(like a vase) (2010)

Neil Greenberg’s (like a vase) explores the tensions created by the seemingly inescapable human desire to make meaning. With this new work Greenberg and his collaborators seek to create room for the viewer to experience dance, music and performance less as speech acts and more as one might encounter an art object—like a vase—without necessarily asking “what is this (vase) saying?”

The opening is set to a recording by the celebrated monologuist Ruth Draper, A Class in Greek Poise, by which Greenberg “throws down a challenge to our built-in lust for interpretation” (Village Voice) . This introduction serves as a setup for the rest of the work, in effect bombarding the audience with interpretive possibilities, after which a viewer might be relieved to abandon such efforts, and perhaps experience the “isness” of the performance moments.

In what follows, six dancers engage with complex and idiosyncratic movement material— culled from videotaped improvisations, learned verbatim—in sequences that serve as both shifting objects of contemplation and containers for redoubled meanings. Zeena Parkins’ live music for harp, keyboard, percussion, and electronics, “beautiful and fascinating in its own right” (New York Times) , provides “a vivid aural climate” (Village Voice) .

(like a vase) premiered at Dance Theater Workshop in New York City.
55 minutes, six dancers and three musicians
Original Live Score: Zeena Parkins
Additional sound: A Class in Greek Poise, by Ruth Draper
Lighting Design: Michael Stiller
Sag-Crotch Costumes: James Kidd
Production Design: Jmy Leary, Neil Greenberg and Michael Stiller
Originally Performed by: Johnni Durango, Neil Greenberg, Paige Martin, Luke Miller, Mina Nishimura, Colin Stilwell (Dancers); Shayna Dunkelman, Preshish Moments, Zeena Parkins (Musicians)

  1. “Neil Greenberg has a way of tangoing with meaning;
    he pulls it close, stares at it, and spins it away—never quite losing control… the setting challenges us from the outset: ‘I dare you to interpret me.’… I say to myself, ‘YOU STOP THAT!!’… And then, even more silently, ‘Greenberg, you clever bastard, you hooked me…’”
    Deborah Jowitt, Village Voice (source)
  2. “…cultivated but quirky, mildly camp and somewhat arch.”
    Alastair Macauley, New York Times (source)
  3. “I have never seen such well-wrought inharmoniousness.”
    Apollinaire Scherr, Financial Times (source)
  4. “ (like a vase) is really like a gift: an hour of pure, thought-provoking stage play, handed to the New York public like a delicately wrapped piece of ceramic art.”
    Teresa Lynn, iDanz Today (source)



Zeena Parkins, sound artist, multi-instrumentalist, composer, improviser-is well-known as a pioneer of the electric harp, and has also extended the language of the acoustic harp with the inventive use of unusual playing techniques, preparations, and layers of digital and analog processing. Parkins accurately describes her electric harp as a ‘sound machine of limitless capacity.’ She has created numerous scores for film, video, chamber orchestra, theater and, especially, dance—receiving three ‘Bessie’ awards, including a 2007 ‘Bessie’ for sustained achievement as a composer for dance. Her music melds and highlights opposites, blurring boundaries between improvised and composed, acoustic and electric, digital and analog, and processed and concrete sounds. She has collaborated with Greenberg since 1991.


Michael Stiller has lit the work of choreographers and theater artists across the United States, Europe and South America. He has created lighting designs for all of Dance By Neil Greenberg’s productions since 1991, and received a 1995 ‘Bessie’ Award for his work on Not-About-AIDS-Dance. He has also served as designer or lighting director for concerts, talk shows, music videos and films. The last few years have seen his practice expand to include architectural lighting design and themed environment. He has been a guest lecturer at Pratt Institute, and is currently an adjunct professor in FIT’s masters degree program in exhibit design.

© Frank Mullaney
© Frank Mullaney
© Frank Mullaney

(like a vase) was commissioned by Dance Theater Workshop's Commissioning and Creative Residency Program with the support of donors to The Fund for Continuing Innovation. This presentation was made possible, in part, by the generous support of Judy and Steven Gluckstern through the David R. White Producers' Circle.

(like a vase) was also made possible by support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Creative Exploration Fund, the Leonard and Sophie Davis Fund, the James E. Robison Foundation, The Harkness Foundation for Dance, research funds from Eugene Lang College, The New School for Liberal Arts and UC Riverside, and a creative residency at Pieter PASD studio in Los Angeles. Zeena Parkins' score for (like a vase) was commissioned by the American Music Center Live Music for Dance Program.

This program was videotaped by the Dance Collection of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts for preservation in the Jerome Robbins Archive of the Recorded Moving Image