Indigenous Choreographers at Riverside Gathering 2018

April 27 – May 6, 2018

Hosted and co-directed by Jacqueline Shea Murphy and María Regina Firmino-Castillo

Magnolia Yang Sao Yia, Assistant Coordinator

ICR 2018 Dance Artist Focus:  Our highlighted guest artist this year is Grupo Sotz’il, who will be in residence at UCR from April 27 through May 7. Grupo Sotz’il is an eight-member ensemble of young Kaqchikel and Mam multidisciplinary artists dedicated to researching, creating and promoting Mayan knowledge and arts. Founded in El Tablón, Sololá, Guatemala in the year 2000 by the Tat Lisandro Guarcax (1978–2010), Grupo Sotz’il’s art reflects the present and envisions the future, with firm roots in the wisdom and knowledge of their ancestors.

Grupo Sotz’il’s participation in this year’s ICR is an enactment of the group’s desire to re-activate the long-standing connection between Indigenous peoples of the four directions, a multivalent circuit of exchange that predates the colonial imposition of borders. This commitment to transnational Indigenous solidarity has taken Grupo Sotz’il to almost every continent, where they have engaged in reciprocal sharing of knowledge and story. Selected by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ prestigious National Dance Project Touring Award, this is Grupo Sotz’il’s first visit to Cahuilla, Tongva, Serrano, Luiseño (Payómkawichum), Cupeño and Kumeyaay lands and their first time participating in the ICR. With the opportunity afforded by the ICR to dialogue–through words and movement–with artists and scholars from throughout Abya Yala/Turtle Island, Grupo Sotz’il looks forward to new connections toward future collaborations and forms of solidarity.

Grupo Sotz’il will present Uk’u’x Ulew, Heart of Earth. In this 60-minute performance of xajoj q’ojom (music/dance), fire, water, earth, and air interact in harmony and conflict. From their collusion and collision, K’aslemal, life, is born. The exuberance reaches beyond the borders of the performance space, but Tz’i’—the hound that embodies the word—signals danger. Grupo Sotz’il will present Uk’u’x Ulew, which borders between ritual and performance, at UCR’s Community Garden on Saturday, May 5, at the end of Medicine Ways. They will also dance a 20 minute excerpt of this work on Thursday, May 3, as part of “Arts Walk”, followed by performed responses from invited artists and a discussion in both English and Spanish.

ICR 2018 Writers’ Workshop: This year’s ICR will include a day-long gathering of writers contributing to a new anthology on “Critical Indigenous Dance Studies” that we are proposing. The day will begin with short “key point/generative question” presentations from those contributing to the anthology, who have circulated first drafts of potential pieces to one another. Responses from one another and UCR faculty, and discussion around overlapping and emerging ideas will follow, as we move toward reworking or refining the anthology’s structure and focus. The day is geared around this specific project, but is open to observers interested in the field. (Please RSVP to save a space if you’d like to attend; see link below).

There are several other public events this year, including a screening of work by Sotz’il and other participating dance artists Friday, April 27, and music and dance workshops at UCR.  See the schedule below for details.


UCR ARTSblock, Culver Center of the Arts

3824 Main Street, Riverside, CA 92501

Parking lot rates are priced at reasonable rates and are in effect from 9-5, Monday-Friday. Parking is free before and after that time period and on weekends. Curbside metered parking is available throughout downtown Riverside, and is free after 5 PM, weekends and holidays. For more info, visit Parking in Downtown Riverside.

University of California, Riverside

900 University Avenue, Riverside, CA 92521

Campus parking permits available at the Kiosk. For more info, visit Campus Kiosk.
All events are free.


Indigenous Choreographers at Riverside is presented by the UCR Department of Dance and UCR Native American Students Programs in conjunction with ARTSBlock/Culver Center of the Arts, with additional support provided by the UCR College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, the California Center for Native Nations, the Costo Chair in American Indian Affairs, and UCR Departments of Dance, Hispanic Studies, Music, Theatre, Film and Digital Production, Ethnic Studies, and Global Studies.

