Since 2010, the Brontez Purnell Dance Company has been presenting experimental dance and movement theatre works with a radically open understanding of the forms, bodies, and idioms of dance. Brontez Purnell, author of the cult zine Fag School and frontman for his band The Younger Lovers, along with founding company member Sophia Wang, build works that combine punk rock subversion, free jazz improvisation, and a company comprised of movers and artists of all disciplines.

“I’ve heard some dancers (modestly)  “well I’m not sure exactly how I first got into dance”-but that’s totally not me.  I remember with crystal-gleaming clarity when I first got the notion that I was a mover. Two memories side by side- the movie Flash Dance and the Janet Jackson “Pleasure Principal” video. Flash Dance played on none stop loop on Fox 54 in Huntsville Alabama during the late 80’s and it was the first time I could envision a dance room in my future. On Saturdays my mom would wake up at 6am and sit me in front of BET (and like any normal blue-collar mother-go right back to bed) and Janet Jackson in that video (and to present day) was just the fiercest thing to me. I also remember that year being 5 or 6 and dancing out scenes from Flash Dance for my father- the character Alex was my earliest spirit animal. My mission from an early age was clear “I HAVE TO BE A DANCER WHO LIVES IN A WAREHOUSE. HOW COOL IS THAT?!?”

I soon got my wish.

I moved to California at 19 (into an artist warehouse to be exact) and soon started taking dance classes at Laney College. I remember walking through the breezeway by the Dance room and hearing 10 drummers thinking “oh I’m DEFS checking this shit out”- and a love affair was born.

Later that same year I became a go-go boy for a couple of touring punk bands. I danced a lot in underground clubs in the Bay Area (and beyond) and the new freedom was pretty intoxicating. I remember the first outfit I joined I took my first road trip with them (there were about 8 of us in all) up the West Coast into Vancouver. It was the first time I had traveled with that many queer performers and I thought my heart would burst. At some point just past the Oregon state like there had been some sort of natural mishap (like a tree had fallen in the road or something like that) and traffic was backed back for miles. Not to be bored me and the crew turned up the car speakers and descended onto the two lane highway (all dressed only in our underwear mine you) and had an impromptu dance party on Highway “  “ (the traffic behind us laughed and cheered.” I was dancing and knowing that I had to find a way to feel like this the rest of my life.

I went to school and studied dance while at the same time dancing in several African folkloric companies until I got the notion that I wanted to marry my splintered learning (or maybe I should say unlearning) of dance.

I wanted to create a new dance that was the mid-way point between community engagement, ritual theater, live music, and free expression.

With that much I (alongside my partner Sophia Wang) created the Brontez Purnell Dance Company.

We started by offering free classes to anyone who would come at my old warehouse space on 25th and San Pablo in Oakland and grew into performing at Berkeley Art Museum, Montreal Pop Festival, local dance venues and music festivals and beyond…

The company has performed its original works at Oakland’s Lobot Gallery, The Berkeley Art Museum, The Garage, Counterpulse, SOMArts, and at Kunst-Stoff Arts, as part of Fresh Festival 2014.


BrontezPurnel_ProfileImages_BrontezBrontez Purnell is the author of the cult zine “Fag School,” Cruising Diaries, the frontman for his band “The Younger Lovers,” and founder of the Brontez Purnell Dance Company (BPDC). Formerly a dancer with Gravy Train!!!, his other collaborations include an ensemble role in the queer independent feature film, “I Want Your Love” (Dir. Travis Mathews, 2012), and dancing for local artist-choreographers Amara Tabor-Smith, Keith Hennessy, Eric Kupers, and Nina Haft, and South African artist-choreographer Athi-Patra Rugra. Since founding BPDC in 2010, Purnell has presented his original dance and movement theatre works at the Berkeley Art Museum, CounterPULSE, the Garage, Kunst-Stoff Arts, the Lab, and SOMArts. With cinematographer Gary Fembot Gregerson and lighting designer Jerry Lee, Purnell produced, choreographed, and scored “Free Jazz” (2012), a 8mm B&W dance film documenting “various dance parties, structured improvs, rituals and happenings” performed by BPDC between 2010 and 2012, which has been shown internationally. He was a guest curator for the Berkeley Art Museum’s L@TE program in 2012, awarded an invitation to the 2012 Radar Lab queer arts summer residency, honored by Out Magazine’s 2012 Hot 100 List and 2013 Most Eligible Bachelors List, and most recently won the 2014 SF Bay Guardian’s Goldie for Performance/Music. He earned a B.F.A. in Theatre and Contemporary Dance at California State University, East Bay.

