Hermesdorf, Kathleen (1967-2020) | University of Illinois Archives
Kathleen Margaret Hermesdorf was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1967. She spent much of her childhood in suburban Chicago where she began to study jazz dance. In her teenage years, her family moved to the Netherlands and Belgium where Hermesdorf learned to speak Dutch and developed a love for travel that continued throughout her career. After finishing high school in the U.S., Hermesdorf attended Western Michigan University and the University of Illinois, earning a BFA in Dance and MFA in Dance Performance and Pedagogy, respectively.
In 1991, Hermesdorf moved to San Francisco to start a dance company, The Hermesdorf and Wells Dance company with her partner, Scott Wells. Hermesdorf went on to train and perform with Margaret Jenkins’ Dance Company which led to a collaboration with Stephanie Maher between 1993 and 1997, called Collusion. After Maher moved to Germany, she and Hermesdorf continued to collaborate in both Bay Area and Europe with festivals like K77, Tanz Fabrik, and Potsdam International TanzTage Festival. Other artists that collaborated with Hermesdorf during the 1990s include Sara Shelton Mann and Kim Epifano, in a performance project called Contraband.
In 1995, Hermesdorf met Albert Mathias, a percussion-based musician working in electronics. Together they formed the group, Sister Hermes Dance Machine, which later evolved to MOTIONLAB and then la Alternativa. Some of their notable performances are BLUE 2001, “Bodies of Evidence”, and “As Above So Below”, 2003. They also co-taught improvisational workshops in places like the Bates Dance Festival, and founded the FRESH festival in San Francisco and P.O.R.C.H in Germany.