The presentation of Uk’u’x Ulew is made possible by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with additional support from the National Endowment for the Arts.


Friday, April 27

Video Screening: Grupo Sotz’il, Xul Kej and Louise Potiki Bryant, Tumutumu

Location: Culver Center of the Arts, Culver Screening Room
7:00 – 8:30 PM
Free and open to the public with RSVP. Please RSVP HERE.

Followed by Dialogue on Process with UCR faculty, including Michelle Raheja, Maria Firmino-Castillo, Jose Reynoso and Jacqueline Shea Murphy, and with artists Louise Potiki Bryant and Grupo Sotz’il dance and music ensemble members. For more information on these films, see: https://artsblock.ucr.edu/Film/grupo-sotzil

Tuesday, May 1

Movement Workshop with Grupo Sotz’il

Location: UCR, Arts Building, ARTS 166
12:40 – 2:00 PM
Free and open to the campus with RSVP. Please RSVP HERE.

Wednesday, May 2 

Grupo Sotz’il in Concert / Lecture Demonstration
Music Department Colloquium Series

Location: UCR, Arts Building, ARTS 157
12:10 – 1:00 PM
Free and open to the campus.

Thursday, May 3

Indigenous Dance Exchange
Location: Culver Center of the Arts, Coil Brothers Atrium
6:30 – 9:15 PM
Free and open to the public.

Featuring an excerpt from Uk’u’x Ulew by Grupo Sotz’il, with dance offerings from Traditional Cahuilla Birdsingers and Dancers, Lukas Avendaño, Louise Potiki Bryant, Jack Gray/si dåkot-ta alcantara-camacho/Toni Pasion/Bianca Hyslop, Rulan Tangen, Ni’Ja Whitson, Sam Mitchell, and a welcome from Gerald Clarke.

María Firmino-Castillo
Kimberly Guerrerro
taisha paggett
Karyn Recollet
Joel Smith

Friday, May 4

Critical Scholarship in Indigenous Dance Writers’ Workshop I

Location: Culver Center of the Arts, Olga Hammond Dance Studio
9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Free and open to the campus with RSVP. Please RSVP HERE.

An international, interdisciplinary, gathering of scholars and dance-makers writing about Indigenous dance. Invited contributing writers will offer brief key points from their recent work, followed by open time to identity and discuss emergent  ideas.

Louise Potiki Bryant (Atamira Dance Company)
Emily Johnson (Emily Johnson/Catalyst)
María Regina Firmino-Castillo (UCR, Dance)
Karyn Recollet (U of Toronto, ON, Gender and Women’s Studies)
Jacqueline Shea Murphy (UCR, Dance)
Rulan Tangen (DANCING EARTH)

Contributing Writers:
Lukas Avendaño (Independent Artist)
Tria Blu Wakpa (UCR, Dance)
Julie Burrelle (UC San Diego, Theater)
Gloria Chacón (UC San Diego)
Xóchitl C. Chávez (UCR, Music)
Ernesto Colín (USC)
Belgica Del Río (UCB, TDPS)
Susan Foster (UCLA, World Arts and Cultures)
Jessica Fremland (UCR, Ethnic Studies)
Jack Gray and si dåkot-ta alcantara-camacho: (Atamira Dance Company, Aotearoa; Guåhan)
Grupo Sotz’il
Dava D. Hernandez (UCR, Dance)
Rachmi Diyah Larasati (University of Minnesota, Dance)
Genner Llanes Ortiz (Leiden University)
Tanya Lukin Linklater (Queens University)
Jessica McMann (Simon Fraser University)
Heryka Miranda (Brock University, Applied Health Sciences)
Daisy Ocampo (UCR, History)
June Scudeler (Simon Fraser University)
Angeline Shaka (University of North Carolina, Visual and Performing Arts)
Czarina Aggabao Thelen (McGill University)
HoWaste Wakiya (Tharon Weighill) (Independent scholar)

Saturday, May 5

Grupo Sotz’il: Uk’u’x Ulew (in conjunction with Medicine Ways)

Location: UCR, Arts Building Courtyard
6:00 – 8:00 PM
Free and open to the public with RSVP. Please RSVP HERE.
Parking: Complimentary permits available in Lot 1.

