Abby Crain is an Oakland, California based artist who makes dances and other structures for performance. She additionally works in the field as a teacher, performer, writer, and curator. Her solo and collaborative work has been presented in the San Francisco Bay Area, New York City, Liverpool, Chicago, Cork, Berlin, Portland and Los Angeles. She teaches annually at the FRESH festival in San Francisco, the Drop Your City Armor Retreat in Dos Rios California with Sara Shelton Mann, Ponderosa Tanzland in Stolzenhagen Germany, and has additionally taught in New York City through Movement Research. She is currently on adjunct Faculty at Mills College. As a performer, she has worked with Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People (2001-2009), Sara Shelton Mann (1999- present), and has has also worked with Jesse Hewit, Guillermo Gomez Peña, Jess Curtis Gravity, Kathleen Hermesdorf, KJ Holmes, Nancy Stark Smith, and David Dorfman Dance. Her writing and interviews have been published by Itch Performance Journal (LA), PAPER FRONT (Portland), Critical Correspondence (NYC), and the Off Center (SF). Her curatorial projects include the NO THANK YOU SHOW, which asked artists to represent or stage work that has been rejected by granting organizations, theaters, collaborators, or the artist herself, the NON MAJOR SHOW, which asked artists to show work was not in their primary medium, as well as being on the curatorial panel of the FRESH festival. Her work is influenced by an ongoing polymorphous teaching and research project with Margit Galanter called Art Workouts, and a collaborative dialog around language and performances with Oakland poet, David Buuck. She was certified by Stephanie Skura to teach Open Source Forms in 2014. Her work has been nominated for a Bay Area Izzie four times.

Her upcoming collaboration with Layton Lachman, Mara Poliak and Sam Hertzs, SWIMMING POOL, will premiere in May 2018 at Counterpulse Theater in San Francisco.


I am committed to researching and creating contemporary, body-based performance work that destabilizes foundational precepts of time, space, logic and the body through the creation of dynamic temporary ecologies for performance and movement making. The research offers non-linear, non-logical, often non-human frameworks for perception, practice, and aesthetics. I am committed to a diligent questioning of “reality” as an important means of expanding thought and possibility.



PREMIERE MAY 17-19TH 2018 AT Counteprulse Theater in San Francisco.

Swimming Pool is interplanetary time play. Swimming Pool is geologic mutuality. Swimming Pool is lasering between apocalypses and utopias. Swimming Pool is a star expanding and collapsing and then another star expanding and collapsing nearby. Swimming Pool is a really trashy ride.

Created and performed by Abby Crain, Layton Lachman and Mara Poliak, with lighting design by Elizabeth Ardent, sculpture installation by Lisa Rybovich Crallé, and sound design by Samuel Hertz.


in collaboration with Layton Lachman and Mara Poliak, along with musician by Sam Hertz and lighting designer by Elizabeth Ardent.

There is something strained, desperate, precarious about the zany that activates the spectators desire for distance.”

—Sianne Ngai describing the aesthetic category of “zany” as outlined in her 2012 book “Our Aesthetic Categories.”

Snake Talk is an extreme, disquieting, feminist evening length performance spectacle that navigates interspecies intimacy, feminine voraciousness and wild unfettered dancing. It is staged in the void and the nightclub, and involves a lecture demonstration about snakes, spatialized sound sources, smoke machines,  nightclub lighting, minimalist opera, and voice modulation distortion,.  Snake Talk  presents a  slippery and indefinable  part-animal female subject who lives within an aesthetic terrain of discomfort, excess and distortion. This unsettling manifestation of neo-liberalism will do anything for survival, but we are not sure if we want to be close to her. Trailer

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conceived and directed by Abby Crain in collaboration with the performers  Mara Poliak,  Layton Lachman, Olive Blackburn, and Harold Burns.

music by Sam Hertz and lighting design by Elizabeth Ardent.

CREATURE HUMAN CREATURE HUMAN CREATURE HUMAN is a failing epic evening length dance spectacle for six performers that lives in the liminal space that is shared by animals and humans. It is both too much and too little. It plays between disgusting excess and not enough. Costumes are absurd, inappropriately provocative, and impossible to tear our eyes from. Dances play between barely legible and embarrassingly overexecuted.  The dancer are in heat, the dancers are desperate for nourishment, the dancers are looking for a home in a place where their habitat no longer exists, the dancers are shedding their antlers, their skin, and their fur, they are burying acorns in the ground in places they immediately forget. They are wondering why their friends are dying and disappearing, why the water tastes funny and the is choked with algae. They wonder with a small part of their brain but then they hurry on to thrust their horns against another warm body and find their dinner. In CREATURE HUMAN CREATURE HUMAN CREATURE HUMAN, we recognize ourselves as positioned among the animal,  the childlike,  the queer, and the crazy, the feminine and the sublime.  We recognize this fecund nowhereville as our home.  We learn its rules, we adapt to its structures, and we find them pleasing.  They make us laugh and pant. They make us party. They make us cry. Trailer.

