Death Defying Dances

by Arthur Pita


A colorful and soulful piece inspired by the persona and lyrics of Judy Henske, “Queen of the Beatniks.


This work was created in part during a generous technical residency at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica – Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center.


  • Choreography: Arthur Pita
  • Music: Judy Henske
  • Lighting Design: Burke Wilmore
  • Costume Design: & Set Design: Yann Seabra
  • Premiere: The Broad Stage, October 2016

"Choreographically, it's the best work I've seen in years at the Joyce. Bright 1960's colors coupled with an innovative kiss fall theme was easy to get visually attached to."

- Amber Adams, Broadway World

Judith A. “Judy” Henske an American singer and songwriter, known as “the Queen of the Beatniks”. Henske was noted by music writers for her strong, bluesy voice and emotive facial expression.

As briefly dictated by Judy herself: Born in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, in 1936. She attended the University of Wisconsin and worked in the office at Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio. Then went to Philadelphia, PA, where she lived working as a cook in a Quaker co-op in Powellton Village. Left for San Diego, CA, around 1959 and lived on a sloop in the yacht basin. She joined Dave Guard and the Whiskey Hill Singers (around 1961) in Menlo Park, CA. Left Dave Guard around 1962-1963 and lived at Knife & Fork Restaurant and Motel on Sunset Strip. So then she married Jerry Yester (1963 or 64 in Washington, D.C.) and continued to work, appearing in Antia Loos’ musical Gogo Loves You, in Greenwich Village, 1964 or 1965. Sang at Village Gate, Bitter End, many gigs on East Coast. Moved back to California (Laurel Canyon), became pregnant in 1967 and moved back to the East Coast when Jerry joined Lovin’ Spoonful. Daughter Kate was born in 1968. In 1969 or 70, Farewell Aldebaran and in around 1970 or 71, “Rosebud.” Ran away to Sherman Oaks with the piano player, Craig Doerge, in about 1972. Retired from the stage but continued to write songs. Married Craig in 1973. Has two new albums, Loose in the World and She Sang California, plus a retrospective set put out by Rhino Records in 2007. Henske and Doerge now live in Pasadena, CA, where they continue to write and record.


Performance Highlights