Indigenous Choreographers Residency

April 11-19, 2012
Showing, Culver Center for the Arts

Jacqueline Shea Murphy, coordinator

In April 2012, ICR held an “Indigenous Choreographers Residency” as a two-week research project that brought Jack Gray and Rulan Tangen to campus for two weeks, and engaged with Tanya Lukin Linklater via her video installation work and Skype interactions. These choreographers, from the U.S., Canada, and Aotearoa (New Zealand), taught movement workshops to UCR dance students, Native American student program participants, and to students at the Sherman Indian High School in Riverside; they also used Culver dance studios to develop new choreographic work with their own dancers and with ten UCR undergraduate and graduate students, and presented this work as an evening-length public performance at the Culver Center’s Atrium Gallery to an audience of nearly 200. Throughout their residency, they fostered discussion about Indigenous dance and culture on multiple occasions — at a formal dance studies conference panel, a public screening and discussion of videos of their work, a talkback panel after their performance, and in numerous meetings with students. Funding was provided by the UCR Chancellor, and by funds from the California Center for Native Nations, the Dance department, and the Culver Center for the Arts CARL residency program.

In enacting ways that choreographers are using contemporary dance as a tool for accessing Indigenous knowledge systems, this residency succeeding in fostering UCR as a location for critical discussion about the field of Indigenous choreography, in building UCR as a recognized site for research on Indigenous dance, and in helping bridge connections between UCR and local Native communities.

Hosted by the California Center for Native Nations, Indigenous Choreographers Residency was made possible by the UC Riverside Chancellor’s Strategic Investment Fund Initiative Grant, the UC Riverside Costo Chair in American Indian Affairs, Culver Arts Research Lab (CARL) residency program, Department of Dance, and Native American Student Programs.


* Events with Jack Gray and Rulan Tangen
** Events with Jack Gray, Rulan Tangen and Tanya Lukin Linklater

Wednesday, April 11

* Master class and movement workshop in Indigenous Contemporary Dance

Location: UCR, Arts Building, ARTS 300 Dance Studio
4:00 – 6:00 PM
Free and open to the campus. Dancers of all ages and abilities welcome.

* Welcome reception

Location: UCR, Arts Building, ARTS 300 Dance Studio Patio
6:00 – 7:00 PM
Free and open to the public.

Thursday, April 12

** Recent work by Indigenous Choreographers 2012: screening and discussion

Location: Culver Center of the Arts, Downtown Riverside
7:00 – 9:00 PM
Admission: $5, open to the public.

Saturday, April 14

* Accessing Indigenous Archives: Embodied Explorations
A panel discussion at the annual UC graduate student conference, Dance Under Construction

Location: UCR, Arts Building, ARTS 100
Free and open to the public.

Wednesday, April 18

* Real People, Real Movement – Identity in Motion
Indigenous contemporary dance workshop hosted by Native American Student Programs and The Well

Location: UCR, Highlander Union Building, HUB 269
Free and open to the campus.

Thursday, April 19

** Performance and Talk Back

Location: Culver Center of the Arts, Downtown Riverside
7:00 – 9:00 PM
Free and open to the public.

Opening by William Madrigal Jr., and the Mountain Cahuilla Bird Singers

“Aside,” Choreography by Jack Gray with UC Riverside dance students Kendall Loyer, Valerie Mendez, Christiana Powell, Meghan Quinlan, Monica Rodero, Dan Schuchart, Cydney Watson, Mynesha Whyte, Natalie Zervou, and Hannah Zizman

“At the Edge of Water,” Choreography by Rulan Tangen and DANCING EARTH dancers Eagle Young, Eric Garcia Lopez and Daniel Arizmendi

“Site Site” and “In Memoriam,” video installation and discussion by Tanya Lukin Linklater

Commentary by invited scholars Michelle Erai, Susan Leigh Foster, Mishauna Goeman, Brendan J, Wendy Rogers, Cliff Trafzer, and Michael Tsosie



Jack Gray is an independent freelance dance artist based in Auckland, New Zealand. He is currently a choreographer and dancer with Atamira Dance Company (which he founded in 2000) and recently directed his latest choreographic development of “Mitimiti” for their workshop showcase “Hou” in March 2012. Jack is a seasoned indigenous dance performer and was promoted to Co-choreographer for the Whare Tapere Project 2012 – a pre-European Maori traditional house of joy and entertainment. Over the years, his involvement in indigenous collaborations has seen him choreograph at the 2005 Asia Pacific Young Choreography Project in Taiwan, performing with Atamira Dance Company in Hawaii, Caledonia and Australia in 2008-9, and participating as a dancer and workshop leader for the Indigenous Choreographic Laboratory in Broome, Western Australia in 2010 before hosting the event in Auckland, New Zealand in 2011. Last year Jack won the prestigious AMP National Scholarship Award as a leader in the field of Maori Contemporary Dance and Choreography that has enabled him to travel to the USA for the opportunity of cross cultural exchange of ideas, methodologies and practices.

