Read IAIA MoCNA Social Engagement residency page on Simas’ 2014 project at MoCNA. http://www.iaiamocnasear.org/rosy-simas2/
(a dance art film by Douglas Beasley and Rosy Simas) was chosen for the 2016 MNTV season which will be broadcast state-wide and streamed online by TPT in the Spring of 2016 and installed in the Best Buy Film/Video Bay at the Walker Art Center. http://ifpmn.org/2016/01/06/announcing-the-mntv-2016-programs/
We Wait In The Darkness selected as one of 10 Showstoppers in Maui in 2015
I am a Native and I am an artist.
I am deeply concerned about the issues my people face. And right now I want to address a subject which is at the very heart of survival for Native nations – the complexity of contemporary Native identity.
I am concerned with how we (Native people) will see each other and identify each other – in the future. How we recognize each other is the key to our sense of cultural/spiritual belonging and to healing from historical trauma.
Most tribes are forced to identify their citizens by blood quantum. This system was established by the U.S. Government. I see how it works hand in hand with forced assimilation and “voluntary” relocation to diminish Native populations over time. The goal as I see it is: to eliminate Native people so their rights and claims to their lands will cease. As a result of this intentional systematic genocide, Native people would be swallowed up by the great melting pot of peoples lacking history, culture, ancestral ties to this land.
As a result of assimilation our rapidly changing demographics have contributed to a major shift in how Native people see each other. In the past our introduction went something like this – tribal affiliation, clan, home territory and family name. This introduction has for many been replaced by more complex definitions.
Many Native people in my community have complex identities and stories of being wounded by rejection or uplifted by acceptance – by their Nations, communities, and other Native peoples.
I myself have experienced spiritual dilemma through my own “who is or who isn’t” judgment of others.
invisibility, consumption of Native identity and art, and my response…
To experience racism one must be physically seen or regarded in some perceivable way. Native Americans in the United States are invisible – viewed primarily as stereotypes and as a historical people of the past.
Paradoxically, while we experience invisibility, we struggle with the mass consumption and appropriation of Native art, culture, and identity by the dominant culture.
It is the erasure of Native people that allows this consumption to be completely disconnected from the contemporary people who created this art and continue to represent our cultures.
As an artist it isn’t my job to educate non-Native people about Native issues, and whoever’s job it is – it’s not working anyway.
Lacking real knowledge, personal interaction and empathy, the dominant culture has false and simplistic preconceptions about indigenous people. Most Americans feel exonerated of a troubling shared history by simply sitting through a lecture, a film, or a performance.
I believe this ignorance allows audiences to consume my work by sensationalizing my story and cultural voyeurism. I want to disrupt this monotonous exercise between passive audiences and myself. I want to challenge the notions of how Native art is experienced. I want to disrupt conventional audience expectations by physically shifting the proximity of the audience and artists.
Is it possible to create a performance work that more truly and effectively crosses the divide between a general audience and a Native artist?
What does Native culture and art have to teach a non-Native audience about making and consuming art in a way that is less polarized and polarizing, less transactional and more relational?
I created We Wait in the Darkness to heal my ancestors from the emotional, physical and spiritual injuries of the past using movement, image and sound. My approach to We Wait in the Darkness was to author my work for Native audiences and make the work available for all audiences. I found that this approach helps me break barriers between people who come from different perspectives, traditions, and self-understanding – in large part because I have found a way to be true to my own identity and artistic inquiry, while diminishing the cultural voyeurism that so often happens when white audiences engage with Native artists and artists of color.
In the creation of Skin(s) Native artists will create with a Native audience in mind. This will be easily reinforced as we will be working within our Native communities who will participate in the creation of movement, text, film, and in a way take ownership of parts of the work.
Each creation and performance residency for Skin(s) – Native and Non-Native people can witness rehearsals, be a part of discussions, and give feedback on what they see.
In this way… Skin(s) will always be a living document that allows the audience to shift and shape the work from community to community.
Choreographer Rosy Simas awarded Guggenheim fellowship
click on link to read full article
It takes a special kind of performer to bewitch an audience with stillness. Rosy Simas has that gift. An articulate dancer, Simas has the ability to suffuse the smallest movements, or even complete motionlessness, with a captivating aura.
Simas’s Seneca heritage and Native identity figured strongly into her work this year, whether through her family’s history or her own experiences as a person of color. Her subversive art takes on a point of view, but also deeply embraces beauty.
