Dance Meets Earth: Dance & The Elements, Part III

When you think about dance, where do you picture it happening? Likely you conjure up images of a Zen-like studio setting or an air-coniditioned theater…settings far from the origins of dance: The Earth. Most indigenous cultures still maintain this connection, unlike most modern, Western cultures. Luckily there are some exceptions because there’s nothing like changing things up and getting back to putting our feet back on the ground.

Trails and Vistas is one such exception. Every year since 2004, Director and Founder Nancy Tieken Lopez has been scouting out idyllic locations in the Tahoe area for this site-specific mutli-media festival. Audiences hike through gorgeous trails, stopping along the way to take in live dance, music, and art installations. It’s an amazing way to get in some exercise and a healthy dose of culture. What more can you ask for?

When Dancing Earth‘s Director, Rulan Tangen, realized that no Native contemporary dance company existed in the USA, she strove to create one. No stranger to the concept of combining dance & the elements, Tangen’s current production, “ORIGI-NATION: ROOTS AND SEEDS” is a performance which integrates dance, Native language, rhythms, and media projection. Tangen believes she survived cancer to discover her leadership purpose,and continues to teach extensively in Native communities across the Americas, as well as institutes of higher learning.Ten years later, the company tours regularly, and holds workshops, including two year-round associate youth cultural dance training programs in the Bay Area. They’ve also won numerous awards, including the first dance fellowship for Artistic Innovation by the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, and the Costo Medal for Education. They were also recognized as Dance Magazine’s pick as one of “25 To Watch.”

Here’s one you can do: Anna Halprin’s Planetary Dance, a dance with a purpose, where people from all over the world join in a dance in a beautiful setting for peace in their own communities and peace with the Earth. Halprin is an early pioneer in the expressive arts healing movement. She has led countless collaborative dance programs with terminally ill patients, long committed to a belief in the connection between movement and the healing power of dance. Her “Planetary Dance: A Call for Peace” between peoples and the earth was staged in Berlin at an event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Potsdam Treaty to end World War II, and involved over 400 participants.

In her own words:

“It’s going to take the willing commitment of enough people to say we will heal this earth. Every step is a prayer, and we must pray together for the healing of the earth… The circle is an act of unity, and the four directions give it stability. It’s the squared circle which is the archetypal mandala of harmony.”
—Anna Halprin, Moving Toward Life: Five Decades of Transformational Dance

Whether you get the urge to dance outdoors or not, summer is the time to enjoy being outside…all the better if you catch an outdoor performance somewhere. But promise yourself you’ll find the time to at least walk on the grass barefoot.


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