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After a dance performance some time ago, somewhere, a young man placed a gift in my hand. He said he was moved to give this to me, he didn’t know why, but he believed I would someday know why. I opened my hand and saw three large beautiful seeds, so shiny they seemed painted in rich hues of black and light purple. I marveled at these beauties, they seemed mysterious containers of hidden stories. They made their way to various fates: in the desert soil, on my altar, and the last a journey into the dark hidden recesses of my travel bags, in continual motion with no final destination…
As the founding Artistic Director /Choreographer of DANCING EARTH, I sense that this vision for Indigenous contemporary dance came into existence from seeds planted far before my birth. It was in the Fall harvest season of 2004 when this dream became embodied by vital young dancers in patterns and movements that revitalize ancient cultural philosophies, with breath that became the name of the ground we dance on in reflection of its life force and constant motion. My dreams and the dreams of their ancestors were embodied by these intertribal artists, in images of clouds, of naming rituals in desert caves, of balancing forces of fire and water, whirlwinds, storms, wild plants, aspen groves, of clay and mud and hiphop and warriors and violins. In 2010, our first full length eco-cultural work was made: “Of Bodies Of Elements.” Prophetically, I said that each dance within this production had so many layers that each could be expanded into a full-length work. Embedded into Act 1, after dances of constellations and water, came a suite of dances about of planters, three sisters, sunflower, and CAGED – a challenging piece that used GMOs as a metaphor for colonization, female oppression and loss of freedoms. Mykel Diaz cooked a delicious stew at the beginning of the rehearsal process, with corn beans and squash and shared stories about desert waffle gardening and the botanical growth patterns of the intertwined plants that became the dance movements of the ensuing trio. The sunflower dance was inspired by accounts of an ancient sunflower dance for women, as shared by Anemone, Nishke and Winona Mars of the Narragansett First Nation of Rhode Island. Further research into the properties of this flower, revealed astounding purposefulness as food, dye, woven into clothing and shelter, and a symbol for anti-nuclear movement because of its shamanistic ability to remove nuclear waste from water or soil.
After bringing this work of Elements to communities in 8 states and 27 locations across the continent, Dancing Earth took on its next cycle of creation to honor the sacredness of the water of our planet and our bodies. This deeply emotional and decolonizing process and production took our work across the world to Aotearoa, with performance rituals in Canada, New York, California and New Mexico, as well as ‘waters of wellness’ workshops with communities in each location. And, at many of these, we were led to gardens, cultivated with wisdom and sense of legacy by Native culture carriers including Ras K’Dee , Kim Marcus, and William Kingfisher.
Dancing is healing. More dancing thoughts in the next issue.
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