Dance Commissions and Licensing

The Junkman™ has always maintained a keen interest in working with dancers and choreographers. Throughout the years, he has composed and performed music with an extremely broad range of styles: from classical ballet to avant garde, from industrial to jazz. And he has collaborated with dance companies both large and small, including American Ballet Theatre, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Washington Ballet, American Dance Festival, The Kennedy Center, Ballet Manchester, Twyla Tharp Dance, Twyla Tharp, Murray Louis, Bella Lewitzky, Anna Licea, Donna Sternberg, Linda Swiniuch, Motion X, Eva Dean Dance, and Nederlands Dans Theater.

His collaborations with dancers and choreographers involve a high level of sensitivity, ethics, humanity, attention to detail, and dedication to the ideas and goals of the collaboration.  Always punctual and professional, The Junkman has worked in all settings, from focusing purely on the big picture to the micro management approach, in which each and every detail of movement and energy receive patient attention.

Some choreographers work phrase by phrase.  Others work in paragraphs, others in chapters.  The main ingredients The Junkman applies to all collaborations are listening, openness, and flexibility.

The Junkman™ is available for bespoke music scores that can be created to include or not include his presence as a performing musician. His existing music catalogue is also available for licensing.

Sound Sets

In addition to composing and performing, The Junkman has also designed and constructed Sound Sets, which are stage sets that produce sounds. In most cases, the dancers activate the sounds via their movements, which is integrated into the score of the music. Sound Sets are usually constructed from reused materials, but can also feature electronics and robotics.  The New York Times raved, “…sound sets by Donald Knaack that are ingeniously simple and often ingenious.”

Surfer at the River Styx

The Junkman’s most successful composition for the dance has been Surfer at the River Styx, for choreographer Twyla Tharp, and commissioned by and premiered at the American Dance Festival and The Kennedy Center. The score to Surfer was performed and recorded by The Junkman™.The coda was composed by The Junkman™ and legendary rock producer David Kahne, who also mixed the final version.  Surfer has toured worldwide and garnered many successful reviews:

  • “For Surfer, she has found a perfect collaborator in Donald Knaack, whose music she used so wittily in a now-celebrated duet for Ethan Stiefel and Susan Jaffe in her Known by Heart for the American Ballet Theatre. Mr Knaack meets Ms Tharp on the same maverick level of energy and rhythm.” – The New York Times
  • “Surfer has many stars– Knaack’s music being one of them. He is Max Roach extended– the virtuoso drummer in the dumpster.” – The Washington Post
  • “Knaack created an exceptional and beautifully textured percussion score, full of multicultural references, providing Tharp with the musical match for one of her finest works to date.” – Dance Magazine
  • “Donald Knaack’s startling score combines taped elements with percussion that Knaack creates in the pit on a battery of objects– pails, pots and pans, kitchen utensils, hubcaps, bowls of keys, and more. The sounds can be terrifying or as gentle as a gamelan in lyrical mode.” – The Village Voice
  • Surfer at the River Styx matches its clamorous, foreboding score by Donald Knaack  with an implied scenario of doing battle with overwhelming, perhaps cosmic, forces.” – New York Magazine
  • Surfer at the River Styx, performed to Donald Knaack’s rambunctious score for percussion. . . ” – The New Yorker
  • “The dance is set to a a score of thunderous intensity and exceptional beauty by Donald Knaack.” – The Telegraph

Recent Works