Two Men Dancing

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Two Men Dancing

In 1976 Ishmael Houston-Jones and Michael Biello performed the first Two Men Dancing at The Painted Bride on Bread Street, in collaboration with musicians Charles Cohen and Jeff Cain and visual artist Deryl Mackie. The work was created in part to give creative expression to the creators’ identities as out, proud, queer men.

Two Men Dancing evolved into a collaboration between Ishmael, Michael, and musician Dan Martin (along with invited guest artists) creating additional work which was rehearsed in Old City lofts and sometimes outside at Independence Park.  

The pieces they created were performed at the 1978 and 1979 Philadelphia Gay Cultural Festivals – held at the University of Pennsylvania’s Christian Association – and in New York at The Glines’ First Gay American Arts Festival in 1980.

Reviewer Richard Rutherford wrote in Philadelphia’s The Drummer about 1979’s Night/Light: “Houston-Jones, Biello, and Martin conceived the vivid, evocative and moving work … Superior experimental dance … A richly-free and multi-gifted collaboration.”

Further Work of Micheal Biello


   After graduating from Philadelphia Collage of Art (UArts) in 1973 I opened a storefront ceramic studio/showroom originally called Spacecraft. First on South 4th Street (1973), then at 529 South Street (1974 – 1976), then at 148 N. 3rd Street (1976 – present – with a long hiatus in New York 1985 – 2005 before returning to Philadelphia’s Old City.) 

   When I moved to Old City in 1976 many of my artist/dancer/performer friends were also moving north from South Street into raw loft spaces above the wholesale stores on 2nd and 3rd Street.  We continued our collaborations – creating multi-disciplinary pieces – and performed them at local performance spaces, mostly at The Painted Bride on Bread Street.  Frequent collaborators included artist Warren Muller, dancers Jac Carley and Ishmael Houston-Jones, and my life-partner composer Dan Martin.

   These pieces incorporated movement, text, visual art and music.  My handmade ceramic masks and other sculptural objects often served as costumes and props – I sometimes incorporated blow up toys from the local novelty shop Neubauer’s near 3rd and Market.

   In 1976 Ishmael and I performed the first “Two Men Dancing” at The Painted Bride in collaboration with musicians Charles Cohen and Jeff Cain, and visual artist Deryl Mackie.  This work was created in part to give creative expression to Ish’s and my identities as out, proud, loving, gay men.

   After this premiere, Two Men Dancing morphed into a collaboration between me, Ishmael and Dan – we went on to create (with invited guest artists) several pieces including Dances ‘Round the Faggot Tree (1978) and Night/Light (1979) which we rehearsed in Old City lofts (and sometimes outside at Independence Park) and performed at the Philadelphia Gay Cultural Festivals at the Christian Association at the University of Pennsylvania.

   Our last piece as Two Men Dancing – What We’re Made Of (1980) – was part of The Bride’s Dance and Dancers Series at The Hal Prince Theatre at Annenberg before heading to New York for The Glines’ Gay American Arts Festival at Network Theatre and then the Men Together Festival at P.S. 122.

   I continued to create solo pieces (with invited guests) including How I Spent My Summer Vacation (1983) at the Painted Bride.  And then later – after moving to New York – Dan I created “Performance Art Musicals” which we performed at many New York venues … La Mama / Here / American Opera Projects / DanceSpace / Brooklyn Arts Exchange / Lincoln Center.  

For further information on the artists visit:

Micheal Bellio’s website

Ishmael Houston-Jones’ website

The research for the OCA History Project is ongoing...

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