David Neumann

David Neumann and advanced beginner group’s original work has been presented in New York at PS 122, New York Live Arts, The Kitchen, Abrons Arts Center, Central Park Summerstage (where he collaborated with John Giorno), Celebrate Brooklyn, Symphony Space (where he collaborated with Laurie Anderson), The Chocolate Factory and The Whitney. ABG has also performed at the Walker Art Center, Alverno College, MASS MoCA,  The Fusebox Festival, The Ringling Festival and the American Dance Institute, among others. Neumann was a performer for many years working with, among others, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Big Dance Theater, Doug Elkins, Doug Varone and Sally Silvers. Recent projects include: choreographer on Hadestown (NYTW), The Total Bent (Public Theater),  War (LCT 3), Futurity (Ars Nova and Soho Rep),  An Octoroon (Soho Rep/Theater for a New Audience), The Antipodes (Signature Theater), directing Geoff Sobelle in The Object Lesson (BAM and NYTW), and choreographing Hagoromo at BAM Harvey with Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto.  He is currently professor of theater at Sarah Lawrence College. Most recently, Neumann’s work, I Understand Everything Better received two 2016 NY Dance and Performance Bessie Awards, one for Outstanding Production and one for Outstanding Sound Design/Music Composition. He was named a 2016 Artist in Residence at the SETI Institute and was also awarded a Robert Rauschenberg Residency. Over the years Neumann has received three “Bessie” Awards, a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Award, an Asian Cultural Council Fellowship (Noh immersive), residencies at MASS MoCA, ADI, MANCC, and support from the Rockefeller Foundation, Creative Capital, NYFA and National Dance Projects among others.

Returning Choreographic Fellow | Aug 14 - 21, 2016 // Nov 25 - Dec 3, 2017 // June 25 - July 7, 2018

Distances Smaller Than This Are Not Confirmed

Inspired by his participation as the first performing artist-in-residence at the SETI Institute (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), David Neumann came to MANCC as a Mellon-funded Returning Choreographic Fellow in a series of three residencies to develop a multi-disciplinary dance/theater piece, Distances Smaller Than This Are Not Confirmed (working title). SETI Institute astronomer Dr. Jill Tarter explains, “the probability of success is difficult to estimate, but if we never search, the chance for success is zero.” Neumann's curiosity about the universe from a scientist’s point of view began here.

Neumann’s central questions for Distances Smaller... are found along the boundary between the explainable and the mysterious. His aim is to unmoor himself from his own comfort zones by placing privilege, masculinity, and race in the context of the cosmic scale, and by relating the challenges of art-making to scientific endeavors. The work allows a complex view of the human experience to unfold, full of all its hubris and wonder. Neumann is attempting to bring the unfathomable scales of time and space into the theater and onto bodies with his mix of dance, science, and theater-making methodologies, creating a work where the borders between language and movement become indistinguishable, and the empirical and poetic become sympathetic agents.

For this work, Neumann aims to explore and stage multiple, concurrent points of view. As his research into both the cosmological and quantum scales has shown him, the more one knows, the less one can be certain of. Neumann finds this paradoxical state difficult, inspiring, and truthful, as it is connected to his own process of emerging awareness within a systemically racist society. For Neumann, change begins by unpacking one’s assumptions and dancing within the mess.

Neumann’s first residency for this project, in August 2016, was a solo period of research, during which he began an ongoing conversation with FSU’s Dr. Jeremiah Murphy, Assistant Professor of Physics, on the intersections between dance and astrophysics.

In his second residency, Neumann brought an intergenerational cast of dancers including Sara Rudner, Professor of Dance at Sarah Lawrence College and former muse of Twyla Tharpe, and  Jodi Melnick, a renowned choreographer in her own right. The cast also included Victoria Roberts-Wierzbowski, who worked previously with Neumann at MANCC in 2011 on Restless Eye. The residency culminated with an Open Studio Rehearsal during which Neumann and sound designer Tei Blow experimented with the musical score for the work. Undergraduate School of Dance students in the Music and Choreography class, co-taught by guest artist Millicent Johnnie and Specialized Faculty member Dan Smith, attended the rehearsal and engaged with Neumann in an open dialogue about his process in real time. In attendance at the showing was Dr. Murphy, who was able to provide further insight on the work after having seen it live in rehearsal.

