STUDENT EXAMPLE: Native American environmental art, dance, and choreography

The work of Rulan Tangen centers around using dance to express a Native worldview and to inspire younger generations. Tangen has gone to many colleges and Native communities to teach people the art of dance in a way that will allow them to experience Native culture. During her career, she created a group called Dancing Earth that aims to bring awareness to Native culture while inspiring young artists through their dance performances.

Rulan Tangen’s work mainly focuses on expressing Native culture and empowering the next generation. She has dedicated her life to teaching people how to dance in ways that mimic healing rituals of Native tribes. She values the way that movement can bring an energetic connection between people. Her Dancing Earth dance group is an inter-tribe group that enjoys displaying their Native culture to people through their performances.

From Ash Culture on Flickr
Rulan Tangen has a long career in dance. As a leader at a dance workshop on a reserve, she wanted to give the younger Native people hope for careers as aspiring artists. She gave them this hope and the opportunity to join her by creating the group Dancing Earth. Her career has also led her to do choreography and dance for TV specials. She has stated that her belief is “to dance is to live, to live is to dance.”
From Culver Center on Flickr
This picture was taken at UCR Culver Center of the Arts, where UCR hosts the Indigenous Choreographers Residency. This picture was taken at the program in 2012. At this program, Native choreographers, such as Rulan Tangen, came together to share and develop performances together. At the same time, they talked to Native high school students about pursuing Indigenous choreography as a career. Workshops and performances were a part of the program, all dedicated to teaching the students how to express their Native heritage through the art of dance.
From Ordway Center on Flickr
Rulan Tangen taught more students at Ordway and Rosy Simas Dance in 2016. At this residency, she taught three “Master Classes.” She based her lessons off of the wisdom of Native leaders and their culture. She used these lessons to let students at Ordway experience Native culture for themselves by not only teaching them how to dance, but leading them step by step through a journey into seeing a Native worldview. The dancing is not only a fun activity, but a way to experience a different culture.

Rulan Tangen’s work encourages people to experience a new and different culture by allowing them to not only see but participate in Native American dance. She has provided new opportunities to young Native artists by creating a dance group dedicated to them. Native Americans have faced many issues regarding their culture in the past. Colonialism was only the beginning, as throughout American history, Natives have been incentivized not only to leave their reserves but also their culture behind. Most of the modern world finds Native customs, such as the belief in the spirit of nature and healing rituals, to be unscientific and even silly. Rulan Tangen has shown the world that Native American culture has a role in the modern world. She has demonstrated that expressing Native culture can not only be fun, but meaningful through her dance lessons.

Her work has inspired young artists in that they can keep their cultural identity intact and use it as inspiration for their work. She has demonstrated that artists can create their own place in the world through her creation of Dancing Earth. Rulan Tangen has dedicated her life to dance. She wants to let others know that they can follow their dreams and express their cultural identity at the same time. Her work is proof of that. At the same time, her work has not finished as she still performs with the goal of inspiring even more of the new generation.


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Health and Environmental Humanities Artistic Expression Portfolio Copyright © by The Students of HUM2020 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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