About Us

Space Station Dance Residency started in the Summer of 2020 by Jacob Henss, Robbie & Scott Van Nest, and Sports Medicine & Training Center when the world needed art and community in the heart of the pandemic. During this time, artists were unsure of their creative futures, and we saw a need in the St. Louis area to create an outlet showcasing experimental concert dance. From here, the residency has become an annual event in the St. Louis dance community, happening the first weekend of August. Each year, the residency encompasses dancers and audience members from multiple backgrounds, bringing everyone together to share space and ideas and to invigorate each other.

The initial intent of the dance residency was to produce experimental dance choreography that probes investigative content. Alongside this, we turn unconventional spaces, like a gym or a church, into performative sites of creation and wonder. This informed the production side of our residency to include non-traditional production elements, like DIY or guerrilla lighting, original costumes, original soundscores, and many other make-it-work elements. This is an essential factor to our residency to promote to other artists that you don’t need traditional production elements associated with dance to produce a substantial choreographic work. In an industry lacking funding, you can produce dance on austere budgets yet still be refined.

We hire all kinds of dancers and pay them an hourly wage for their professional work with the intent to mingle with many different individuals of varying backgrounds. We look at diversity in training, race, gender, sexuality, age, and current dance career placement to purposefully culminate artists of many backgrounds. This diverse melting pot of people shares space in ways they may not have been able to in their day-to-day lives. We hope this message of artistic and individual inclusivity transcends to our audience members and the St. Louis dance community to cultivate the future of dance we want to see in a city with a tumultuous history of segregation and violence.

Our Mission

Space Station Dance Residency is a movement incubator for St. Louis-based creatives. Our residency began in the summer of 2020 and continues to create a safe and welcoming space using dance, movement, and choreography to investigate the human experience. We promote professionals, students, emerging artists, and our audiences to mingle and connect through our tangible and transcendental spaces by encouraging experimentation and conversation stimulated by choreography.

Within this, we welcome trial and error and the adventure of the performance space becoming a laboratory that supports this experimental process. Our integrity for choreography is matched with our strong beliefs in shifting the paradigm of concert dance to a valid career choice rather than a hobby. By paying and treating dancers as professionals, we support this shift more broadly within the St. Louis dance community. We also emphasize dancer wellness with supportive medical, fitness, and educational programs from our sponsors, Sports Medicine & Training Center. We value inclusivity and diversity among many personal identifiers ranging from race and gender to technical background and content. We infuse everything we do with a sense of wonder, imagination, and playfulness.

Our Team

Jacob Henss

Artistic Director

Jacob Henss (he/him) is a dancer, producer, choreographer, and teacher primarily based in the Midwest. He has been an adjunct faculty member at Millikin University since 2020, where he was awarded outstanding adjunct faculty in 2023. Henss also is a Lecturer for the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign (UIUC) since 2022. He holds an MFA in Dance from UIUC (2019-22), where he was awarded the Vannie L. Sherry Memorial Award for best graduate performer in 2021 & 2022. He is also a graduate of Webster University (2013–17) with a BA in Dance and Music, where he was awarded dance honors and the emerging choreographer award.

Henss has performed with the Modern American Dance Company (MADCO), located in St. Louis, MO, where he was a MADCO2 founding member (2017–18) and later an apprentice for the leading company (2018–19). Post-graduation work includes becoming the producer and Artistic Director for Space Station Dance Residency, an organization dedicated to presenting experimental dance work in the greater St. Louis area. 

Henss has been fortunate to dance for such choreographers in his career such as Sara Hook, Tere O’Connor, Jennifer Monson, Roxane D’Orleans Juste, Ashley McQueen, Rebecca Nettl-Fiol, Omri Drumlevich (resetting a work by Ohad Naharin), Nejla Yatkins, Micheal Uthoff, Rachel Rizzuto, Kayt MacMasters, and now Jennifer Allen and Deke Weaver. Henss has also been in residency with St. Louis presenters such as Sports Medicine & Training Center, Webster University, MADCO2, Karlovsky and Company, Materializing and Activating Social Habitus (MARSH), and CommUnity Arts Festival.

Robbie Van Nest

CO-Executive Director

Robbie is the co-founder and owner of Sports Medicine & Training Center along with her husband Scott Van Nest. She is a 1979 graduate of Mehlville High School, where she and Scott first met. Healthcare management is a second career for Robbie. She originally trained as a research biologist, earning a BS in Biochemistry from the University of Missouri, an MS in Molecular Biology from the University of Wisconsin, and a Ph.D. in Developmental Biology from Washington University. She has published several articles in professional journals in cell biology and developmental genetics. Robbie was employed at Washington University as a research associate until 2002, when SMTC first opened its doors, where she assumed the role of business manager. Scott and Robbie have lived in Crestwood since 1994, raising their daughters Paige and Morgan, who are proud graduates of Lindbergh High School.