Rosy Simas in “We Wait In The Darkness” 2014
I am a choreographer who unifies physical movement with time-based media, sound and objects for both stage and installation. In my choreography I unite cultural ideas and images with scientific theories to create work that is literal, abstract and metaphoric.
My evening-length dance about my grandmother’s life, We Wait In The Darkness (2014), is an example of a piece that tackles subject matter literally (her letters concerning identity are read aloud by my mother), abstractly (through movement that imitates our clan animal, the Heron), and metaphorically (I rip, rearrange and distribute a relocation map from the Kinzua Dam removal). I assert throughout this choreography that I am intrinsically linked to my ancestors, and by blending quantum entanglement theory and my cultural views I propose that I can reverse epigenetic flow and heal my grandmother’s DNA. I believe that the more this piece is performed, the more that healing occurs — not just for my grandmother and our ancestors, but for the audience as well.
My work positions Native cultural and political persistence to engage the personal and social, including identity, matriarchy, sovereignty, equality and the effects of war. To compliment these themes, I make dances that decolonize bodies and develop movement vocabularies with the ability to oscillate between indigenous and eurocentric movement. By challenging contemporary dance conventions, I am advocating for the inclusion of an Indigenous worldview.
In 2018, I will tour site-specific iterations of Skin(s) (2014) to the Cultural Center of Chicago and Gimaajii-Mino-Bimaadizimin in Duluth. I will be in residence at All My Relations Arts, creating an exhibit and durational community performance that travels down the Native Cultural Corridor of Minneapolis. I will be also creating a new piece, Weave, honoring the interwoven and interdependent nature of our world, at residencies in Minnesota, Florida, Alabama, Maui and Washington, D.C., premiering January 2019.
I am asking critical questions regarding my relationship to the Native communities I perform for, my relationship to non-Native audiences, and what it is to create dance for western constructs from a Native world view.
What can Native cultures teach non-Native audiences about art in less transactional, and more relational ways?
How can I interrupt normative notions that performance by Native artists and artists of color must merely educate people?
How can we break barriers between people of different experiences to diminish the cultural voyeurism that can happen when less diverse audiences engage the work of Native choreographers and choreographers of color?
When Native artists create work for Native audiences—a natural process prior to colonization—we disrupt expectations about who is deemed worthy and appropriate to receive the gift of art. When broader audiences are welcomed into that space of creation, alongside Native people for whom the work was created, there is a deepened intimacy, a conversation shared, the universal revealed through the specific.
From my past touring experience, I know that building respectful and accountable relationships with Native communities in other territories is a much different kind of commitment than developing a general audience. I visit a community several times, learning about the territory and those who historically and currently live there. This helps me create meaningful engagement activities for all audiences and create work in which local performers can participate.
In 2017, I co-presented Oyate Okodakiciyapi: A Festival of Native Contemporary Dance/Art at the Ordway Theater and All My Relations Arts. The performances reached 4,000 school children and over 1,000 general audience members. 694 children identified as Native and 576 tickets went to the Native community. A Native Community Advisory Group was created for Oyate Okodakiciyapi; when Weave is presented at The Ordway in 2019, the group will help design related activities for the Native community and general audiences.
I am Haudenosaunee, Seneca, Heron Clan. I am the fifth great-granddaughter of Chief Cornplanter and the fourth great-granddaughter of Chief Halftown and Governor Blacksnake. Along with the clan mothers who advised them, I know it is because of their diplomacy and commitment to the survival of our people that I am here.
I grew up in MniSota (Dakota territory). I attended an intertribal survival school based in Ojibwe culture. I spent part of each day dancing with the drum, in play with other Native bodies, and in ceremony. The architecture of my body was formed by movement connected to the earth, with profound ancestral understanding. My cells resonate with memories of music and dance; birds that have visited me before a relative has passed; the voice of my uncle in the wind. Culture, history, and identity stored in my body is the underpinning of all my work. Creating is a spiritual act for me, rooted in nature, formed through a connection with the earth and ancestral presence. My creative practice is grounded in the values of survival, honor and understanding.
I have now created dance work for 25 years. I tour internationally, exhibit nationally, mentor emerging artists, present Native choreographers, and have been honored with fellowships, grants and residencies by national Native arts institutions and the contemporary dance world.