Tanya Lukin Linklater originates from small fishing villages in the Kodiak archipelago of southwestern Alaska. Based in northern Ontario, she is contemporary artist. Her work includes experimental choreography, performance art, installation, text, and video. In 2012 she will exhibit her first engagement with sculpture. Tanya’s practice includes performance within sites ranging from frozen lakes and railway stations in northern Ontario to old pulp mills in northern Quebec and public, city spaces in Edmonton. The artist has mapped non-Alutiiq spaces (inner city reflecting pools, urban riverscapes, fountains, and elsewhere in Los Angeles, and other cities) with her memories of Alutiiq cosmology and story through performance in past projects. Her work often engages with memory, history, the contemporary indigenous woman’s body, images of the Eskimo, and notions of cultural revitalization. Susan Leigh Foster has written about Tanya’s experimental choreography in Theatre Survey and in Choreographing Empathy: Kinesthesia in Performance; her dance works have also been investigated in Canadian Theatre Review (2008) and Theatre Research International (2010). Tanya was nominated for the 2011 K.M. Hunter Artist Award in Dance and received a Chalmers Professional Development Grant in 2009. Her work has been generously supported by the Ontario Arts Council and Canada Council for the Arts. Tanya received her M.Ed. from University of Alberta, B.A. (Honors) from Stanford University, where she was awarded the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship & Louis Sudler Prize in Creative and Performing Arts. Her previous training includes Mile Zero Dance Company and aboriginal dance at The Banff Centre for the Arts.  

Rulan Tangen is an internationally accomplished dance artist and choreographer. She 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. Rooted in cultural respect, her vision for dance is at the avant garde experimental front of Native art expression in the USA, and is now being understood and recognized through awards, medals, academic invitations, and cultural honors. 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 has been awarded the first dance fellowship for Artistic Innovation by the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation. Here at UCR, she is a recipient of the Costo Medal for Education, Research and Service by UC Riverside’s Costo Chair of Native Affairs. As performer and choreographer, Tangen has worked in ballet, modern dance, circus, TV, film, theater, opera and Native contemporary productions in the USA, Canada, France, Norway, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina. She has taught extensively in Indigenous communities across the Americas; at Washington University as Visiting Distinguished Scholar; at Stanford University’s Institute for Diversity in the Arts, where she led a course on creative response to “RACE AND ENVIRONMENT;” and has presented lectures and workshops at Arizona State University, UC Riverside, and the University of New Mexico. Her choreography, created from Indigenous principles of collaboration rather than hierarchy, explores the de-colonization of theater premises and revitalizes Indigenous cultural practices. In building and touring her company, she recruits and cultivates a new generation of emerging Native multi-disciplinary artists.

Jacqueline Shea Murphy (Organizer) teaches courses in critical dance studies in UCR’s Dance department. She is author of “The People Have Never Stopped Dancing”: Native American Modern Dance Histories (University of Minnesota Press, 2007), awarded the 2008 de la Torre Bueno Prize® for outstanding book of the year in Dance Studies by the Society of Dance History Scholars (SDHS) and co-editor of the collection Bodies of the Text: Dance as Theory, Literature as Dance (Rutgers University Press, 1995). She was the 2009 recipient of a Fulbright Senior Scholar Award to Aotearoa New Zealand, and is writing a new book about the Indigenous epistemologies acessed and strengthened in the choreographic practices of contemporary Indigenous choreographers from the U.S., Canada, and Aotearoa. 


Daniel Arizmendi, an international martial arts champion, began his classical training at the age of 17 from the Redding Ballet Academy’s Pre-Professional program. For six years, he was a leading male dancer and choreographer for the Redding City Ballet. He also founded the BelAriz Ballet school, performed for FACT/SF’s Home Season 3.0, and was a founding member of Artesan Dance Company. As a choreographer, he has created original contemporary works for dance companies, schools, and universities. Daniel has performed with DANCING EARTH for Bioneers in 2011, and was invited to represent the company for the 2012 Hemispheric Encuentro of Performance and Politics. He has begun teaching ballet for DANCING EARTH’s associate training program of Cuicacalli Escuela De Danza in San Francisco.

Eric Garcia Lopez was born and raised in Arizona, of both Tarasco First Nation and Navajo Nation lineage. He has been dancing for many years under the style known as b-boying (break dancing) and street dancing. He has taught and performed internationally with choreographers including Santee Smith, and for non-profit, intergenerational arts and educational outreach programs. Eric is an inspired student of multiple art forms, including photography, film production, painting, creative movement, and music. He joined DANCING EARTH in 2009.

Kendall Loyer is completing her MFA in Experimental Choreography at UCR this spring. She has trained in ballet, modern, b-girling, and experimental dance composition. She is a photographer, writer, improviser, dance maker, and always on a journey to find her way in the world.

