News & Politics

The New Guard: Holly Bass

Holly Bass

Poet and Performance Artist

In a city not exactly known for performance art, Holly Bass is making a big impact. She was poet-in-residence at Busboys and Poets, where she coordinated open-mike nights. And she has won widespread recognition as a writer and performer at some of Washington’s most celebrated venues, including the Kennedy Center. Bass, who studied modern dance and creative writing at Sarah Lawrence and has a master’s in journalism from Columbia University, is known for her performances featuring a creation she calls “the booty ball”—a large, prosthetic rear end that she wears to challenge stereotypes of African-American women.

She wore the ball during arguably her most grueling work: a dance piece in early 2012 at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, where she was in constant motion for seven hours. Local writer Paulette Beete blogged about Bass’s performance: “She was dancing not as a source of joy, but as a means of survival. . . . At times I also wanted to be her, to be able to dance that well, to look that beautiful in her red jumpsuit, to have her stamina.”

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