For more than 30 years, choreographer Margaret Jenkins has been expanding the physical and conceptual boundaries of modern dance in the Bay Area. Her dance company has spawned an entire generation of experimental dancers and artists. In the episode, “Dance Masters,” Spark follows Jenkins from rehearsing “Danger Orange” in San Francisco to conducting workshops on composition and sharing choreographic ideas with the Beijing Modern Dance Company in China.
“Danger Orange,” a 45-minute outdoor site-specific performance in San Francisco’s Justin Herman Plaza, was performed in October 2004 before the presidential elections. Collaborating with renowned visual designer Alex Nichols, sound designer Jay Cloidt, and poet and writer Michael Palmer, Jenkins wanted “Danger Orange” to address the times we are living in. The color orange metaphorically references the national alert systems and evokes danger.
A native of San Francisco, Jenkins began her dance training with Judy and Lenore Job, Welland Lathrop, and Gloria Unti. She continued her studies in New York City at the Juilliard School of Music with José Limón and Martha Graham. After training at UCLA, she returned to New York to dance with a number of modern dance companies, including those of Gus Solomons, Viola Farber, Twyla Tharp and Sara Rudner. She was on the faculty of the Merce Cunningham Studio for 12 years.
In 1970, Jenkins returned to San Francisco, where she opened a school to train professional modern dancers and formed the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company in 1973. In 2004, Jenkins and her company began Choreographers in Mentorship Exchange (CHIME), a program to foster creative interaction and long-term relationships between emerging and established choreographers. Jenkins is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Irvine Fellowship in Dance, the San Francisco Arts Commission Award of Honor and two Isadora Duncan Dance Awards. For her contributions to the San Francisco Bay Area arts community, she was awarded the Bernard Osher Cultural Award in 2002.