume in Mark Bly’s series provides an inside view of the creative process involved in the creation of 4 major theatrical productions. Each notebook offers in diary form comprehensive histories of major artistic elements that are the center of the creative process. This volume includes: In the Blood by Suzan-Lori Parks (The Joseph Papp Public Theatre/New York Shakespeare Festival); The First Picture Show by David and Ain Gordon (Mark Taper Forum and American Conservatory Theatre), The Geography Project by Ralph Lemon (Yale Repertory Theatre) and Shakespeare Rapid Eye Movement, directed by Robert Lepage (Bayerisches Staatsschauspiel-Munich). Each notebook is profusely illustrated with production shots and/or set and costume renderings.


Katherine Profeta’s chapter is “Geography:  At Yale Repertory Theatre” and recounts her first collaboration with Ralph Lemon in journal entries, unfolding the difficulties and rewards of this ambitious intercultural collaboration with West African dancers and musicians.


 Articles in Journals

“Training the Anti-Spectacular for Ralph Lemon’s Dance that Disappears.” Theater, Dance and Performance Training, 2:2, 2011.

“Ralph Lemon and the Buck Dance.” Movement Research Performance Journal 33, August   2008.

“The Geography of Inspiration.” Performing Arts Journal (81), Volume 27, number 3, 2005.

“Dialogue in Motion.” Movement Research Performance Journal 18, Winter/Spring 1999.


 “Almost Paradise.” an extended review of Pascal Rambert’s Paradis (unfolding time) at Dance Theater Workshop.  In Theater magazine, Volume 37, no. 1, 2007.

“Yesterday and Today” and “A Turbulent Harmony.”, two analyses of Once and Rain, respectively, by Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker.  Translated into French and Flemish for publication in La Monnaie Magazine, the publication of the Belgian National Opera House, Special Edition, Spring 2007.

“War Prophets,” an extended review of Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker’s text-based dance/theater piece Kassandra: Speaking in twelve voices, at Theatre de la Ville. In Theater magazine, Volume 35, number 2, 2005.  Also excerpted and translated into French and Flemish for reprint in La Monnaie Magazine, the publication of the Belgian National Opera House, Volume 68, Dec 2005-Jan 2006.



“Annie Dorsen: Finding Her People.  An Interview with Katherine Profeta.”  SDC Journal, Fall 2015.

Interview of Katherine Profeta translated into Korean for section of Young-Joo Choi’s book, 드라마투르기란무엇인가 (What Is Dramaturgy), Paju: Taehaksa, 2013.

“Katherine Profeta.”  Interview with Andy Horwitz.  Culturebot, 22 March 2004. 


Liner notes, DVD archive of The Geography Trilogy, New York: Cross Performance, 2007.