Neumann’s third and final residency at MANCC took place in late June/early July 2018, during which the cast reconvened and further developed the movement, script, and technical elements of the work. Marcella Murray, a theater artist who had recently graduated with her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College where she met David, joined the team as a performer and dramaturg for the work. This residency was transformative for the piece. While David was initially working with at least two separate approaches that, in earlier MANCC residencies, he was trying to combine, it was during the third MANCC residency when David decided to separate the material he had been developing into two distinct works: one a future piece with Sara, Jodi, and Victoria, and one a piece made in equal collaboration with Marcella Murray: Distances Smaller Than This Are Not Confirmed. During this residency, when not rehearsing with David, Tei, Hyung Seok, and Chris Green, Murray conducted extensive research in FSU’s Strozier Library on a variety of subjects including miscegenation, the influence of space travel on human biology, non-Black observations of the Civil Rights movement, creation myths from around the world, terraforming, the American Spiritualist movement, and narratives of enslaved people. The residency concluded with a final work-in-progress showing that featured the lighting, sound, and live video elements put together with the first draft of the show’s script.

Karinne Keithley Syers joined Neumann's residency for three days as part of MANCC's Embedded Writers Program.

These multi-year residencies, including the Embedded Writers Initiative, were supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

  • Sara Rudner
  • Sara Rudner
  • Sara Rudner and David Neumann
  • Sara Rudner
  • Sara Rudner
  • Sara Rudner, David Neumann and Jodi Melnick
  • Jodi Melnick, Victoria Roberts-Wierzbowski and David Neumann
  • Jodi Melnick and Victoria Roberts-Wierzbowski
  • Jodi Melnick, Sara Rudner and Victoria Roberts-Wierzbowski
  • Sara Rudner
  • Victoria Roberts-Wierzbowski
  • Victoria Roberts-Wierzbowski, Jodi Melnick and Sara Rudner
  • Victoria Roberts-Wierzbowski and Jodi Melnick
  • Jodi Melnick and Sara Rudner
  • Jodi Melnick, Sara Rudner and Victoria Roberts-Wierzbowski
  • David Neumann leads rehearsal
  • <i>Distances Smaller Than This Are Not Confirmed</i> rehearsal
  • Open Studio Rehearsal
  • Jodi Melnick
  • Sound Designer Tei Blow
  • Neumann talks with students after open studio rehearsal
  • Dr. Jeremiah Murphy, Assistant Professor in FSU’s Department of Physics talks with Neumann
  • Victoria Roberts-Wierzbowski, Jodi Melnick and Sara Rudner
  • Hyung Seok, Video Designer and Grace Gilmore, Lighting Programmer/Assistant Director
  • Rudner, Roberts-Wierzbowski and Melnick
  • Film shoot lighting experimentation
  • David Neumann directing film shoot
  • Jodi Melnick
  • Sara Rudner
  • Sara Rudner
  • David Neumann and Victoria Roberts-Wierzbowski
  • Hyung Seok
  • Chris Green, Set and Props Designer
  • Karinne Keithley Syers, Writer-in-Residence, speaking with David Neumann
  • Marcella Murray, Co-Creator and Performer, and David Neumann
  • David Neumann performing during informal showing
  • Murray and Neumann performing during informal showing
  • Murray and Neumann
  • Murray and Neumann during informal showing
  • Murray and Neumann
  • Murray interacting with set props designed by Chris Green
  • Murray and Neumann
  • Murray and Neumann
Collaborators in Residence: Marcella Murray [Co-Creator/Performer], Sara Rudner, Jodi Melnick, Victoria Roberts-Wierzbowski [Dancers], Tei Blow [Sound Designer], Erica Sweany [Costume Designer], Eben Hoffer [Production Manager], Boo Froebel [Producer], Chris Green [Set and Props Designer], Karinne Keithly Syers [Writer], Grace Gilmore [Lighting Programmer/Assistant Director], Jillian Hansen-Kaufman [Intern], Hyung-Seok Jeon [Video Designer]