I collaborate with Indigenous, womanist/feminist, Two-Spirit/trans/queer, people of color, and other differentially-embodying dancers and performers, creative and critical writers, composers, and lighting designers, to create somatic, visual, and acoustic landscapes that are rich and layered.
I have spent many years in the Native community in Minneapolis, working with elders, facilitating cultural camps with elders and dance workshops for Native youth, and working with community members in areas of wellness and communications. My upbringing and connections influence how I work with others, how I create, and how I share my work with the world.
My ancestors made me who I am—a voice in the contemporary art world who challenges institutional racism. I am not just a dance maker, but a contemporary artist who is always working towards representation of Native artists on the stages and walls of major institutions and throughout the world.
Rosy Simas Resume
Twin Cities City Pages Artist of the Year, 2014
Minnesota Sage Dance Award for Outstanding Design, 2014
Fellowships and Awards
Knight Foundation, Knight Arts Challenge, Awarded to O’Shaughnessy Auditorium at St. Catherine’s University and Rosy Simas for the creation of Weave.
New England Foundation for the Arts National Dance Project Award for Weave, 2017
Mid-Atlantic Foundation for the Arts USArtists International, 2017
MAP Fund Award for Weave, 2017
McKnight Fellowship for Choreography, 2016
Tiwahe Foundation Grant Award, 2016
First People’s Fund Artist in Business Leadership Fellowship, 2016
New England Foundation for the Arts National Dance Project Tour award, 2016
Minnesota State Arts Board, Dance Artist Initiative Award, 2014, 2016
Guggenheim Creative Arts Fellowship for Choreography, 2015
National Presenters Network Creation Fund, 2015
Minnesota State Arts Board, Arts Tour Grant Award, 2014-2015
First People’s Fund Our Nations Spaces Grant Award with Dance Place, 2014
Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, Arts Activities Grant Awards: 2001, 2011, 2013, 2014
Native Arts and Cultures Foundation Dance Fellowship, 2013
New England Foundation for the Arts National Dance Project Production/Tour award, 2013
Tiwahe Foundation Grant Award, 2013
American Composers Forum Live Music for Dance Grant Award, 2013
MRAC/McKnight Foundation Next Step Fund Grant Award, 2012
Minnesota State Arts Board Cultural, Community Partnership Grant Awards, 2005, 2012
Weave, Ordway Center for the Performing Arts (St. Paul), 2019, All My Relations Arts (2018), and Alabama Dance Council (2019)./h6>
Within Our Skin, University of Minnesota Department of Dance (Minneapolis), Northwestern University Department of Dance (Chicago), St. Paul Conservatory for the Arts (St. Paul), 2016
Skin(s), Intermedia Arts (Minneapolis), EastSide Arts Alliance (Oakland), and LaPeña (Berkeley), 2016. Right Here Series (Minnesota), 2014.
Where Are We Going, Oneida Nation Arts Program, 2003 (Green Bay, WI)
Moments In Between, Jerome Performance Art Commissioning Project at Intermedia Arts, 2002 (Minneapolis)
Momentum Series – Walker Art Center/Southern Theater, (Minneapolis), 2001
IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Art Social Engagement Residency, 2014 (Santa Fe, NM)
Banff Centre for the Arts Indigenous Arts Program Residency, 2012 (Canada)
Montréal Arts Interculturels (MAI), Creation/Performance Residency 2014 (Canada)
We Wait In The Darkness, The Edge Center, Big Fork, MN, April 2016.
We Wait In The Darkness, Gimaajii-Mino-Bimaadizimin, Duluth, MN, November 2015.
All My Relations: A Seneca History, Mitchell Museum of the American Indian, Chicago, 2014-2015.
We Wait In The Darkness, All My Relations Arts, Minneapolis, June-July 2014.
Oyate Okodakiciyapi: An Evening of Native Contemporary Dance, Ordway Center for Performing Arts (St. Paul, MN), March 2017
Choreographer’s Evening, Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN), November 2016
Échange: The Twin Cities/Montréal Dance Exchange, JSB Tek Box in The Cowles Center (Minneapolis, MN), January 2014.
