April 29-May 2 conference welcomes Native dancers and scholars from the U.S. and New Zealand
By on April 18, 2014
Rulan Tangen, founding artistic director and choreographer of DANCING EARTH Indigenous Contemporary Dance Creations, will donate her archive to UCR during the Indigenous Choreographers at Riverside conference. Photo by pauloTphotography
RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Indigenous choreographers and dance scholars from the United States and New Zealand will gather at the University of California, Riverside April 29-May 2 to explore connections between traditional and contemporary dance and Native traditions, spiritual healing and understandings of how to live as a Native person in the world.
The conference, Indigenous Choreographers at Riverside, is free and open to the public. Parking permits for events at UCR are available at the kiosk on West Campus Drive at the University Avenue entrance to the campus. Parking is free for the May 1 performance at the Culver Center in downtown Riverside, 3824 Main St.
“The UCR Department of Dance has a history of being in the forefront of cultural dance studies,” said Jacqueline Shea Murphy, chair of the dance department. A decade of indigenous contemporary choreography programs at UCR began in 2004 with the groundbreaking “Red Rhythms: Contemporary Methodologies in American Indian Dance” conference that was supported by a major grant from the Ford Foundation.
Indigenous Choreographers at Riverside is part of a yearlong celebration of UCR’s Ph.D. in critical dance studies. The conference is presented by the Department of Dance with additional support from the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences Dean’s Office, the Culver Center of the Arts, the Costo Chair in American Indian Affairs, UCR Native American Education Programs, the National Dance Project, the University of California Institute for Research in the Arts, UCR’s departments of Ethnic Studies, Music, and Global Studies, the Center for Ideas and Society, and Native American Student Programs.
Jack Gray, a Maori choreographer, dancer and visiting assistant professor in the Department of Dance, said the conference creates opportunities for indigenous choreographers and dance scholars to explore issues of importance to Native people, such as questions of power, geography, guardianship of land and water, and the impact of institutions and political situations.
“It also gives us a chance to try some new things,” he said. “For example, in New Zealand, Maori people have the same ancestors and language, the same cosmology. There are different tribes and clans, but there is the same formal expectation of how you enter a room when we gather, and what you take into a room. If you don’t use the same things in contemporary dance, like feathers that are used in traditional dance, can you still do the dance and be respectful?”
Gray teaches and performs around the world, and is the founder of Atamira Dance Collective, a platform for contemporary Maori dance artists. He grew up in New Zealand in the 1970s and ‘80s, a time of heightened recognition of Maori culture, language and political movements.
“I grew up in an urban environment and away from my tribe,” he said. “I use dance to get closer to my traditions. … It feels like many Native people in the U.S. don’t know who they are or are not saying who they are. We need to produce ways to be on the land, which is your birthright, and to be yourself. Dancers are the ones who pay respect and feel that on a practical level.”
The idea that artists “can activate indigenous ways of being and doing that are important to Indian people is both exciting and radical,” Shea Murphy said. “I am excited to have brought people here to teach a way of being that is contemporary and rooted in traditional ways of being in the world.”
“Allegory of the Cranes.” Daystar/Rosalie Jones as Nitsitapiw Aaki (Alone Woman) 2011. Photo by Stephen Rose
Indigenous Choreographers at Riverside begins on Tuesday, April 29, at 4 p.m. with a welcoming event for indigenous choreographers, featuring performances and interactive discussions in ARTS 166. Among the conference highlights are:
Visiting artist biographies
Tria Andrews is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley and a graduate of the M.F.A. program in fiction at San Diego State University. Her dissertation, “Education on the Reservation: Extracurricular and Culturally Relevant Programming,” examines educational activities for youth on an Indian reservation from the founding of a boarding school in the late 19th century to the present day. In addition to writing her dissertation, Tria is currently completing a collection of poetry, titled, “Dead Center of the Heart.” She founded and co-facilitates the Race and Yoga Working Group through the Center for Race and Gender at UC Berkeley and teaches for Poetry for the People, Prison University Project, and University of San Francisco. In March 2014, Tria began studying dance under Jack Gray.