Uk’u’x Ulew is a multisensorial Maya dance-ritual. Its interactive choreography provokes embodied reflection on the environmental/political/spiritual dimensions of our planetary crisis—stressing human complicity while restoring reciprocity with our ecological matrix, or Uk’u’x Ulew. A multidisciplinary dance work performed with live music, Uk’u’x Ulew was created collectively by Grupo Sotz’il’s eight Kaqchikel and Mam Maya dancer-musicians and dramaturg.

Sunday, May 6

Critical Scholarship in Indigenous Dance Writers’ Workshop II, continued.

Location: Culver Center of the Arts, Olga Hammond Dance Studio
9:30 AM – 12:30 PM
Free and open to the campus with RSVP. Please RSVP HERE.

Umyuangvigkaq: Yaanga Long Table and Durational Sewing Bee
Location: Ace Hotel DTLA, Segovia Hall
929 S Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90015
3:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Free and open to the public.

Presented in conjunction with the ICR and led by Emily Johnson (Yup’ik), Karyn Recollet (Cree) and Cindi Alvitre (Gabrieliño/Tongva),

Full program details at https://performancepractice.la/umyuangvigkaq-yaanga/


William Madrigal and the Cahuilla (kaweeyah) Bird singers and dancers are a group that is part of a long, inter-generational tradition of culture bearers within the local California Indian community. Will and his family are members of the Cahuilla Nation of Southern California, a federally recognized Indian nation. Through life-long commitment, they have been given the gift of bird singing through oral teaching from the elders of the reservation community. They adhere to the strict protocol of the Cahuilla culture in regards to public expression and presentations. The bird songs and dances are a celebration of life for all peoples and are sung throughout southern California today.

Grupo Sotz’il was founded 17 years ago in El Tablón, Sololá, Guatemala. The 8 member ensemble of young Kaqchikel and Mam multidisciplinary artists is dedicated to researching, creating, and promoting Mayan knowledge and arts that have been persecuted since the Spanish invasion of 1524, during 36 years of genocidal war (1960-1996), and in the current socio-political  context of neocolonial violence against Guatemala’s 24 Indigenous nations. The ensemble performs with the intent of presenting their long suppressed Mayan history and culture to eyes and ears across the globe. Grupo Sotz’il’s art reflects the present and envisions the future, with firm roots in the wisdom and knowledge of their ancestors.


César Guarcax in role of K’aslemal in Uk’ux Ulew, photo by Victorino Tejaxún Alquijay

Louise Potiki Bryant is a choreographer, dancer, and video artist of Māori (Ngāi Tahu, Kāti Mamoe, and Waitaha) descent. She is a founding member of Atamira Dance Company with whom she has choreographed six works, including NGĀI TAHU 32 (‘Best contemporary dance production 2004’, NZ Listener), and TAONGA: Dust Water Wind (Best Production, Best Music, and Best Scenography awards, Tempo Dance Festival 2010). Her practice is inspired by Māoritanga and with her work she aims to honour mana wahine (the power of women). Louise also has a strong body of solo and collaborative works which draw upon her interdisciplinary and whakaahua dance practices.


Jack Gray is a New Zealand Maori contemporary dance artist of Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Whātua, Ngāti Kahungunu and Ngāti Porou descent. Jack became the Artistic Director of Atamira Dance Company in January 2018 and a Regent Lectureship Scholar at UCLA this Spring.

In the past two years he developed and toured I Moving Lab throughout the U.S, creating transformative community relationships through Intercultural Indigenous exchange.

Jack’s major work with Atamira includes a full length dance work Mitimiti made over five years. Alongside his choreographic work he has published articles in dance and academic publications (in collaboration with Professor Jacqueline Shea Murphy) and has been a cultural consultant, facilitator, dramaturg, rehearsal director and teacher (at UCR in Spring 2014).