Returning Choreographic Fellow | January 12-25, 2015

I Understand Everything Better

I Understand Everything Better is a multidisciplinary dance-based performance that explores the impulse to report on calamity, the consciousness of traumatic change, and one's proximity to dying. A union of theater and dance-making methodologies, I Understand incorporates innovative technology, weather reports, and personal narratives within a framework composed of elements drawn from classical Japanese dance and theater. Within the central metaphor in I Understand... of an oncoming storm, a comparison emerges between the individual and the species-wide in relation to experiencing the end of life. There are three main points of portrayal: a man on his deathbed, a meteorologist reporting from within a storm, and a great actor who might be performing a Kabuki play about a dying man in a great storm.

Prior to coming to MANCC Neumann worked with two advisors on the project including, Dr. Pamela Barton (an end-of-life care physician) and Rick Davis, a lead scientist with the National Weather Service in Ruskin, FL.  Neumann conducted interviews with weather reporters and observed their live weather reports. Observing them on the job allowed for a highly detailed account of how these “in the field” reports are produced, adding to the specificity of the performance. Neumann also interacted with the elder community and those who attend to their health care needs to gain a wider perspective on approaches to dying as well as the effects on our minds and bodies as we near our last breath.

Neumann began his MANCC residency by meeting with a nurse from Tallahassee’s Big Bend Hospice to discuss her experiences working with those at the end of life and how she cares for those who face terminal illnesses. Neumann and his collaborators also met with Dr. Kristina Buhrman, an Assistant Professor of Religion at FSU, to discuss ancient Japanese theater and philosophy. Alongside the exploration of the themes in the work, Neumann used his MANCC residency to focus attention on production elements including lighting, set construction and furthering the develop a soundscape. Neumann ended his residency with an informal showing of I Understand Everything Better followed by a discussion in which Neumann addressed his inspirations for the piece and its genre-defying nature. 

I Understand premiered at the American Dance Institute in Rockville, MD, March 27-28, 2015.

  • John Gasper, Tei Blow, Jennifer Kidwell and David Neumann
  • Tei Blow reviewing and developing sound design for <i>I Understand...</i>
  • Writer Sybil Kempson works with Neumann, Kidwell, Blow, and Gasper
  • Set Designer Mimi Lien researching production elements with Neumann and Kidwell
  • Neumann meets with FSU Religion Professor Dr. Kristina Burhman about Noh Theater
  • Newmann and Kempson in a meeting with Hospice Nurse Miriette Dorval
  • Neumann and Gasper perform in an informal showing of <i>I Understand...</i>
  • David Neumann and Jennifer Kidwell
  • David Neumann
  • Neumann and Kidwell perform in an informal showing of <i>I Understand...</i>
  • David Neumann
  • David Neumann
  • I Understand Everything Better rehearsal
  • Jennifer Kidwell
  • John Gasper and Jennifer Kidwell
  • <i>I Understand Everything Better</i> Informal Showing
  • <i>I Understand Everything Better</i> Informal Showing
  • <i>I Understand Everything Better</i> Informal Showing
  • <i>I Understand Everything Better</i> Informal Showing
  • <i>I Understand Everything Better</i> Informal Showing
Collaborators in residence: Tei Blow, Johnny Gasper, Jennifer Kidwell [performers], Sybil Kempson [writer], Chloe Brown [lighting designer], Mimi Lien [set design], Tei Blow [sound design], Christine Shallenberg [lighting/projection], Erica Sweany [costume designer], Meredith Boggia [creative producer]. Photo slideshows by Chris Cameron and Jon Nalon.

