top of page

trajal harrell


©Whitney Browne 



GENERAL KEYWORDS: Ballroom scene, Butoh (violence in butoh), Fashion History, Gymnastics, Historical imagination, Postcolonial Feminist Theory, Postmodern dance, Postmodern theory, Queerness, Theatre, Voguing, Weak body


CHOREOGRAPHIC WORKS: Dancer of the Year; The Return of La Argentina

PEOPLE: Eiko & Koma (Eiko Otake and Takashi Koma Otake); Hijikata, Tatsumi; Hooks, Bell; Morrison, Toni; Ohno, Kazuo; Subrack, Eli; Trinh, T. Minh-ha

PLACES: Athens (Greece), Florida, Georgia (USA), Judson Dance Theatre, San Francisco, Yale University, Zurich


CITATION: ​Interview with Trajal Harrell, Thomas F. DeFrantz, online (21/10/2021). Project “Mnemedance”, Collection Mnemedance (#Mnemedance12) URL:<>, (accessed dd/mm/yyyy). 


general info


Trajal Harrell's peripatetic life between Georgia (USA), Zurich and Athens (Greece) seems no different from his choreographic approach that melts dynamically very distant dance genres. Having studied closely with the legendary butoh dancer Kazuo Ohno, his work over the last ten years has been based on the recreation of butoh’s original violence through the lens of voguing balls, fashion shows and postmodern dance. Excavating theoretically and historically the relationship between voguing and the queer body, breaking and reassembling lineages and continuities, he creates a postmodern pastiche that critically engages with the production of meaning in performance making. However, the interpretation of his work remains unseparated from the inherent politics of his black male body that follow him as a burden and as a gift. Finding himself at the end of a research cycle, Trajal is now ready to open a new chapter for digging into the possibilities and the politics of the weak body on stage.

for_mnemedance (6).png


interview questions




What is your first memory related to dance?


How did your experiences at home shape your participation in dance?


What is your primary research question as an artist?


Who do you think of most when you remember your teachers?


How did your college studies shape your interest in dance, theater and performance?


How did you decide to make work that explores queer possibility?


How do you think of beauty? 


How do you think of body?


What is political about the works you make?


What is political about memory?  


How do you remember your work?


Are you interested in archiving and transmitting your work?

for_mnemedance (4).png

DANCER OF THE YEAR ©Lorenza Daverio



TRAJAL HARRELL came to contemporary dance world fame with the Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at The Judson Church series of works that theoretically juxtaposed the voguing dance tradition with the early postmodern dance tradition. He is now considered as one of the most important choreographers working in the field of dance and performance. His work has been presented in many artistic contexts including MoMA, MoMA PS1, Manchester International Festival, Festival d’Avignon, The Barbican Centre (London), Performa Biennial, Fondation Cartier (Paris), Hammer Museum (Los Angeles), Ludwig Museum (Cologne), Kanal Pompidou (Brussels), MUDAM (Luxembourg), The New Museum (New York), The Margulies Art Warehouse (Miami), Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam), Serralves Museum (Porto), Centre Pompidou-Paris and Metz, Kanal Pompidou (Brussels), ICA Boston and Art Basel-Miami Beach, among others. His work was most recently presented at The Gwangju Biennial and São Paulo Bienal. He also completed the first film of his work, Friend of Friend, in collaboration with visual artist Sarah Sze, directed by Thierry Villeneuveand commissioned by Fondation Cartier. Currently, his dance company is based in the Schauspielhaus Zurich, where he is the new founding director of Trajal Harrell/Schauspielhaus Zurich Dance Ensemble.

THOMAS F. DEFRANTZ is Professor at Northwestern University who specialises in African diaspora aesthetics, dance historiography, and intersections of dance and technology. Books include Routledge Companion to African American Theater and Performance (with Kathy Perkins, Sandra Richards, and Renee Alexander Craft, 2018); Choreography and Corporeality: Relay in Motion (with Philipa Rothfield, 2016) and Black Performance Theory: An Anthology of Critical Readings (with Anita Gonzalez, 2014). DeFrantz received the 2017 Outstanding Research in Dance award from the Dance Studies Association. DeFrantz acted as a consultant for the Smithsonian Museum of African American Life and Culture, contributing concept and a voiceover for a permanent installation on Black Social Dance that opened with the museum in 2016. DeFrantz directs SLIPPAGE: Performance|Culture|Technology, a group that explores emerging technology in live performance applications, and believes in our shared capacity to do better and engage creative spirit for a collective good that is anti-racist, proto-feminist, and queer affirming.

bottom of page