Jack Gray, image by Jinki Cambronero

Rulan Tangen‘s work explores movement as an evolving language of intertribalism rooted in diverse indigenous cosmologies, in functional ritual for transformation and healing, animating decolonization process, integrating concurrent universes of ancient futurities in the moment of now, expressing energetic connection with all relations – human and beyond. As Founding Artistic Director/Choreographer of DANCING EARTH, she has passionately cultivated successive generations of Indigenous contemporary performing artists, and embodies her belief in dance as purposeful center of continuance of life. She is recipient of 2018 Kennedy Center Citizen Artist award and is grateful for all that roots her , supporting pathways to uncover, for the dreaming and doing of Dancing Earth : moving, shaking and stomping the world into renewal.


Photo by Uqualla for DANCING EARTH , location Abaachi lands

Ni’Ja Whitson is a gender nonconforming interdisciplinary artist, and has been a student and practitioner of indigenous African ritual and resistance forms for nearly two decades, creating work that reflects the sacred in street, conceptual, and interdisciplinary performance. They engage a nexus of postmodern and African Diasporic performance practices, through a critical intersection of gender, sexuality, race, and spirituality. Whitson is a Bessie Award winning performer, and writer, who has been referred to as “majestic” by the New York Times, and is recognized by Brooklyn Magazine as a culture influencer.  Recent awards include a Camargo Fellowship, Hedgebrook Residency, LMCC Process Space Residency, Bogliasco Fellowship, Brooklyn Arts Exchange Artist Residency, two-time Creative Capital “On Our Radar” award including being an inaugural recipient, among many other recognitions across disciplines. Ni’Ja Whitson is an Assistant Professor at UC Riverside and is the Founder/Artistic Director of The NWA Project.


Photo Credit: Scott Shaw

Lukas Avendaño
“I was not born in a maternity ward. My mother gave birth to me without help of anyone. It happened on the Mexican Isthmus of Tehuantepec, the land where I grew up surrounded by other barefoot and “sodomitic” (as Spanish chronicles described us) Natives. And from this land I nourished myself to do what I call ‘Installation for the Human Body.’ Some call it a happening, others call it a sketch, and still others, a provocation. Perhaps the latter is closest, for my intention is to cut against homophobia with a courageous transvestism that flirts with dance and exhibitionism as it climaxes into the word. I do this from sensuality and life, from consciousness and the body, using the Native and the modern word to disturb orthodoxies of every stripe and to show how sensitivity cuts deeper than the presumed hardness of the hard.

I am well aware of the existence of borders created by politics, societies, cultures, and prejudices. This is why my corporeal installations propose borders as places of encounter, not separation; from this liminal state I stand at the vortex, with my two feet placed on both sides of being ‘man/woman,’ inhabiting reality/utopia, correct/incorrect. Perhaps this is the dichotomy that I like the most, the in/correct; here I feel free, full, true and alive. Because of this, it pleases me that my native culture not be so orthodox in the exercise of life; that is why those who visit Tehuantepec describe it as a society of matriarchs, the quasi-paradise for homosexuals, a totemic, and even ‘primitive’, place.”


Photo credit: Mario Patiño, 2015

Sam Aros Mitchell is currently in the third-year of a PhD program in Performance Studies at UC San Diego/UC Irvine. He has an MFA in Dance Theatre from UC San Diego, and a BFA in Dance from UC Santa Barbara. Sam’s research and practice focuses on the transformative work of First Nation and Native American dance/theatre artists, breaking boundaries, connecting land to body, and bringing Native communities to a place of healing. Sam is of Yaqui heritage, (enrolled, Texas Band of Yaqui Indians).

Sam has danced in contemporary dance companies, and has toured, both nationally and internationally for over 25 years. Recently, Sam has performed and collaborated with Rosy Simas (Seneca) and her company, Rosy Simas Danse with upcoming performances scheduled through 2019. Sam continues to choreograph, dance, teach and learn, within his own Yaqui community, and within the greater community of Native American and First Nation artists and scholars.


Lios em chaniavu!

Poster design: Kathleen DeAtley