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.




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.


Created and performed by Abby Crain

Set in Crain’s real and imagined ancestral landscape, Crain stages an awkward family reunion for the forgotten and uninvited.

This is a solo performance that happens in a dance hall. This is a a solo performance that happens in a gun club. This is a solo performance that happens in a muddy river that has slowed to a trickle.



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.

Swimming Pool Abby Crain


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:

1. Discomfort Camp!

  JAN 6-10 1:15 -3:15 pm Fresh Festival SF. With remote thinking partner Raha Behnam
What can be learned, digested and transformed when take a break from euphoria and turn our attentive curiosity towards what DOESN’T feel right? This week, while we will still practice letting go of holding and moving wildly with ease and resilience, we will ALSO spend time with the “generative nature of discomfort” as a way to “abide differently”, as inspired by the writings of Sarah Ahmed.* We will tap into the wealth of our resources as sensate and perceptive beings and work to unleash the genius and furor of our inner “feminist killjoy”. Alongside this process we keep asking ourselves..How is pleasure also a part of this project?

We will work together and on our own through movement for sure, and possibly writing, listening, drawing, seeing, feeling, speaking, chanting, singing, and “hard play.”

While Raha will not join us in person for Fresh this year, she will serve as an advisor and thinking partner to the class.

*from Ahmed’s 2013 essay, “Queer Feelings.” and 2010 essay “Feminist Killjoys (and other Unruly Subjects)”. Sarah Ahmed’s work has been introduced to me by two important collaborators in my life, Raha Behnam, who sent me the Feminist Killjoy article in 2013 as it pertained to some of our ongoing discussions, and Mara Poliak, who brought the work of Ahmed into our 2016 collaboration with Layton Lachman, Swimming Pool.

Ps. I have a guest spot available on Wed, Thurs and Friday. Reach out if you need this. Priority given to QT and/or POC students.

2. February Morning Class at the Finnish Hall

Mondays 10 – 11:30 every Monday in February I will be teaching an OSF based contemporary dance class. OMG I am thinking we might DO A PHRASE!

I am super excited about this sweet series curated by Miriam Wolodarski…
here is the link! More details to come soon.