Dance Theater


A History of Light premiered at Danspace Project/St. Mark’s Church November 8-10, 2018. Created in collaboration with visual artist and McArthur recipient Josiah McElheny, the intermedia performance intertwines dance aesthetics and scientific knowledge to narrate a unique history of the universe through the stories of women who have pushed art, science, and technology ahead. Twentieth century cultural and scientific references inform the work’s content and form. The project is the first part of a longer work.

The creation of A History of Light was made possible, in part, by the Danspace Project 2018-19 Commissioning Initiative and Production Residency Program, with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

A History of Light Act III, Photo by Paula Lobo (2018)

Concept: Emily Coates
Conceptual Development and Dramaturgy: Emily Coates and Josiah McElheny
Choreography and Script: Emily Coates
Original videos and objects in Acts I & III: Emily Coates & Josiah McElheny
Sculpture in Act III: Josiah McElheny, “Walking Mirror I” (2012), wood, mirror, nylon webbing, metal hardware
Music Direction and Composition: Will Orzo
Lighting Design: Carol Mullins
Video Editing: Yana Birÿkova
Technical direction: Neil Mulligan
Performed by: Emily Coates, Sarah Demers, Josiah McElheny


Incarnations is made up of a series of etudes on dancing with science. Based in part on my collaboration with particle physicist Sarah Demers, the piece moves between lecture and performance, interweaving divergent sources, from Balanchine’s Apollo and postmodernist dance aesthetics to the elusive body of Sir Isaac Newton and the breakthrough discovery of the Higgs boson.

The piece illuminates humorous gaps and surprising insights as each discipline struggles to imagine the other. The moments in which the interdisciplinary dialogue must out of necessity break down also yield some of the most effective poetics. Playful and serious, Incarnations celebrates physics and dance as equal partners in our profound effort to understand our existence.

Physicists can explain four percent of the universe. Ninety-six percent remains unknown. Incarnations lingers on both the known and the unknowable, and returns knowledge to human form—casting, in essence, who gets to play god.

Conceived, created, and choreographed by Emily Coates
Music direction and sound design: Will Orzo
Projection design: Yana Birÿkova
Lighting design: Carol Mullins
Performed by Emily Coates, Lacina Coulibaly, Sarah Demers, Iréne Hultman, Jon Kinzel, Will Orzo, with a special appearance by Yvonne Rainer

Incarnations was originally performed in-progress as part of Danspace Project’s Platform 2015: Dancers, Buildings and People in the Streets and premiered as an evening-length performance at Danspace Project in March 2017.


THE SOLDIER’S TALE / April 2014 & September 2018

Yale School of Music concluded the 2013-14 season of YALE IN NEW YORK with a fully staged original production and new translation of Igor Stravinsky’s darkly comic THE SOLDIER’S TALE (L’histoire du Soldat) in collaboration with Yale School of Drama.

YSM and YSD revived the production for the 2018 Stravinsky centenary.

This production marks one of the largest collaborations between the Yale School of Music and Yale School of Drama. It brings together School of Music faculty and student musicians with the School of Drama faculty, student, and alumni designers, actors, and technicians.

Music direction by David Shifrin
New English Translation & Stage Direction by Liz Diamond
Choreography by Emily Coates
Scenic design by Michael Yeargan
Costume design by Ilona Somogyi
Lighting design by Solomon Weisbard
Performed by Tom Pecinka, James Cusati-Moyer & Mariko Parker, and Michael Cerveris (2014)
Performed by Julian Elijah Martinez, Matty Oaks, Rachel Chew, and Jarlath Conroy (2018)

Press release 2014

YSM Promotional video

The video of the 2014 Sprague Hall performance of THE SOLDIER’S TALE is now available on the YSM website!

Yvonne Rainer & Group / 2005-present

Yvonne Rainer and Steve Paxton

Yvonne Rainer and Steve Paxton

 I first worked with Yvonne Rainer in 1999, while dancing with Mikhail Baryshnikov’s company White Oak Dance Project. His invitation to her to create the piece After Many A Summer Dies The Swan (2000) (later incorporated into a video piece) brought her back into dance after her 25-year hiatus devoted to filmmaking.

Assisted Living: Do You Have Any Money? Dancespace performance 2013.

In 2005, she gathered four dancers–Pat Catterson, Patricia Hoffbauer, Sally Silvers, and me–to create a new work, AG Indexical (2006). A new ensemble was formed that has since come to be called Yvonne Rainer & Group and now includes five dancers, with the departure of Sally and addition of Keith Sabado and Emmanuelle Phuon. The subsequent works are: RoS Indexical (2007); Spiraling Down (2008); Assisted Living: Good Sport 2 (2010); Assisted Living: Do You Have Any Money? (2012); and The Concept of Dust, or how to look when there’s nothing left to move (2014).


Vision Festival & Emily’s Tiny Theater with Charlie Burnham / June 2011-May 2012

Vision Festival 16 led to the creation of two original works: one a solo dance improvisation with violinist Charles Burnham, and the second a group site specific improvisation we titled Aesthetic Arrest, performed by Change Behavior.

Aesthetic Arrest drew on the contribution of diverse artists to create an improvised collage of movement and music in the courtyard of the Abrons Art Center during festival. Casting forth into the not-quite-known, the piece sought “the essential, aesthetic factor – rhythm, the harmonious rhythm of relationships. And when a fortunate rhythm has been struck by the artist, you experience a radiance. You are held in aesthetic arrest. That is the “epiphany.” (Joseph Campbell, “Joyce and The Epiphany”). Assembled with Rachel Bernsen, Elizabeth DeMent, Sonja Kostich, Bronwen MacArthur, Brandi Norton. Music direction by Will Orzo and Mike Irwin, with Kenny Wollesen.

“Montaging,” the Vision Festival duet I performed with Charlie Burnham, is an impossible to describe, come-what-may assembly of complement and contrast, flow and disjuncture,  support and challenge.  We later expanded on this piece through a series of performances at Jalopy in Red Hook, Brooklyn between January and May 2012. Under the name Emily’s Tiny Theater, Charlie and I created twenty-minute, partially planned and largely spontaneous pieces inspired by turn of the 20th century vaudeville acts, drawing on movement, music, and spoken dialogue.

Images on


Empty Is Also with Tamar Ettun, commissioned by Performa 09 / November 2009

Integrating objects, a dancer, a musician, and video, “Empty Is Also” inverts the usual conception of dance and sculpture in relation to the ephemeral by investigating dance’s durability versus sculpture’s ultimate disposability.  The dancer inhabits the sculptural forms even as she rearranges them to create a sequence of landscapes that shift over time.  The sculpture reflects the dancer’s energy and agency, while her movement absorbs the shape and nature of the objects with which she interacts. The tension between the perceived natures of sculpture and dance serves as the installation’s primary conflict, or reason for being. Music by Jane Ira Bloom.

MIND (Motion-In-Dialogue), co-directed with Bronwen MacArthur / December 2005 – May 2009

Bronwen and I co-founded Motion in Dialogue (MIND) in 2005 as a dance/theater laboratory to foster creative dialogue between theory and practice. Having accumulated decades of  professional dance experience, we began to work with performance theory in the studio as a way to destabilize and reposition ourselves in relation to dance. MIND creations include Memory Suite (2005), a performance collage which uses as its point of departure concepts in Joseph Roach’s Cities of the Dead; a dance-theater version of Suzan-Lori Parks’ 365 days/365 plays (2006), Don’t Look Back! (2008), a rock ‘n roll version of the Orpheus myth co-directed with Joseph Roach, and Hearing B(l)ind (2009), a site specific work performed on Yale’s Old Campus.