CHOREOGRAPHY AND TOURING (2014–2018)
Weave 2019-2020 Tour: Ordway (St. Paul); All My Relations Arts (Minneapolis); Dance Place (Washington D.C.); Maui Arts & Cultural Center, and at the Poarch Creek Indian Reservation and in Birmingham presented by the Alabama Dance Council.
Skin(s) 2016–2017 Tour: Intermedia Arts (Minneapolis); Indigenous Choreographers at Riverside (Riverside); EastSide Arts (Oakland); LaPeña (Berkeley) Gimaajii-Mino-Bimaadizimin (Duluth), Northwestern University (Evanston, Il); and City of Chicago Cultural Center
Within Our Skin
2016 iterations for:University of Minnesota Department of Dance (Minneapolis), Northwestern University Department of Dance (Chicago), and St. Paul Conservatory for the Arts (St. Paul).
We Wait In The Darkness, February 2014 Canadian premiere at Montréal Arts Interculturels (MAI). July 2014 U.S. Premiere at Red Eye Theater, Minneapolis. 2014-2106 Tour: ODC (San Francisco), Dance Place (Washington D.C), Maui Arts and Cultural Center, The Autry (Los Angeles), Dance Center at Columbia College of Chicago, UCR/Culver Center (Riverside), SUNY Fredonia (Fredonia, NY), The Myrna Loy Center (Helena, MT), The American Indian Housing Organization (Duluth, MN), The Edge Arts Center (Big Fork, MN), Carleton College (Northfield, MN). Excerpt also presented at the Judson Memorial Church by Movement Research (New York City).
Skin(s) various dance studies, presented by: Right Here Series (Minneapolis), IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (Santa Fe), Full Circle Productions Talking Stick Festival (Vancouver, BC).
I Took My Lucky Break And I Broke It In Two, January 2013 presented in Échange: the Twin Cities/Montréal Dance Exchange at the JSB Tek Box in The Cowles Center (Minneapolis).
Blood Lines, September 2012 U.S. premiere, Southern Theater (Minneapolis). February 2013 Canadian premiere, Talking Stick Festival (Vancouver, BC) 2013 Tour: Performance Mix Festival (New York City) and University of California at Riverside.
Listen, September 2012, a solo for Jim Liberthal, Southern Theater (Minneapolis). Winner of a Minnesota Sage Award for Outstanding Performance.
Threshold, art/dance film in collaboration with photographer Douglas Beasley. July 2013 U.S. premiere, Dreamland Arts (St. Paul). February 2014 Canadian premiere, Montréal Arts Interculturels (MAI). March 2016 in the MNTV series (IFP/ Twin Cities PBS/Walker Art Center), at the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis).
Threshold, September 2012, Southern Theater (Minneapolis).
i want it to be raining and the window to be open, premiere November 2012 Choreographer’s Evening, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. April 2013, Performance Mix Festival (New York City).
Alice, March 2012 at the Cedar Cultural Center, the Red Eye Theater, and 9×22 at Bryant Lake Bowl Theater, (Minneapolis).
Without Skin Between Us, July 2010, Bedlam Theater, Minneapolis.
Le Côte, Birds & Stationnement Resident Seulement, October 2008 premiere, Studio 303 (Montréal), and March 2009 at the California Building (Minneapolis).
Community Engagement Residencies: IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Art (Santa Fe) 2014, Talking Stick Festival (Vancouver) 2013/2014, and Onieda Arts Program (Green Bay) 2001/2002/2010.
Workshops: Studio 303 (Montréal) 2008/2009/2011, MAI (Montréal Arts Interculturels) 2014, Zenon Dance School (Minneapolis) 2009-2015.
Master classes: University of California at Riverside 2013, State University of New York at Fredonia 2014, Carroll College/Myrna Loy Center (Helena, MT) 2014, Dance Center of Columbia College (Chicago) 2014, Dance Place (Washington D.C.) 2015, Maui Arts and Cultures Center (Hawaii) 2015, University of California at Berkeley 2015, ODC (San Francisco) 2015, The Cowles Center for Dance (Minneapolis) 2015/2016, and Northwestern University (Chicago) 2016.