Monday, November 12, 2012

Rulan Tangen and Dancing Earth

Rulan Tangen and Maori choreographer and CNZ
Fellowship winner Jack Gray in "Walking at the Edge of Water"

I discovered the incredible work of Rulan Tangen with Dancing Earth online and was overwhelmed with the the beauty of the still images and ambitious mission of this inter-tribal dance troupe led by Rulan Tangen, choreographer, artistic director, dancer and driving force behind the work of this troupe.
I approached Rulan about including "Dancing Earth" in our new documentary in progress, the "Earth Chronicles Project, The Artist's Process: New Mexico".

Seeing her latest performance which she worked long and hard with the troupe to create did not disappoint but rather exceeded any expectation I could have had. "Walking at the Edge of Water" which premiered at the Lensic Theater in Santa Fe was moving, unique and spectacular.

This is a description from their website of the intention behind this performance:
DANCING EARTH’s performance - WALKING AT THE EDGE OF WATER - is an inter-tribal contemporary dance expression of Indigenous water perspectives. Every creative aspect of this eco-production reflects cultural and environmental worldview, with Indigenous collaborators in movement, musical composition, language, video imagery, costume and visual art. This work is motivated by the urgings of Native grandmothers and invokes powerfully relevant water themes of creation, destruction and renewal.WALKING AT THE EDGE OF WATER parallels ancestral healing rituals in a dance of inter-disciplinary Native expressions that is both primal and futuristic.

To see a further description of the inspiration, motivation and story behind "Walking at the Edge of water go to

We interviewed Rulan at her apartment in Santa Fe and I found her to be passionate and articulate about the work of "Dancing Earth". This is a woman who has overcome many challenges that she has faced in her life to be the creative and driving force behind this very special inter-tribal dance troupe. She works constantly but is still the most organized person I have ever interviewed. She responds immediately to emails with dates that work for interviewing her and always kept us in the loop on possible shooting days to catch the troupe in practice and performance while she juggles the ongoing struggles of fundraising, grant writing and the demands of choreography, creative evolution of performances and a very demanding schedule of rehearsals as well as workshops for budding inter-tribal dance students.

Water is such a potent image and important issue in the arid southwest and for many tribal cultures all over the world. It is an issue that all of us need to address in all cultures as we pollute and put demands on the ecological systems that support this precious resource that sustains life on this planet. So it is particularly timely that Rulan has chosen to focus on this important issue and theme in Dancing Earth's magnificent performance. Here are some production stills from the performance which you will be able to see excerpts of in our documentary as well as our interview with Rulan.

Sina-Aurelia Soul-Bowe has a haunting voice as well as being a dramatic dancer. She is the product of Native, South Pacific and Afro-Latino bloodlines.

The above are production still grabs from Bob's shooting on our documentary. 

You can also see more photographs of Dancing Earth's various performances done by Paulo Tavares who often shoots Rulan and Dancing Earth. 

To read more about Dancing Earth go to their website and facebook page:
DANCING EARTH CREATIONS is a non profit organization with the mission to support Indigenous dance and related arts, to encourage and revitalize awareness of diversity through artistic expression for the education and wellness of all peoples. This mission is active through the national work of DANCING EARTH Indigenous Intertribal dance Ensemble ( director Rulan Tangen) , and the year round Cuicacalli youth cultural dance training program (director Jesus “Jacoh” Cortes) in San Francisco.
DANCING EARTH has been named by Dance Magazine as “One of the Top 25 to Watch”, and are recipients of the National Museum of American Indian’s 2010 Expressive Arts Award. In every aspect of artistic collaboration – including dance, choreography, music, costume, lighting, video, stage managing - DANCING EARTH gathers Indigenous collaborators, including Nations of Blackfoot, Metis, Coushatta, Cambiva, Yaqui, Purepecha, Shoshone, Navajo, Cherokee, Hopi, Tewa, Tiwa, Towa, and Keresan of North Central and South America. They balance a commitment to share dances with regional, national and international communities at venues as varied as festivals , Universities , elementary-high schools, Native wellness gatherings, youth leadership symposiums, art museums , desert canyons , dried river beds, and symposiums for social-environmental justice. DANCING EARTH inspires creativity and cultural consciousness through community art practice, energetic dance training workshops, site specific rituals and full length eco-productions.
“We gather as individual artists to create experimental yet elemental dances that reflect our rich cultural heritage and to explore identity as contemporary Native peoples. We strive to embody the unique essences of Indigenous multi-tribal perspectives by creation and renewal of artistic and cultural movement rituals. Ancient and futuristic, our dances are an elemental language of bone and blood memory in motion."

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