Winter 2021 In Dance

Raven Knight from Walking At The Edge of Water, (right) Lumhe Micco Sampson, onstage at Kowhiti Festival, Wel- lington Opera House, New Zealand

Guerrero. This international opportunity sparked ongoing global relationship building and exchange. As the company shared their work with more communi- ties, people were inspired by seeing diversity represented in contemporary dance works, which sparked desire in others to be involved. There were requests for more work- shops and training opportunities. Indigenous youth were hungry for creative opportunities that embraced diversity and cultural worldviews. In 2012, students Anne Pesata (Jicarilla Apache) and Lupita Salazar (Chicana) suggested longer training sessions, particularly for indigenous and rural youth who might lack the resources to attend weekly classes. This call to action led to the creation of Danc- ing Earth’s summer intensives, dancing together outdoors. The collective considers the question “What are the stories within our bodies that connect us to land, water, sky and each other,” Tangen (Kampampangan/Pangasinan/Nor- weigian) reveals. These summer intensives are known as spaces of reciprocity, sustainability, skill sharing, exchange, and accessing ancestral knowledge/embodied knowl- edge and stories we didn’t know we knew. Artists from around the globe and local communities have been coming together for the last 8 summers to reground, build move- ment vocabulary, and exchange artistic and cultural prac- tices. Making opportunities for the next generations of emerging Indigenous artists has always been a priority for Dancing Earth that carries through to present day. TO SAY IT’S HARD WORK WOULD BE AN UNDERSTATEMENT, DOING GENERATIONS OF WORK UNDOING TRAUMA, BUILDING COMMUNITY AND HEALING, SO THE FUTURE GENERATIONS CAN DANCE FREE.


Raven Knight from Walking At The Edge of Water

irthed froma vision from Founding Artistic Direc- tor Rulan Tangen to create global Indigenous contempo- rary performing arts oppor- tunities, Dancing Earth is rooted with one foot in Yel- amu – occupied Ohlone ter- ritory known as San Fran- cisco, California and the other foot in Ogaa Po Ogeh

Have you ever felt the patterns of streams and rivers running through your veins and considered what ances- tral knowledge is infused in your bones? Dancing Earth explored these concepts, peeling back layers through deep movement improvisations. Creat- ing raw, essential, ancient and futuristic expressions. This introspective approach placed emphasis on collaborating artists’ stories and expressions. In 2004 Dancing Earth began their first series of short works at Dance Mission, Thunderstomp , which follows a young dancer who traces a constellation pattern on the ground, activating a vision of elemental ancestors: entities of fire, water and whirlwind who surround the dancer with a storm that connects them to the cosmos. The cast consisted of dancers with training in break- dancing, martial arts, music and visual art. Selecting which dancer played each role was decided through the elements the dancer related to from their own cultural cosmologies. In an interview with Hemispheric Insti- tute cast member Thosh Collins (Onk Akimel O’odham/ Wa-Zha-Zhi/Haudenosaunee) shared, “Being involved with Dancing Earth, it’s been able to allow me to incor- porate some of my artistic expressions as a dancer and also to incorporate certain morals and values and stories and viewpoints of our people.” Collins speaks to how indigeneity cannot be separated from indigenous peoples; specifically as creatives the art we create is a reflection

of who we are. Dancing Earth is a culmination of global indigenous peoples, with varying movement training and backgrounds. For many the organization acts as a cre- ative environment to access hidden skills and knowledge. Dancers find authenticity in the choreography through bringing aspects of themselves into the work. The creative approach places emphasis on collaborating artists’ stories and expressions. The intention is to bring out the unique qualities, skills and strengths of each artist. Dancing Earth performed Thunderstomp at the Red Rhythms Conference at University of California, River- side on occupied Cahuilla land. Scholars and performers from a variety of traditions and backgrounds gathered at UC Riverside for the conference organized by profes- sors Jacqueline Shea Murphy and Michelle Raheja. This marked one of Dancing Earth’s first major perfor- mances and would be the beginning of their journey as a dance company. The following year the company would perform in Belo Horizonte, Brazil for the 5th Encuentro of the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics, titled Performing Heritage: Contemporary Indigenous and Community-Based Practices. This held significance to the cast Rulan Tangen, Alejandro Meraz (Purepecha), Thosh Collins, Quetzal Guerrero (Juaneño/Acjachemen/Opata/ Kambiwa) as artists working in global communities and Brazil being an ancestral home for cast member Quetzal

– occupied Tewa territory known as Santa Fe, New Mexico. As they usher in a new year, we reflect on the journey of this dance organization, from grassroots to cyberspace. Through multidisciplinary cultural contemporary arts, Dancing Earth puts the spotlight on ecological and humanitarian messages, stories, and calls to action. Danc- ing Earth’s evolution of the past 17 years encompasses storytelling, addressing urgency of water protection, showing importance of caring for Mother Earth, global connections, online digital performance innovation, com- munity outreach education and more. Cultivating creativ- ity for over 50 global Indigenous and intercultural artists in these years, the first artists’ journey began by explor- ing their ancestral embodiment through innovative forms, which expanded diversity in the performing arts.


in dance WINTER 2021 42

WINTER 2021 in dance 43




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In Dance | May 2014 |

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