Canku Ota Logo
Canku Ota
Canku Ota Logo
(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
pictograph divider
Indigenous Dancing
by ALANA LISTOE - Independent Record
credits: Photos by Dylan Brown Independent Record

Children sat in amazement at the bird dance, intently watched the sunflower dance and gazed in wonder at the poses in the warrior dance.

Students in area schools enjoyed workshops Wednesday and Thursday with Dancing Earth, an indigenous contemporary dance group based in Santa Fe, N.M., that is currently on tour.

The energy of Dancing Earth evokes a primal force that is said to illuminate cultural and spiritual relevance through their articulate movements choreographed by creator Rulan Tangen.

"For some, this may be the first time they've ever met a Native American," Tangen said. "That might seem like a stretch, but 70 percent of our museum-goers believe that Native Americans are extinct."

Tangen said the group is a vibrant mix of professional dancers who have a positive outlook for native people.

The dance workshop is a critical component for American Indian students, Jefferson Elementary Principal Lona Carter-Scanlon said.

"When I put people like you in front of them, it increases their sense of pride," she said to the dancers.

Deollo Johnson began dancing about 25 years ago and has been with a variety of dance companies.

"This is the only contemporary indigenous dance company in the country," Johnson, 39, said. "There is no other of the same genre."

He enjoys the stories and believes they are expressed through the music and dance.

"(Rulan) takes belief systems and puts them on stage — there is an emotional content that's stirring," Johnson said. "That's what draws me and moves me as a dancer. I get bored easily, so I appreciate when dancing is exciting."

Much of the dancing is exciting, but there are times of soft stillness.

Tangen's first name translated from Mayan means "sky flower," and as an artist that shape is incorporated in her dances. The dancers have shapes they identify with, such as small birds, rivers or clouds. They demonstrated their shapes with their bodies to the students.

After limbering their faces, hips, arms and legs, the students learned dances and moved in sync with drums, clapping and stomping.

Bryce Rives, 9, was one of the fourth-graders at Jefferson Elementary who enjoyed the one-hour workshop.

He learned a little about self-awareness and movement. He was enthusiastic, and when he finally sat down, sweat gleamed on his brow.

"I think the dances are very exciting," Rives said. "There is so much movement and expression."

The school visits are part of the Myrna Loy's mission to bring art to the schools. The arts are vital when it comes to students' learning, Beverly Fox with the Myrna Loy said.

"It gets in their bodies and it stays there," Fox said.

Alyssa Tompkins said she's never seen the style of dancing that the group presented.

"It was amazing," she said.

The group also showed a portion of its dance about Wounded Knee. Tangen talked with the group about being aware of history even when it's unpleasant. During a regular performance, a large screen would be set up in the background, showing images of pollution, destruction, sorrow.

"We need to look at what's happening to the whole Earth with our actions," Tangen told the students.

Dances often come to her in her dreams, Tangen said. They are stories she's heard from her past and some in the present.

"They come from a place that's about this world, but not in this world," she told the students.

pictograph divider
Home PageFront PageArchivesOur AwardsAbout Us
Kid's PageColoring BookCool LinksGuest BookEmail Us
pictograph divider
  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.  
Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 of Vicki Barry and Paul Barry.
Canku Ota Logo   Canku Ota Logo
The "Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America" web site and its design is the
Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 of Paul C. Barry.
All Rights Reserved.

Site Meter
Thank You

Valid HTML 4.01!