Robert Moses in rehearsal for New Legacies: One Act Dances

If an article about Robert Moses only listed his entire choreographic oeuvre, the dance companies he has performed with or created work for, the schools and universities (both national and international) he has taught and mentored at, the artists and organizations he has collaborated with, and the history of Robert Moses’ KIN (RMK) — his own nearly 30-year-old company — there wouldn’t be room left for anything else.

Moses is now preparing for the premiere of New Legacies: One Act Dances, which will play March 15–17 at the Presidio Theatre. For the piece, he invited three choreographers to join in and craft their own takes on themes of censorship, silence, literacy, and denial. This “triptych, or the beginning of an anthology,” as Moses likes to characterize it, will involve three composers and three writers as well.

In the past, Moses had included a few other choreographers on his programs, but this time, he says, he wanted their contributions to be “the centerpiece of the main season. We had a call for artists, and a panel did some selecting. Fortunately, I had a relationship with all of [the selected choreographers]. Natasha [Adorlee] used to be in my company, as did Khala [Brannigan], and I met Robert [S. Kelley II] when he was a student in Florida. So nobody’s a complete stranger.”

The three musical artists — Bryan Dyer, B Dukes, and Vicki Randle — are all multitalented. Two of the three playwrights — Anne Galjour and PC Muñoz — have collaborated with the company previously, with Julius Ernesto Rea joining for the first time.

Z Jackson
Robert Moses’ KIN company member Z Jackson | Credit: Steve Disenhof

The dancers are all top-notch, coming from a variety of backgrounds and dance companies, both local and national. Chances are, if you go to much dance, you’ll recognize a few of them: Vincent Chavez, Cora Cliburn, Iva Dixson, Jenelle Gaerlan, Z Jackson, Elena Martins, Edgar Aguirre, Emily Hansel, Alek Hernandez, Abigail Hinson, Chisa Kobayashi, Bethany Mitchell, Natalya Shoaf, and Sunny Winn.

Watching the dancers at work in rehearsal, you can see how quickly they embody the different choreographers’ intentions. Adorlee’s, Brannigan’s, and Kelley’s movement vocabularies are distinct from each other, and the contrast will be magnified when they’re juxtaposed in the final triptych.

“What we’re trying to do is come up with a slightly different model,” explains Moses. “The idea is that everybody has access to everyone else’s work when it’s done. Each choreographer can use the music from someone else or some of the text from someone else so that it’s not three separate pieces. Conceptually, it’s nine pieces — and maybe as many as 27 pieces — that people can decide to rework into new versions. Everyone simply has access to each other’s work, so things are not siloed.” You could think of the final product as a four-dimensional exquisite corpse.

“Right now, we’re intending to have live music for at least part of the program,” says Moses. “You get to come hear original writing and original music and [see] brand-new movement with what’s essentially an almost completely brand-new company.”

Robert Moses
Robert Moses

In addition to New Legacies: One Act Dances, Moses will also be showing a new work at the Presidio Theatre: A Cleaning Woman’s Reflection on Creation, an extension of his Fugitive Legacies, created in 2023. A portion of Moses’ text reads:

    None of this came from, or is because of anything we need to change. 
    There was no malady that caused this silence; there was no curse that led to this, 
    No witch cast spell, no long held grudge of a God bestowing blessing or curse. 
    This is not the result of unfortunate immortality of circumstance tied to twisted repeating epic cosmic tragedy. 
    When we started there was no God.

The company will also perform a work inspired by the material generated in Bootstraps: Lyric Legacies, RMK’s collaborative community-based educational program that engages with youth and elders throughout San Francisco.

For his entire career, Moses has been an avid reader. “This idea of fugitive literacies, censorship within education, book banning, and that type of thing are the top layer,” he emphasizes. “I’m trying to cut deep. ‘What experience in your life up till now [made] you aware that this was already happening?’ I got to a place where reading became so important to me. I was inspired, informed, inquisitive. People, places, ideas, philosophy, all of it.

“I will say, in this current moment, it’s not just about the censorship. … It’s this whole backlash with the cultural rubber band snapping back. What’s happening in Florida with the educational system, libraries, and all that — they need to quiet your voice … need to stop you from talking about the things that are important to you. The backlash is now against equality, equity, diversity, and inclusion. People [are] saying that it doesn’t work and it doesn’t make sense without having given it any real time to work. The end, essentially, of affirmative action.”

When asked about dance’s capacity to change an audience member’s mind, Moses has a serious reply. “The art form doesn’t change [anyone]. If you come and you see something and it sparks in you some need to investigate or some need to change something, that was not about what I did. I’m another part of a different kind of conversation. I’m not there to convince you. I’m not there to educate you. I’m there to present the work from the perspectives as I see them or as I think the world may see them or as I think [they’re] not being accounted for. I am not trying to convince you or anybody else. That’s not my job.

“My job is to make work. And if I make the work in the way I intend to make the work, it will make you think. It will make you feel. … The work doesn’t [automatically change you]. The work is political just by its nature because it’s dealing with something. So if I make work, then I have to do my best to communicate what I’m trying to do, but it’s not in the cards necessarily that I’m going to change anyone.”