Why Joe Goode Works With Military Vets on His "Resilience Project"

December 9, 2020

Master storyteller Joe Goode has been synthesizing text, imagery and movement for decades in his raw, multipronged dance-theater work. In 2011, what began as a series of conversations with audience members about their life stories evolved into a transformative movement experience for veterans, called Movement for Humans. Over the past nine years, a performance based on their stories, now named The Resilience Project, has had several iterations as Goode and his company have worked with different populations.

Dance Magazine
recently asked him about how the project came about, what he’s learned from it and what drives him to keep it going.

Where it began: 

“I wanted to do a series based on generosity, where I interviewed people about the hardships in their lives. An early version was called the Human Kind Series. We got a lot of stories about divorce, illness, health, addiction—all sorts of things. We took the words and made movement theater out of it.”

“When a friend of mine first asked me to do the project with veterans, I said, ‘I’m not a veteran myself, so that’s an odd fit. I’m a queer choreographer from San Francisco, and I don’t know if they’ll be able to relate to me.’ She introduced us, and the thing that finally tipped me was that the folks were so young. They could have been my children.”

What he’s gained from the experience:

“I’ve always loved language and personal stories. But to hear words that come from other people, sometimes very humble people, people who may not have had great success or recognition in life…Their stories are powerful and beautiful.”

“Before working with veterans, I thought that people joined the military and went to war because of their politics or the region of the United States they grew up in. That certainly comes up sometimes, but mostly it’s people who needed work. They didn’t feel that they were college material, or they wanted to get out of the house. They needed something to do with their lives.”

How he’s adapted during the pandemic:

“We’re now offering Movement for Humans on Zoom. It’s basically a self-care process, which involves a little movement, a little storytelling and a little excavating of how you’re feeling in the moment. It’s very good for people who have gone through trauma. It’s really about acknowledging the body in all its imperfection, quirks, idiosyncrasies and caught places. It’s not a training. It’s really just about befriending the body, just being open to what it is, not what you want it to be.”

“Much of our work with The Resilience Project is on hold. It’s not the kind of work that can be done on Zoom. But I have every belief we’ll find a way to continue if this goes on much longer.”