In July, Simas showed two versions of We Wait in Darkness, a piece that explored her family history as well as the U.S.’s treatment of Native tribes. The work was featured as an installation at All My Relations Gallery, which included performance and mixed-media elements, and it was also performed as a full-length dance work at the Red Eye Theater. The project was heavily researched through interviews and trips to the reservation where her family is from. The choreography that Simas created was noteworthy for its introspection, finding generations of trauma in her breath and adroit gestures. Onstage, even the way she curved her spine, her bare back facing the audience, became a moment of chilling purpose. Channeling the stories of her ancestors, particularly her grandmother, Simas created an intense depiction of anguish and strength.
This fall, Simas showed another work, “Skin(s),” as part of the Right Here Showcase at the Cowles Center’s Tek Box. In that piece, Simas continued her fruitful relationship with composer François Richomme, and worked with Navarrete x Kajiyama Dance Theater (NAKA) to mine the experiences of people of color. While often finding surprising uses for rhythm, Simas displayed her skill in creating work that employed sounds of the dancers bodies in relation to the composer’s score. This work especially came alive when Simas herself took the stage, emanating with her transfixing presence.
Simas’s use of sculptural objects, both in “Skin(s)” and in We Wait in Darkness, demonstrate how Simas is more than a choreographer; she is an artist who can shift through various disciplines. She’s already a celebrated local artist, but now she’s poised to establish herself more surely on the national scene. —Sheila Regan
Rosy Simas’ We Wait In The Darkness received a 2014 Sage MN Dance Award for Outstanding Design in October 2014.
17 more bright spots in the Twin Cities arts scene…
(click on link to read full article)
“Dancing in the ‘Darkness”
When Minneapolis choreographer Rosy Simas decided to delve into her family history, it took more than one venue and multiple media to share her discoveries. For her project “We Wait in the Darkness,” she created an installation of maps and mementos at All My Relations Gallery and gave a solo performance at Red Eye Theater. Simas, who is Seneca, drew upon the experiences of her grandmother, including the flooding of reservation lands in western New York during the 1960s to make way for the Kinzua Dam, which violated a treaty dating back to George Washington’s era. The quietly poignant work resonated for its generosity of spirit and dedication to truth-telling. Simas will continue to tour the show in 2015.” – CAROLINE PALMER, StarTribune, December 29, 2014
Thank you (Nya:weh) all my friends, supporters, colleagues, and audience for a wonderful and successful 2014. I sincerely wish you a wonderful beginning to 2015.
Here is our Year In Review and some info on our Upcoming Events and Classes …
I created We Wait In The Darkness a dance/art project which is both an evening length dance and a contemporary art and historical exhibit.
The dance premiered at Red Eye Theater in Minneapolis and toured in the U.S. and Canada to the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, University of California at Riverside , the Myrna Loy Center in Helena, the MAI in Montréal, and SUNY Fredonia in New York.
The exhibit opened at All My Relations Arts in Minneapolis and is currently at the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian in Chicago.
In October, I was honored in Minnesota with a 2014 Sage Dance Award for my film and set design for We Wait In The Darkness. I have an amazing team of people with whom I worked on this production to thank for that honor: François Richomme (composer), Steven Carlino (production manager), Karin Olson (lighting), and Laura Waterman Wittstock (performer).
We Wait In The Darkness was made possible by NEFA National Dance Project, American Composers Forum, Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, MN State Arts Board, First Peoples Fund, and over 120 individual supporters.
I had many opportunities to launch my new project Skin(s). First at The Talking Stick Festival in Vancouver with Taja Will, and then in Santa Fe at IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts during a social engagement residency.
In November, I had the honor of working in San Francisco and Minneapolis with NAKA Dance Theater and again with composer François Richomme. We performed a new version of Skin(s) within a beautiful lighting design by Mike Grogan and a new paper and film set I created. Skin(s) was commissioned by the Right Here Showcase and made possible by the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council and 74 Kickstarter supporters.
In December I was chosen as a City Pages 2104 Artist of the Year and included in the City Pages 2014 Performing Arts in Review . I am deeply grateful for all the opportunities I have received and all the support throughout the year from family, friends and community.
In 2015 I will be raising funds for the next two-year phase of the project Skin(s) which will be developed in Chicago, San Francisco and in the Twin Cities.
I will be teaching three Contact Improvisation classes on Monday evenings beginning January 5th at the Cowles Center for Dance and continue teaching Body Re-Education classes beginning January 9th at Zenon Dance on Friday mornings (see classes for details).
I will also continue to tour We Wait In The Darkness with productions at The Autry National Center in Los Angeles (January 24), Maui Arts and Culture Center (March 19), Dance Place in Washington D.C. (April 18 & 19), and to four cities in greater Minnesota. Please send your friends in LA, DC & Maui! More details on the MN tour soon.
I hope you have had a wonderful holiday season and I look forward to sharing 2015 with you.