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SWARM (2014)

conceived and directed by Abby Crain

music by Adam Sonderberg

SWARM is a choreographic response to the age of deskilling and the economy of ideas. It is an infinitely expandable and contractable performance for one to 100 dancer and non dancer perfomers of any age that can be taught in five hours and perfomed in any open space. It presents an artificially constructed “organic” form for a group experience that builds from a gentle quiver to ecstatic abandon.

Teaching next:


The good news is that we aren’t dead. The good news is that our humanness is comprised of primarily nonhuman specific components. The question then arises as to why movement studies is still obsessed with kinesiological compliance that is based primarily on human cadaver study. This week let’s not comply. Let’s interrogate our nonhumaness and dance from our swim bladders instead. What is a swim bladder, you may ask…it has to do with fish and nonhumans and breath. Let’s stop pretending that science is actually able to explain the mystery and magic of the moving body and see what happens.

In this week long lab, morning practice will be strongly rooted in Open Source Forms, the non-anatomically defined wild stepchild of Skinner Releasing. Open Source Forms invites us into unfettered and unpredictable whole body movement through a series of experiential images and practices. We become windstorms; we grow tentacles on our limbs; we compose ourselves of smoke.

Afternoons will be structured in a variety of ways including discussions, writing, research, and dancing together. These various structures will focus on experiential knowledge production, collective creation, and strategies for de-centering determinist movement teleologies. We will author and co-author imaginative movement scores and soak in them. We will see imagination as a continuous practice which suggests that the whole body can follow completely new patterns and associations.

Dates: July 23rd-27th

Hours: 10:00 – 12:30 + 13:30 – 15:30

Where: Dock 11 – EDEN STUDIOS – Pankow

Cost:  $200 – register before July 1st |  $225 – register after July 1st

Contact: to register or if you have any questions.


Abby Crain is a Bay Area based artist who makes dances and other structures for performance. Her solo and collaborative work has been presented in New York City, Liverpool, Chicago, Cork, Berlin, Portland and Los Angeles. She also works in the field as a teacher and performer. As a performer she has worked primarily with MiguelGutierrez and the Powerful People and Sara Shelton Mann, with appearances in the work of Kathleen Hermesdorf, Jesse Hewit, Guillermo Gomez-Peña, and Jess Curtis Gravity. Teaching credits include FRESH Festival, Ponderosa Tanzland (DE), Movement Research, and Mills College. Current research includes creativepractices to undermine the telios of anthropocentric and cadaver based anatomical theory on the moving body.

Layton Lachman is a dance artist. She creates choreographic works, hosts events and performs as a freelance artist. Layton was based in the San Francisco Bay Area for seven years, collaborating primarily with Mara Poliak, Abby Crain, Samuel Hertz, and SALTA, as well as appearing in the works of Sara Shelton Mann, Jess Curtis, and Kathleen Hermesdorf among others. Lachman is currently a Berlin-based artist, although continues to be engaged in artistic collaborations, curation, and social organizing projects located in the USA. Her research is often in the realm of somatics and the application of these experiential practices in the creation of immersive worlds of sensorial complexity and perceptual disorientation. In addition to somatic research as choreographic methodology, Layton teaches composition and improvisation in university contexts, with recent guest lecturing positions at Beloit College, Ohio University, and Liverpool John Moores University. Inspired by Abby, during 2018/2019 Layton is in intensive training with Stephanie Skura and Susanna Hood to also become an Open Source Forms facilitator.


3 days of classes: June 21 – June 25, 2018 with Sara Shelton Mann & Abby Crain

Enjoy Dancing in an outdoor Barn Studio | Camping on Gorgeous Wild Land | Delicious Omnivorous Meals | The beautiful Eel River

Cost: $300 Early Bird | $350 after June 5th

To register email

Lions Jaw Dance Festival – October 3-8, 2018 

I will be teaching and performing as part of the Amazing Lions Jaw Dance Festival in Boston. Back to one of my homelands! More details to come!