Jack Gray is a New Zealand Maori choreographer and dancer. The founder of Atamira Dance Collective, he has performed throughout New Zealand, Australia, New Caledonia, the United States, Hawaii and the Solomon Islands. In 2011, he was a recipient of the AMP Scholarship to travel to the U.S. He was a collaborator with Rulan Tangen for DANCING EARTH’s premiere of “Walking at the Edge of Water” (2012). In 2013, he was an artist in residence at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum in Oahu, Hawaii, where he was commissioned to create dance work for the re-opening of the museum’s Pacific Hall. Gray has worked at the forefront of many Indigenous dance innovations including co-choreographing The Whare Tapere with Louise Potiki Bryant and Charles Royal and participating in the Indigenous Choreographic Laboratory with Marrugeku (Australia) with other cultural performance artists.
Bianca Hyslop is an emerging choreographer from Aotearoa/New Zealand, and a principal dancer of Atamira Dance Company. She completed a bachelor of performing and screen arts at Auckland’s Unitec in 2009, majoring in contemporary dance. She has performed with the company in Hou, in the KAHA Short Works tour (including performances in Hawaii, San Francisco and Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Massachusetts), in “TOHU – Urban Disturbance,” and at the Pacific Arts Festival in the Solomon Islands. Hyslop has also performed in Charles Royal’s project, “Te Whare Tapere,” danced in the “World of Wearable Arts” and toured nationally with Okareka Dance company’s full length work, “Nga Hau E Wha.” She was recently awarded the esteemed Eileen May Norris Dance Scholarship, a grant that recognizes outstanding dance talent in the country.
Daystar/Rosalie Jones is the founder and artistic director of Daystar Dance Company. Founded in 1980, it was the first U.S. dance company created with all-native performers and specializing in the portrayal of the personal and tribal stories of Indian America. The company has toured throughout the United States and Canada, and in Germany, Bulgaria, and Turkey. Daystar/Rosalie Jones was born on the Blackfoot Reservation in Montana and is of Pembina Chippewa ancestry. She holds a master’s degree in dance from the University of Utah with postgraduate work at Juilliard School in New York City. She was responsible for the revitalization of performing srts at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, N.M., during the early 1990s. She was awarded a two-year National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Choreographer’s Fellowship in 1995, and later helped develop a Native performing arts curriculum at Trent University in Ontario.
Rosy Simas is a contemporary choreographer based in Minneapolis. She is Seneca from the Cattaraugus reservation in New York. Simas trained at The Children’s Theater Company, Zenon Dance, and at the University of Minnesota. She has created more than 40 original works, which address how ancestry, homeland, culture, and history are stored in the body and can be expressed through dance. Simas is a 2013 recipient of the Native Arts and Culture Foundation Dance Fellowship, and recently received the NEFA National Dance Project production and tour award for “We Wait The Darkness,” which will tour North America in 2014-2015. Simas has been awarded numerous commissions, grants and awards, including the Tiwahe Foundation, the American Composers Forum Music For Dance Grant, McKnight Foundation/MRAC Next Step fund, Minnesota State Arts Board, and Metropolitan Regional Arts Council.
Rulan Tangen is the founding artistic director and choreographer of DANCING EARTH Indigenous Contemporary Dance Creations, and has been noted as “One of the Top 25 To Watch” by Dance Magazine. DANCING EARTH is a winner of the National Dance Project Production and Touring Grant, and the National Museum of American Indian’s Expressive Arts award. Tangen is a fellow of the Global Centre for Cultural Entrepreneurship, and was awarded the first dance fellowship for artistic innovation by the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation and the UC Riverside Costo Medal for Education, Research and Service. Tangen has worked in ballet, modern dance, circus, TV, film, theater, opera and Native contemporary productions in the U.S., Canada, France, Norway, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina. She has taught extensively in Indigenous communities across the Americas.