William Madrigal Jr. and the Mountain Cahuilla Birdsingers are a local singing group mostly from the Riverside area. The birdsongs are the history of the Native people of southern California. The group aims to educate and to bring about cultural awareness and cultural exchange through the use of native songs and dances of the people from southern California. William and his friends are also alumni of UCR, and have presented at various campus events and functions.

Valerie Mendez is a second year dance major at UCR. She has three years experience in jazz, hip hop, and ballet. She hopes to open up her own dance studio once she graduates.

Christiana Powell is a junior dance major at UCR. She graduated with honors from Chaffey College in general education, focusing on dance and sociology. She started with color guard for seven years and moved to modern dance amongst others.

Meghan Quinlan is a first year Ph.D. student in UCR’s Critical Dance Studies program. Tonight is a world first as she will be singing out loud in public for the first time.

Monica Rodero is a first year MFA student in UCR’s Experimental Choreography program. From Milwaukee, WI, she worked with Wild Space Dance Company for ten seasons as a dancer, choreographer and Artistic Associate. She is really tall.

Dan Schuchart is a first year MFA student in UCR’s Experimental Choreography program.  Dan is very happy to be working with Jack in this residency. 

Cydney Watson is a third year dance and anthropology major at UCR. She’s been training for nine years in various dance styles and is thrilled and appreciative to be working with this group of people. 

Mynesha Whyte began dancing at fourteen, training in many different genres. Currently she is working on expanding her dancing knowledge and vocabulary as a dance major at UCR.

Eagle Young: has trained and studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Los Angeles and South Coast Repertory in Orange County. He’s performed professionally in New York at La Mama Theatre and in North Carolina in the oldest outdoor drama, The Lost Colony. He has collaborated with Native Voices at the Autry and performed with South Coast Repertory. His favorite roles include Jean in Miss Julie and the Stage Manager in Our Town. He’d like to thank his family and friends for their endless support. He joined DANCING EARTH three years ago for the premiere of “OF BODIES OF CLAY” in Arizona.

Natalie Zervou is a second year Ph.D. student UCR’s Critical Dance Studies program. Her training includes ballet, modern dance, and character dance. Born and raised in Athens, Greece, her research interests include modern dance in Greece.

Hannah Zisman hails from the little boxes on the hillside made of ticky tacky in Woodland Hills and is the product of many years of blistered, broken and battered toes from ballet, tap, jazz etc. Today marks the end of the beginning of her journey into the spiraling realm of improvised experimental choreography…and she couldn’t be any more excited.


Michelle Erai is originally from Whangarei, Aotearoa, and currently Assistant Professor in Women’s Studies at UCLA. In addition to her academic work, Michelle is a co-founder of Incite! Women of Color Against Violence, and was a Research Coordinator for Amokura, a Family Violence Prevention Initiative governed by the seven northernmost Māori tribes in Aotearoa. Michelle’s tribal affiliations are Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Whātua, and Ngāti Porou.

Susan Leigh Foster is Distinguished Professor in UCLA’s department of World Arts and Cultures. She has published numerous pivotal books in the field of dance studies and was instrumental in starting UC Riverside’s Ph.D. program in dance studies twenty years ago. 

Mishauna Goeman (Tonawanda Band of Seneca) is an assistant professor of Women’s Studies at UCLA. Her book, Mark My Words: Native Women Mapping Our Nations, is forthcoming (University of Minnesota Press) and she has published in peer reviewed journals such as Settler Colonial Studies, American Quarterly, Wicazo Sa, International Journal of Critical Indigenous Studies, American Indian Cultures and Research Journal.

Brandon J founded ENVY Dance Company, a professional hip hop dance company based in the Inland Empire, in 2007, and serves as its Artistic Director. He teaches hip hop dance at a number of Inland Empire educational institutions — including UC Riverside– and also teaches at and dances with the Inland Pacific Ballet Academy.

Wendy Rogers has choreographed and performed Western Contemporary dances for over forty years, residing in the San Francisco Bay Area, New York City and now in Riverside, California where she joined the University of California dance faculty in 1996 and is now Professor of Choreography. Her dances explore the ways people move to shape place, and the ways that place shapes human movement and interaction. Recent projects include  ‘a meeting place,’ site-derived dances based on the architecture of California architect Julia Morgan (1872-1957).

Cliff Trafzer is Costo Chair in American Indian Affairs and Professor of History at UC Riverside, and author of numerous books in the field of Native American studies. His current work is on Indian Medicine at the Cultural Institute on the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Oregon.

Michael Tsosie is an independent scholar at large and enrolled “trouble maker” of the Colorado River Indian Tribes in Parker, Arizona. Recently he taught at UC-Riverside in the Ethnic Studies Department.  In previous employment he was the Director the Colorado River Indian Tribes’ museum, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Native Studies program at the University of Victoria and Creative Services Director for ATLATL, a national native arts organization.

Poster design: Kathleen DeAtley