Margaret Jenkins

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Margaret Jenkins (born 1942)[1] is a postmodern choreographer based in San Francisco, California. She was a Guggenheim Fellow in 1980 and in 2003, San Francisco mayor, Willie Brown, declared April 24 to be Margaret Jenkins Day.


Jenkins began her early training in dance in her hometown of San Francisco with Judy and Lenore Job, Welland Lathrop, and Gloria Unti. She continued her dance studies at the Juilliard School and the University of California at Los Angeles. During the 1960s she danced with Viola Farber, Judy Dunn, James Cunningham, Gus Solomons, and Twyla Tharp. Additionally, she taught at the studio of Merce Cunningham for twelve years and restaged his works throughout the United States and Europe [2]

In 1970, Jenkins returned to San Francisco, where she taught dance and choreographed. She founded the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company in 1973. The company is based in San Francisco and tours both nationally and internationally. Several of Jenkins' company members have gone on to form their own dance companies. These include Elizabeth Streb, Joe Goode, and Kathleen Hermesdorf[3] Additionally, Jenkins opened one of the first spaces in the city to combine creative research, choreography, and performance in the same building. Currently, the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company is housed in the newly established Margaret Jenkins Dance Lab, located in the South of Market Street district of San Francisco. In 2004, Jenkins and her company established the Choreographers in Mentorship Exchange (CHIME) with support from the James Irving Foundation.[3] This program develops connections and long-term relationships between emerging and established choreographers. Choreographers who participate in CHIME are provided with time in the studio and artist fees.[4]


The AXIS Dance Company performs Waypoint by Margaret Jenkins. From left to right are dancers Margaret Cromwell, Bonnie Lewkowicz, Sonsherée Giles, and Sean McMahon.

During her career, Jenkins has made over seventy-five pieces and is considered a "West Coast modern dance innovator"[5] In creating her work, she is interested in collaborating with artists from different fields. She has worked with the poet Michael Palmer, and the visual designer Alexander Nichols. She has also collaborated with musicians, including the Kronos Quartet and the Paul Dresher Ensemble. While in New York, she was influenced by many of the experimental artists of the 1960s.[2] These included dancers and choreographers Merce Cunningham, Trisha Brown, David Gordon, Yvonne Rainer, and Steve Paxton. She was also inspired by musicians John Cage, Morton Feldman, and Earle Brown.[2] She admired the work of visual artists Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, and Andy Warhol .[2] Her work has been well received by critics. The New York Times considers Jenkins’ work to be hauntingly beautiful and compelling dance…astonishing.[2] Additionally, the Washington Post described her choreography as having intelligence, force, and imagination .[2]

Jenkins work has been commissioned by numerous companies and universities in the United States, Europe, and Asia. Some of her recent works are the site-specific Danger Orange (2004), Running with the Land (2005), and A Slipping Glimpse (2006). Danger Orange reflects the shaky state of national security and was performed at San Francisco’s Justin Herman Plaza the month before the 2004 presidential elections took place [6] Running with the Land was commissioned for the reopening of the de Young Museum in San Francisco, and was performed in the Barbro Osher Sculpture Garden on its grounds. A Slipping Glimpse was a collaboration between her company and several dancers from Tanusree Shankar Dance Company in Kolkata, India. In 2008, she was asked to create a piece for San Francisco Ballet's celebration of their seventy-fifth anniversary season. Currently, she is involved in a collaboration with the Guangdong Modern Dance Theater in China, which will premiere in 2009.


Jenkins was on the first Board of Directors of Dance/USA and is currently on the board of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. In 1980, she was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship (1980). Jenkins has also received three Isadora Duncan Dance Awards (“Izzies”). Additionally, she has been given the Irvine Fellowship in Dance and the Bernard Osher Cultural Award. In 2003, San Francisco mayor, Willie Brown, declared April 24 to be Margaret Jenkins Day.


  1. ^ Debra Craine; Judith Mackrell (19 August 2010). The Oxford Dictionary of Dance. Oxford University Press. p. 239. ISBN 0-19-956344-6. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Margaret Jenkins Dance Company website.
  3. ^ a b Ulrich, Allan: “News: Looking Back with a Legend”, Dance Magazine, April 2003, page 17. .
  4. ^ James Irvine Foundation Site Archived 2008-02-28 at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ Hardy, Camille: "Dance: Life Tale", page 137. The Village Voice, April 1999.
  6. ^ KQED website.

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