A collaboration between Pieter Performance Space and The Box, curated by Jennie MaryTai Liu and assistant curator Alana Frey, Knees, Schools, Urges is a performance program and exhibition which invites ten dancers / artists to grapple with documented and undocumented histories of early 20th century modern dance in the place now known as Los Angeles. An examination of the absence of archived history of dance and dancers in the region, and the undersung work that historically minoritized artists have done in the field, the project looks both forward and backward, approaching the timeframe of the exhibition as an opportunity to document and create an archive which acknowledges the value of short-term local history as an ongoing project for present and future generations.

This project is the culminating event of Pieter Parking Space’s six month residency at The Box, where an accessible dance platform was installed in The Box’s parking lot to give six Los Angeles-based choreographers space and time to develop new work. For Knees, Schools, Urges this same platform will be housed inside The Box’s gallery, functioning as a stage, a sculptural object, and a space for visitors to rest, read, and remember.

Primarily funded by a Mike Kelley Foundation Project Award, newly commissioned dances explore embodied lineage and learning through transmissions and articulations, carving out of devotions and defections, to and from the multifaceted form of dance. These artists working in dance and related disciplines situate themselves as both descendents and ancestors, positing their work as conveyors of corporeal, sensual, theoretical, and spiritual knowledge tumbling back and forth within non-linear, non-secular relations of past, present, future.

Comprised of performance, installation, moving image, textiles, sound/music, and writings, the project considers dancing, making, envisioning, relating, and survival itself as historical methods. Taking a corporeal and sensual approach to “doing history,” there will be dialogue and educational programs facilitated by dance artists, organizers, and scholars that will include improvisation, meditation, working within movement scores, and responding to poetic prompts—unearthing what it means to come-to-be a body that moves today. The project holds space for dance and choreographic practice, producing new ways of knowing and understanding, engaging histories of oppression, colonization, and exploitation, with possibilities of transformation and deepened relation across subjectivity and generation.

The project also seeks to educate about the processes and practices of dance that art institutions seek to undertake, often without knowledge of the history and understanding of the conditions that bodies need to produce it. A thoughtful dialogue between artists and organizations with deep investment in performance and the performing arts, Knees, Schools, Urges is an intentional coming-together of dance and visual art thinking, curating, and expression, highlighting the interdisciplinary and relational nature of all artistic efforts.

To hold onto a medium and to not know how to survive. To tap the back space. To confront the historical fact of federally imposed corporeal control on Native people dancing. To claim entitlement to space. To be zoned out. To bury your dead in a place, and to call that place your home. To grapple with darkness – where you can’t use your vision. To feel time, to work with it in a very specific way. To be involved in survival and have had no time for learning. To set up new conditions. To not try to do anything new. To make forms and shapes which emerge from a place beyond what’s personal. To build techniques to anchor what wants to float away.   To tattoo your knee  –  Feelings are facts. To speculate on the kinetics of a still image. To muddy the aspects of what got preserved. To dance with both deer hoof and church organ. To say it’s okay to hold both. To be an avatar, a statue that has come to life. To use scraps from your past projects. To have as much salt in your body as seawater. To see the bodies performing inside the bodies performing. To write it all down like a web. To acknowledge there is risk present here. To hope that all of that can happen in a particular session.

Compilation text comprised of commissioned artists’ voices and thoughts from conversations and correspondence between 2019-2022, edited by the curators.

Jennie MaryTai Liu (curator)  is an artist and arts organizer working across performance, video, writing, and education. She has recently received commissions and presentations from Portland Institute of Contemporary Art, New York Film Festival, San Francisco Cinematheque, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Human Resources LA, and The Mistake Room. With Alana Frey, she co-founded and edited Riting, an experiment in writing that engages with performance being made now in LA. Since 2021 she is based between Los Angeles and Hong Kong where she runs Center for Artists in the Making, an art education program engaging young people in methods and practices from multidisciplinary art making towards the development of their own work and platforms.

Alana Frey (assistant curator)  Alana Frey is a Los Angeles-based performance maker currently at work with dance improvisations, choreographies, sounding of voice, and written forms. Along with Jamie Green, she operates Society for the Reunification of Sound & Dance, an emergent performing arts endeavor whose object is to re-establish robust and conscious mutuality between sound and movement, with the ideal of assisting in the development of new-legacy idiomatic forms. She is a co-founder and emeritus editor of, a platform for experiments in writing on performance happening now in Los Angeles. She also performs under the name de cherubim, a music project with Jamie Green. Her work has been presented in Los Angeles and the bay area at Pieter Performance Space, Dalton Warehouse, Electric Lodge, Human Resources, PAM (artist-in-residence), Oakland Secret, Pro Arts, Automata (artist-in-residence), and 2220 Arts & Archives.

Pieter (producer)

Founded in 2009, Pieter is a home for all people to dance, create, and heal together with the belief that embodiment liberates. We say “all people” because dance spaces historically exclude those who are non-white, non-able, non-”fit,” non-”healthy,” non-young, non-cisgendered and non-independently-wealthy. Dance includes a broad spectrum of body-based practices and the cultivation of culture. Rooted in Los Angeles, Pieter fosters a just and expansive community of movement artists, healers and activists.

Pieter’s programs feature a free boutique and promote non-monetary donations such as food and drink to share, as well as clothing, bookings and kitchen items; in these ways, Pieter implements our commitment to reciprocity, generosity, and a vision for a non-hierarchical art space.  Located in Lincoln Heights from 2009-2020, Pieter’s present Pandemic Era form, is a virtual and nomadic platform with multiple satellite locations including a dance stage in the parking lot of The Box gallery and a plot at the El Sereno Community Garden. Pieter’s performances, residencies, workshops and classes nourish artists and support the growth of Los Angeles’s creative community.

Accessibility Note: The Box gallery is all on one level and has a rear entrance with a ramp. There are 2 small gender neutral single stall bathrooms on site. Please note that the bathrooms do not have a rail for transfer assistance and have limited space for larger mobility devices. Please contact the Box with any access needs and for more details: 1(213) 625-1747

COVID protocol: As COVID safety negotiation continues to be part of our community choreography, Pieter will continue to strive to be transparent and clear about our practices, with the goal of always prioritizing the most vulnerable among us. All events will require masks and utilize our Button Buddies.

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