BrontezPurnel_ProfileImages_SophiaSophia Wang is a founding member of the Brontez Purnell Dance Company who has been performing in the Bay Area since 2010. She has presented her choreographed works at Oakland’s Lobot Gallery, the Berkeley Art Museum, San Francisco’s ATA Gallery and the Lab, and at the Bay Area Public School. In 2013, Sophia and Oakland-based artist tooth (Black Hole Cinematheque) created a dance film entitled a turn in air in collaboration with poet Bernadette Mayer, which debuted at the Lab and has since been screened at the St. Marks Poetry Project in New York. She has danced for artist-choreographers Xandra Ibarra and Hentyle Yapp, Amara Tabor-Smith, (“He Moved Swiftly But Gently Down the Not Too Crowded Street: Ed Mock and Other True Tales of a City That Once Was,” 2013), Tino Sehgal (“instead of allowing some thing to rise up to your face dancing bruce and dan and other things,” 2013) and Jérôme Bel (“The Show Must Go On,” 2013). Along with dancers Christine Bonansea, Phoebe Osborne, and Rosemary Hannon, she creates collaborative sound and movement scores with Bay Area musicians including Tom Djil, Jacob Felix Heule, Suki O’Kane, and Kanoko Nishi. Currently, she is creating on a collaborative sculptural and movement work with Lisa Rybovich-Cralle. She holds a PhD in Literature from UC Berkeley, specializing in modern and contemporary experimental American poetry.


Garth Grimball: (collaborated with BPDC on “Unstoppable Feat: The Dances of Ed Mock)  – Garth Grimball is a native of North Carolina where he received his BA in Anthropology and Dance at UNC Asheville. He danced with Asheville Ballet for five seasons performing new and repertory works. He received his MFA in choreography and performance from Mills College where he was the recipient of the Liatis Foundation Dance Scholarship award and performed in works by Merce Cunningham, Mel Wong, Sonya Delwaide, Sheldon Smith, Katie Faulkner, and Molissa Fenley. He currently dances with Wax Poet(s) and Dana Lawton Dances.

Hector David Marin Rodas is a graduate from the University of California, Davis with a B.A. in Dramatic Art, with a Dance Emphasis. Amidst his social activism and nonprofit work, he dances with Colombian Soul Dance Company, Nicaragua Danza Hijos del Maiz, and is once again starting to dance with Dandelion Dancetheater with its Bandelion group.    

(Hector collaborated with BPDC on Proximity, Local Motion, and Gross Motor Movement:A Work In Non-Progress and also “Unstoppable Feat: The Dances Of Ed Mock”)

Zander Brown is an East Bay Performing Artist of Earth Dance Mafia.He has had the opportunity to work with talents such as filmmaker Desiree Holman Installation for the SFMOMA, Choreograher Phoebe Osborne in God Sees Everything at OMCA, Indie band Waterstrider’s Music Video Frayed and has starred in Singer Adian Lewis latest music video When Your Gone. Currently he resides in Oakland CA studying Dance at Laney College while being  a Company member of South African Troupe Jikekeke Dance Theater.

(Zander collaborated with BPDC on Proximity, Local Motion, and Gross Motor Movement: A Work In Non-Progress)

Wizard Apprentice is an independent singer-songwriter, electronic music producer, and motion graphics artist based out of Oakland, Ca. As a highly sensitive Black Queer Feminist, her multimedia project is an attempt to do energetic battle with an overwhelming world. Her music includes a mix of digital elements such as electronic instrumentation and voice manipulation. It also has North American folk elements, such as simplistic song structures and straight-forward vocals that emphasize her lyrical, deliberate word-craft. Her video work uses green screen graphics, digital puppetry, and minimalistic compositing to create imagery that’s cerebral, psychedelic, campy, and hypnotic. She combines song and video to create multimedia live performances that explore deeply intimate emotional themes ranging from the challenges/truimphs of being a Black empath to overstimulation in the internet age. She has self-produced multiple albums and has toured the U.S. numerously.  Her most current video work is scheduled to be featured for Black Salt Collective’s “Visions of Infinite Archives” which will premiere in late January at Somarts in San Francisco.

(Wizard Apprentice collaborated with BPDC on “Studies in Afro Presentism”)

Ezra Rabin is a local skateboarder, cartoonist/muralist and musician. He plays bass in local pop-punk The Younger Lovers.

(Ezra has collaborated with BPDC on “Proximity Local Motion and Gross Motor Movement and has been a live accompanist for BPDC)

Adan Ortega is a local musician and educator hailing from Union City, CA. He plays drums in East Bay Rock ‘N Roll band Little Sister. Find their music at littlesister510.bandcamp.com.

(Adan Ortega has been a live accompanist for BPDC)

Jon Campbell is an activist, dancer, and agriculturalist. He holds a B.S. from Cal State Berkeley in Environmental Science.  He has  collaborated with artists like Tania Santiago, Amara Tabor-Smith and Nicole Klaymoon. He has worked in multiple refugee camps across Europe in 15′-16′. Hopes to continue working in small communities building resilience and wellness through food security, creative problem solving, self-care and fun.

He has collaborated with BPDC on “If I, John Henry”