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The Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance

Karl Andersen BFA '86

KARL ANDERSON started dancing when he was nineteen.  Discovering dance was a cathartic experience that changed his life in every respect.  For the first time, Karl discovered something that he loved.  He was driven to investigate himself, his world-view, and the worlds of art and expression.  In 1986, Karl received a BFA in Dance from the California Institute of the Arts.  Upon graduation, he returned to San Francisco.   He performed with Contraband, the Joe Goode Performance Group, Motivity, and The San Francisco Moving Company.   He also presented his own work at Centerspace and at Footwork studio in San Francisco.

Upon moving to New York in 1987, Karl performed with Ze' Eva Cohen, David Dorfman, Charles Dennis, Jeff McMahon, Stephanie Skura, and Merián Soto.  Karl's company, SLAMFEST, was presented at BACA Downtown, Fieldworks, Gowanus Arts Exchange, Movement Research at the Judson Church, Performance Space 122's New Stuff series, Rapp Arts Center, Robert Yohn's Dance Loft, and Socrates Sculpture Park.  His choreography was also presented at the Metropolitan School for the Arts in Syracuse New York, the Patio Theater of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture in Old San Juan PR, the John L. Haar Theater in Edmonton Canada (1989 and 1991); and the first National Performance Network touring contract in Canada at the Dancer's Studio West in Calgary.             

Mr. Anderson took a hiatus from dance in 1990.  He graduated from Pratt Institute with a Bachelor's of Architecture in 1996 and a Master's of Architecture in 1998.  Midway through this major life change, Karl realized that although he liked architecture, dance was what he loved. During his last year at Pratt, he performed with David Lindsay-Abaire and Daniel Safer, Speed Carroll, Pt. Satya Narayana Charka, Beth Coiner, and Andrea Mills.           

Since graduating from Pratt, Karl has performed with Wendy Blum, Keely Garfield, Allyson Green, Kate Gyllenhaal, Curt Haworth, Clarinda Mac Low, Amy Sue Rosen, Lynn Marie Ruse, Jordana Toback, and Sally Silvers, and he is currently dancing with Molly Rabinowitz.  

Since 1998, SLAMFEST productions have been presented at Arts on the Hudson II Festival on Pier 63, the TalkTalk/WalkWalk Festival at the Bowery Poetry Club in 2003 and 2004, the BRICK studio, CalArts School of Dance Alumni Concert at St. Mark’s Church, CalArts Alumni Concert at The Kitchen, Dancenow Downtown Festival 2000 (at the Joyce SoHo), Dancenowfest 2001 (at Williamsburg Arts Nexus and at Joyce SoHo), dancenow/nyc 2002 (at the Joyce SoHo), dancenOw/NYC 2005 (at Joe’s Pub), Dancenow/NYC Festival 2006 (at Dance Theater Workshop), Downtown Dance Festival at Chase Plaza, Dance Theater Workshop’s Freshtracks showcase, a Splitstream, and the Carnival Series, Dancer’s over 40 at the 42nd St. studios, Danspace Project’s Food For Thought series, Dixon Place, D.U.M.B.O. art under the bridge Dance Festival (2001 and 2006), Galapagos Art & Performance Space, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Joyce SoHo Benefit Auction 2007, La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, Movement Research at the Judson Church and Movement Research Improvisation Festival at Danspace Project, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, Sal Anthony’s Movement Salon, University Settlement, and Wave Rising Series at the John Ryan Theater.  In 2002 and 2003 SLAMFEST self-produced full evening concerts at the Williamsburg Arts Nexus and a partially subsidized self-produced concert at the Joyce SoHo in 2007.

SLAMFEST has toured domestically to Hoboken NJ. at the DeBaun Auditorium at Steven’s Institute in their SWEAT Modern Dance Series (2006), the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival (2004), Richmond VA. at the Grace St. Theater (2002, 2004, and 2005), the ‘East Meets West’ Performance Festival at Sushi in San Diego (2005), the WestWaveDanceFestival at the ODC Theater in San Francisco (2005), presented improvisation-based works in Seattle at the Textile Factory and at On The House (2003).  SLAMFEST has also toured internationally to John Moores University in Liverpool England (2006) and to Universidad De La Americas in Puebla Mexico (2007 and 2008).

Mr. Anderson is a certified instructor of the Skinner Releasing Technique and has taught both domestically and internationally.  A card-carrying member of the American Civil Liberties Union, Karl is an artist member of Dance Theater Workshop and serves on the DTW Curatorial Advisory Committee.

