by CHRISTINE JOY FERRER WOMXN SPEAK: WORD!
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Dance Brigade / photos by Robbie Sweeny
participation in the WORD! series. With this program, Dance Mis- sion Theater also worked closely with Tangen and Arenas through production, specifically inviting them to present full-length works and highlighting their voices as woman of color. For years, DMT has supported both their projects. Keefer, as both the executive direc- tor of DMT and artistic director of Dance Brigade—the resident dance company of DMT—finds herself in the same trajectory since 1975, creating content-driven choreographies at the intersection of arts and politics. These stories deepen witnesses understanding of spiritual and cultural perspectives as they move in-between spiritual and material work, encouraging viewers to reimagine their own power because our actions collec- tively matter.
WORD. In the vernacular, you say “Word,” to express agreement, validating you’re listening to what someone is saying. You might also hear it when something said is truthful or insightful. Words hold so much power. With words you can speak both life and death into being, shed light on the truth and hide the truth. We use words to reflect, inspire, story- tell, and the list goes on. When words aren’t enough, use dance, music, or art to further express. Give depth and meaning beyond the words. Make movement your vocabulary. Embody everything. Speak through it all. Dance Mission Theater (DMT) presents the WOMXN SPEAK: WORD! series - Womxn Oracular Radical Dance featuring different groups of women identified artists with intersecting identities, who share their oracular truth, while representing their com- munities through dance. This series started in the Fall of 2018, with Nkeiruka Oruche and Tossie Long of Afro Urban Society in collaboration with DMT presenting Bakanal De Afrique: What Had Happened Was… , an Afro-Urban musi- cal; and collaboration on a new program with La Colectiva de Mujeres ( Baile Col- ectivo ) spearheaded by Andreina Maldo- nado and Vanessa Sanchez. And this year, it expanded to include Rulan Tangen/Danc- ing Earth ( Between Underground and Sky- world ), Kanyon Sayers-Roods and Berna- dette Smith ( REINDEGENIZE ), Lenora Lee ( In the Skin of Her Hands ), Susana Arenas/ Arenas Dance Company ( Eso sí ), and finally finishing up the season with Krissy Keefer/ Dance Brigade ( Butterfly Effect ),that will run for three weeks in January 2020. The vision of the program is to elevate the female-identified artistic voices that aren’t always heard. “Women have oracu- lar power to see into what’s happening in the world. These voices are critical for social change, without their voices, we don’t have social change, social justice and equality,” says Kristy Keefer, Dance Brigade’s Artistic Director. “These artists are really visionary and are creating something so deep and pro- found with their work; supporting cultural preservation through the dances they create, the spoken word and text they are writing and incorporating into their productions, the groups of people they bring together. These efforts transform humanity.” WORD! weaves various themes through performance ritual and multi-media sto- rytelling. Tackling issues such as: climate change, perspectives of blackness interna- tionally and nationally, the rise of indigenous voices—acknowledging that we are on occu- pied lands—immigration, spirituality, health equity and living with breast cancer. I spoke with three choreographers - Rulan TI spoke with three choreographers - Rulan Tangen, Susana Arenas and Krissy Keefer - about their intention behind their
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The following are excerpts from their interviews that have been condensed and edited.
with REINDIGENIZE that included pre- show activities and performance rituals curated by California Native people who are currently living here in the Bay Area. “They brought their vision and genius to the streets at 24th and Mission BART,” says Rulan Tangen. “It’s important to remember that we are respectful guests on Ohlone land. We use our power and privilege as artists to bring them visibility.” Christine Joy Ferrer (CJF): What was your intention and process behind Between Underground and Skyworld ? One of your main themes focused on recovering ances- tral knowledge and making that accessible to the audience’s level of understanding. But, was there an overarching theme that you wanted to convey? Rulan Tangen: Between Underground and Skyworld speaks to energy, between two places and two sacred realms, retelling what is in-between and the impact each space has on the other. Space, being marginal can become bridges, which is the space of infinite poten- tial. The overarching question is, what is the future we want to bring forward? I generally invite my performers to collaborate, but this time was different, I decided to let them lead. The future is young people, indigenous cen- tered and it’s in their hands. What they choose to create is going to be the future. My previ- ous works have been environmentally themed, and indigenous cultural barrier and elder driven, but this is about acknowledging that young people too are the cultural advisers and the power that they have.
Rulan Tangen’s Between Underground and Skyworld (BTW US) is a multimedia dance theater work that illuminates the practical, spiritual and cultural aspects of renewable energy, combining intertribal perspectives with Indigenous futurities. Fusing tradition with technology, Indigenous interdisciplin- ary artists engage creation and constellation stories in tandem with geo-sensitive new media to conjure visions for a more sustain- able future. The creative process behind BTW US started a few summers ago, when Rulan started collecting different elements of nature and putting them in her backpack. Later in the studio, she asked each dancer to reach into her bag and pull something out. The dancers wrote about these objects. Spread out over the studio floor, were beautiful rocks, leaves, branches, and roots, but scat- tered amongst them were also things like safety pins, hair ties, a plastic bag, a rub- ber ball, other inorganic materials. Tangen imagined some of the writings would be about toxicity in our environment or human- ity’s disregard for nature but instead, danc- ers’ reflections strived to find the connection between ALL elements, even man-made. (Plastic bag) I am transparent, Even if you disregard me, I will never go away, and will shape to your every dream. And now that it’s made, how do we repurpose? Find the beauty and life force in everything. How does it translate into our actions? BTW US ran from Oct 26-27, 2019. And on Sunday, October 27 BTW US opened
ON THIS PAGE / WOMXN SPEAK: WORD! by Christine Joy Ferrer 4 / 35 Years Later SFB Brings Back Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Heather Desaulniers 5 / SPEAK: How to Ask for Help by Megan & Shannon Kurashige 6 / January/February Performance Calendar 9 / Dance Play is Serious Business by Nancy Ng 10 / SPEAK: A Seat at the Table by Deborah Slater 11 / Encounters Over 60 by Sima Belmar 15 / IZZIE Nominees & Honorees Announced
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