"They tried to bury us, but they didn't know we were seeds." This refrain is at the center of Indigenous-identified company Dancing Earth's performance, SEEDS : RE GENERATION, performed in honor of National Dance Week and Earth Day at Wide Fool this weekend. The performance, inspired by the three sisters (corn, beans and squash), is a celebration of Indigenous food sovereignty and an exploration of regeneration and resilience through Indigenous cultural perspectives.
Dancing Earth, based in Santa Fe and San Francisco, brings the performance home after an international tour reaching from the Sami region of northern Norway to the island nation of Guam. Company director Rulan Tangen tells SFR the company invites the participation of Indigenous community members while on tour, creating a unique and malleable choreography in dialogue between traditions and cultures. As a result, the choreography changes over time. The original movements, Tangen says, are based in bio-mimicry and the motions of traditional farming methods.
Tangen also notes that Dancing Earth is one of the only contemporary dance companies in the country that prioritizes creative opportunities for Indigenous people. The dancers hail from at least 10 tribes and each brings their own cultural narratives and perspectives to the exchange, as well as backgrounds in both traditional and urban dance styles such as contemporary and hip-hop. In development of the choreography for SEEDS, the dancers also consulted with Navajo elders and others from tribes in the Southwest.
"We call it contemporary because we want to protect traditional dances, we are not taking specific movements from those cultures," Tangen says, adding that the company creates a safe space for Indigenous intercultural exchange through dance. "The intent is not to generalize Indigenous culture; we enact diversity and maintain perspective through movement to keep things from being stereotypes, and to understand our experiences as Indigenous participants of our contemporary world."
"All members of the group come from places where bodies were used by others, and we also perform it in those spaces," says dancer Natalie Benally. She says the dance resists the colonized body and works to decolonize the spaces where it is performed.
The next stop is the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, where Tangen was recently recognized as a Citizen Artist for work that embodies service, gratitude, freedom, courage and justice. (Leah Cantor)