What brought you to CalArts?

I discovered CalArts quite by accident.  A friend at  the time had an audition slot and asked if I wanted  to accompany her.  They let me try out even  though I had not preregistered.  I started dancing  at age 19 and I had about one year under-my-belt when I auditioned.  Thankfully, Donald Byrd, liked how weird my improvisations were and was also able to completely overlook my absurd attempts at learning dance movement.

I knew immediately upon matriculation that I would never be a great dancer, or possibly never even be a really good dancer.  I had a knack for choreography and I was pushed in that direction.  I loved my time at CalArts.  I absorbed as much as possible and I was fearless about making the most odd stuff imaginable.  Some of it was pure genius but most of it was a kind or hapless regurgitation.  As I found my voice and aesthetic preferences, I became egoistic and lost my way.  By my senior year I had an attitude problem and my work had become shallow.  It took me a few years in the professional setting to regroup and get my ego under control once again.  

“…an innovative duet…full of intimate, unexpected gestures”

Jennifer de Poyen / The San Diego Union-Tribune (2005)  Intercourse

What advice would you give to present or perspective students?

My advice to any young CalArtian who might be battling with the know-it-all syndrome is: you don't. No one does.  I think it is entirely possible to absorb information and influences, imitate and copy, and discover your own unique vision without necessarily disregarding those aesthetic endeavors that you don't find terribly interesting or deep.  The longer I'm in this field of dance more I'm able to applaud anyone who is brave enough to make something.  In a world where viscous people run most of the countries and a third of the global population goes to bed hungry every night, how pointed do we really need to be with our artistic critiques?  Being helpful seems like a much better use of our time and energy.   

CalArts is unique in that it houses the Schools of Art, Critical Studies, Dance, Film/Video, Music and Theater as well as the Division of Library and Informational Resources under one roof. As a student, how did you engage with other members of the CalArts community and how did it influence your art making?

At the time, I knew that CalArts was a special environment.  But it wasn't until I retuned to school and earned additional degrees in Architecture that I realized how amazing CalArts was (and most probably still is).  CalArts is a hotbed of collaboration.  Since I graduated in 1986, I have made collaborations with four different CalArtians who I met later in New York.  I have also collaborated with composers and designers of all sorts.  The intrapollenation that occurs at CalArts is an invaluable preparation for the "real" world.  The mentoring system is amazing and rare.  CalArts if packed with excellent teachers who care.  Drink it up.

Unless you are Mr. or Mrs. Moneybags, making art upon graduation is going to be very difficult if not totally daunting.  It takes a strong vision that is also malleable, tenacity, and a commitment to the long road ahead.  Over the past twenty years, I have taught and performed at numerous institutions of higher learning and I have to say that CalArts is unlike any college or University that I've come across.  CalArts is an amazing place that changed my life for the better and anyone who is lucky enough to be a student at CalArts should be quite thankful indeed.          

What other degrees or certifications do you have?

Although I earn a living as a site manager for a design/build architectural firm and I simply loose hundreds to thousands of dollars per dance piece, my official title for my dance company would be Choreographer and Artistic Director.

Since CalArts, I have earned degrees in Architecture from Pratt Institute: BArch 1996 and MArch 1998 and I have become a certified facilitator of the Skinner Releasing Technique.

“…an original, engaging thinker who relishes questions and distrusts pat answers.”

Eva Yaa Asantewaa / The Village Voice (2002)




“…a beautiful duet.”

Deborah Jowitt / The Village Voice (2004)          Intercourse


Links for this Artist:








Photo Credit:


Photographer: Estela Morales


a solo made and performed by Karl Anderson

premiered at Footwork Dance Studio (San Francisco)

Photographer: Estela Morales


A collaboration by Karl Anderson and Kate Weare

premiered at Dance Theater Workshop in 2004

Photographer: Paul H. Taylor

"...Crack Baby..."

A collaboration by Karl Anderson and Leslie Derrick

made and performed by the collaborators

premiered at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in 2001

Photographer: Gordon Douglas

"Squint to Focus"

premiered at Dance Theater Workshop in 2004

Performers: Rachel Lynch-John, Molly Rabinowitz, and Kristi Spessard


A collaboration by Karl Anderson and Kate Weare

premiered at Dance Theater Workshop in 2004

Photographer: Paul H. Taylor

Return to webpage: www.calarts.edu

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