New York Live Arts Partnership | October 18 – November 2, 2011

Restless Eye

Former Choreographic Fellow David Neumann returned to MANCC to develop Restless Eye, a work that explores the realm between thought and behavior, between describing life and experiencing it. While in residence, Neumann and his collaborators sourced a variety of data sets and statistics based on everyday phenomena and shared their investigations through open rehearsals with the local community, FSU students and with students at Sarah Lawrence College via Skype. Neumann and writer, Sibyl Kempson met with Dr. Karin Brewster, a Sociology professor and Director of the FSU Center for Demography and Population Health to discuss the utilization of statistical models within the developmental process. Neumann also explored the possibility of incorporating digital media in the work with collaborator Tei Blow.

The work premiered at New York Live Arts on March 24, 2012.

This New York Live Arts Partnership was made possible, in part, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts.

  • David Neumann researches movement for <i>Restless Eye</i>
  • Victoria Roberts-Wierzbowski, Kennis Hawkins, Neal Medlyn
  • <i>Restless Eye</i> rehearsal
  • Victoria Roberts-Wierzbowski, Kennis Hawkins, Jeremy Olson and Neal Medlyn rehearse <i>Restless Eye</i>
  • Victoria Roberts-Wierzbowski rehearsing <i>Restless Eye</i>
  • David Neumann and Neal Medlyn
  • Jeremy Olson and Victoria Roberts-Wierzbowski perform as part of <i>Restless Eye</i> Informal Showing
  • Kennis Hawkins performs in <i>Restless Eye</i> Informal Showing
  • Jeremy Olson, Neal Medlyn, Kennis Hawkins and Victoria Roberts-Wierzbowski
  • Jeremy Olson, Neal Medlyn, Kennis Hawkins, David Neumann and Victoria Roberts-Wierzbowski
  • Kennis Hawkins and Victoria Roberts-Wierzbowski perform in <i>Restless Eye</i> Informal Showing
  • Victoria Roberts-Wierzbowski, Kennis Hawkins, Jeremy Olson and Neal Medlyn
  • Jeremy Olson and Kennis Hawkins
  • Kennis Hawkins perform in <i>Restless Eye</i> Informal Showing
  • Kennis Hawkins, Victoria Roberts-Wierzbowski and Jeremy Olson
  • Jeremy Olson, Kennis Hawkins and Victoria Roberts-Wierzbowski
  • Jeremy Olson, Victoria Roberts-Wierzbowski and Kennis Hawkins
  • David Neumann and collaborators speak with audience after showing
  • Neumann explores the possible use of digital media in <i>Restless Eye</i>
  • Neumann and collaborators experiment with digital media in the development of <i>Restless Eye</i>
  • Hawkins explores the use of digital media
  • Neumann utilizes Tei Blow's digital media effects in the development of <i>Restless Eye</i>
  • Jeremy Olson experiments with Tei Blow's digital media effects
Collaborators in Residence: Kennis Hawkins, Neal Medlyn, Jeremy Olson, Victoria Roberts-Wierzbowski [performers], Tei Blow [technical director], Sibyl Kempson [writer].
Slideshow photos by Chris Cameron, Al Hall and David Neumann.

Choreographic Fellow | May 7 – 27, 2007


Neumann worked with students and his dancers on FEEDFORWARD through the exploration, expansion and a combination of the rules of sports. Neumann used the rules and tactics of different sports as “found algorithms” to determine the structure of this new ‘physical event’. Eve Beglarian worked with a local band of trombonists to develop an original score for the work.

FEEDFORWARD premiered at Dance Theatre Workshop in October 2007.

Collaborators in Residence:Eve Beglarian [composer], Matt Citron, Taryn Griggs, Kyle Pleasant, Chris Yon [dancers]

Featured Artist

Faye Driscoll

February 22 - 24
Carolina Performing
Arts, UNC Chapel Hill


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