Degenerate Art Ensemble

DEGENERATE ART ENSEMBLE makes performance inspired by punk, comics, protest, cinema, nightmares, and fairytales driven by the power of live music and their own style of visceral movement theater and dance. Degenerate Art Ensemble has shared their dance, live music, and site transformational work in 10 countries of North America and Europe. The group was commissioned by director Robert Wilson to re-interpret his work Einstein on the Beach and has collaborated with Kronos Quartet. Director / performer Haruko Crow Nishimura’s passion is to question the relationship between audience and performer—to put them in each other’s way, always searching to discover how art can create deeper connections, transformations and awakenings.Her unique style of movement is inspired by physical theater and butoh dance, constantly dealing with subversive sides of humanity and revealing the hidden beauty of darkness to heal and confront. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Creative Capital award. The streamed video shared here was created especially for Performance Mix Festival’s Remotely Yours edition by Haruko Crow Nishimura, Joshua Kohl and Leo Mayberry who were scheduled to appear live in this year’s festival.

We dedicate this video with gratitude to the New Dance Alliance team: Fernando, Julia, Karen, Olivia and all who have worked tirelessly to create this online platform on the fly for all of us artists to allow us to share our work as part of the Performance Mix Festival despite its cancellation in New York City amidst Covid-19. The Degenerate Art Ensemble team spent the last 36 hours conceiving, filming, composing and editing this 20 minute film, all the while observing Seattle’s strict social distancing rules. It was an intense adventure that we undertook in our hometown of that spanned 3 locations; one was at an empty now-closed Sears parking lot (where a policeman thought we were some kind of cult and had to be talked out of shutting us down), one was in our neighborhood street, and the  final scene was shot at sunrise at the iconic Gasworks Park overlooking Seattle’s lake Union and downtown. The living room of our cozy little house was used for for the indoor shots, where we set up the screen and lights in the same way that we open actual performance piece, Skeleton Flower. We hope you enjoy!

Concept and dance: Haruko Crow Nishimura
Music : Joshua Kohl
Cinematography: Leo Mayberry and Joshua Kohl
Costume: Willow Fox & Haruko Crow Nishimura
Video Editing: Joshua Kohl
Stunt Drivers: Wyly Astley, Willow Fox, Joshua Kohl  and Bruce Tom,
Staff photographer: Bruce Tom

Skeleton Flower (excerpt)

Skeleton Flower is a performance of Degenerate Art Ensemble’s signature style of live music, visceral movement and dance, projected cinematic imagery and storytelling ritual. We are thrilled to be sharing aspects of this work as part of New Dance Alliance’s Performance Mix Festival. Skeleton Flower is a semi-autobiographical exploration of a creative person’s struggle with identity, depression and the awakening of personal power. As with all of Degenerate Art Ensemble’s work, Skeleton Flower is told with gritty honesty, wild imagination and a generous sense of humor. Director Haruko Crow Nishimura draws on her own difficult and at times violent childhood which led to major breakdowns and years of depression. The work explores how, through creativity, she was able to not only survive, but also share the fruits of her imagination with others, and transform herself in the process. The piece also deals with the painful and tangled karma that is passed down to us over generations and how we can find ways to untangle that karma and choose our own path for our own lives. The piece deals with these issues with humor and imagination, casting her family as monsters from a Godzilla movie, and tracing her personal struggle through three fairy tales she was told as a child. Skeleton Flower was shown as a work in progress in Bulgaria as part of the Spotlight USA Festival, premiered in Seattle in March of 2019, will be performed at the International Festival of Contemporary Dance in Mexico City in August of 2020, and will have its New York premiere in October 2020.

Seed Ceremony

Leading up to the stage premiere of Skeleton Flower, we held a series of ceremonies in which members of the public could share their own personal stories, which were then honored with the planting of seeds of the skeleton flower plant.

VR Work in Progress

We are in the process of creating a stand-alone Virtual Reality piece based on the characters and world of Skeleton Flower. Here we share with you some of the behind the scenes technical work as we work on it.

Skeleton Flower Band and Music Videos

The music of the performance piece Skeleton Flower grew into a band. Here are two music videos that features songs from the album Skeleton Flower. The full album is also available on Spotify, iTunes, Youtube, Bandcamp, etc.

Fitcher’s Bird

My Double

Back to 2020 Performance Mix Festival

Support New Dance Alliance and Performance Mix Festival 34: Remotely Yours