Profile Type: Artist
Abby Bender

My performance work is an unusual hybrid of movement, theater, and comedy. It explores the human condition using a deeply personal voice as I concede my most honest self in search of connections and understanding of the world and this life. It draws on the beauty and power of language, the mysteries of the ego and id, the relentless influences of current events, all the while embracing the divine awkwardness of the body, specifically my own.  Performances often pit the absurdities of reality, those on the world stage and those in my own small world, against my innate sense of order, and serve as puzzles I revel in solving.  The work is, more often than not, inextricably linked with text and song, employing monologue and stand-up, puppetry and object play, alongside physical scores and dance. I’m increasingly interested in making site-specific pieces for nontraditional venues, so the work may be accessed outside of the niche boundaries of a theater in order to reframe it for new audiences. 

Productions have explored an array of subjects and/or obsessions both personal and historical that have run the gamut from smoking cessation to the medieval dancing plagues, from religious faith (or lack thereof) to the singularity, from heartbreak to a global pandemic, from the pursuit an elusive muse to human evolution, from abandoned spaces to immigration. In other words, I fiercely believe that dance can and should address real issues and tell relatable stories. 

I have developed and presented fourteen evening-length works and over fifty short pieces in the last 25 years in New York City (where I was a co-founder and the Director of Triskelion Arts, a dance theater and rehearsal center in Greenpoint, Brooklyn) and on Martha’s Vineyard (where I’m a co-founder and Director of Built on Stilts, the island’s community dance festival since 1997.)  In 2014, I was named one of The 100 Most Influential People in Brooklyn Culture by Brooklyn Magazine. I have served as a guest speaker at several venues, a moderator for APAP, and on NYC dance grant juries/

I moved from NYC to Martha’s Vineyard year-round in 2016 where I enjoy making dance theater and live game shows and living a surprisingly only-somewhat-quieter life. 

In New York I had the pleasure of working with scores of dancers as well as collaborating musicians, actors, and designers, most recently with action theater expert, Cassie Tunick. Since moving to the Vineyard I’ve created independently and collaboratively. I’ve joined forces with choreographer Jesse Keller Jason in a partnership that has resulted in three site-specific, evening-length group works, and have also worked with dance artists Leah Crosby, Danielle Doell, and Lisa Gross, and composer Brain Hughes in concocting immersive works in non-traditional venues such as libraries, public roads, private yards and on the grounds of the MV Museum. The past five years have also reignited a zeal for extremely intimate solo endeavors.  The pandemic saw my first foray into dance film and socially distant flash mobs.

I believe that live performance not only physically brings people together to foster community, but that by experiencing it en masse, audiences become more open to ideas and each other through such shared energetic and emotional participation, enhancing knowledge and empathy. My work is curious if not outright provocative. It takes viewers on playful journies that, I hope, will stay with them long after a given show has ended. I aim to go beyond merely entertaining them by investing hours of research, writing and practice into my projects. I respect detail. I respect an audience's time and their own kinesthetic insights. Thoughtful live performance promotes the vital connections and conversations between people that ultimately form our culture.

Additional Links: 
Built on Stilts Dance Festival, Martha's Vineyard's homegrown dance fest I've directed since 1997.

I Have Worked With

  • Artist

Contact Information

First Name: 
Job Title/Position: 
Dancer, Choreographer, Performance Artist
Mailing Address: 
PO Box 158
Oak Bluffs, MA 02557
Physical Address: 
9 Dukes County Ave.
Oak Bluffs, MA 02557
Last Name: 


Profile Type: 
Primary Discipline: 
Dance - Modern / Contemporary
Additional Disciplines: 
Dance - General
Dance - Modern / Contemporary
Literary Arts - Spoken Word
Theater - General
Theater - Solo / One-Person Show
Theater - Storytelling
Year Founded: 
Populations Served: 
General Public
Institution/Business Type: 
Artist (Individual)
Activities and Services: 
Community Arts
Performance / Concert / Reading
Events Per Year: 
Seasons Active: 
Geographic Reach: 
Town / City
Multi-County Region
Multi-State Region