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When: 7:00pm
Where: The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
2700 F Street, NW
Terrace Gallery
Washington, D.C.  20566
United States
Contact: ArtChangeUS

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Denise Saunders Thompson & Rulan Tangen

Wednesday, August 22, 2018 at 7PM
Terrace Gallery, Kennedy Center
FREE and Open to the Public

Can’t make it in person? Join us through Live Stream on Facebook and participate in the conversation! #KCNationalConvo

How does culture establish a foundation that fuels choreographic ideas and approaches? How can dance translate and heal histories of the body — and how does it empower our future?
Join Artistic Director and Choreographer of Dancing Earth and Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Fellow Rulan Tangen, and International Association of Blacks in Dance President and CEO,Denise Saunders Thompson, as they explore deeper meanings of movement arts as a means of protest, survival, resilience, social change, and the embodiment of futurities.  Unpacking similarities, differences, and philanthropic paradigms within the dance field, Rulan and Denise discuss the parity between them as dance-makers, practitioners, and presenters in collaboration with global indigenous practices, intertribal and African diasporan artists.

Denise Saunders Thompson is the President and CEO of The International Association of Blacks in Dance (IABD), a nonprofit dance service organization that preserves and promotes dance by people of African ancestry or origin since its founding in 1991. For 30 years, Black dance professionals, students, and supporters, from around the world, have gathered for IABD’s annual conference and festival throughout the country and Canada. In 2018, IABD was awarded $2.6 million dollars by The Mellon Foundation to continue the Comprehensive Organizational Health Initiative, that seeks to address financial capacity and capitalization needs to support long-term durability of arts organizations. Denise’s management and philanthropic career spans over 20 years of executive director and program director experience. She has advised organizations on administrative, programmatic and fundraising issues including strategic plans, policy and procedures, communications programs, budgeting and contracts. And she has pioneered top-ranked courses on the collegiate level (graduate and undergraduate) in artistic development, entrepreneurship, fundraising, grant writing, leadership, management, and production. Prior to her leadership role with IABD, Denise served as a Professorial Lecturer for the Graduate Arts Management Degree Program at American University from 2015 – 2017. And in April 2015, she concluded 17 years of service at Howard University in the capacities of Professor and Theatre Manager/Producing Artistic Director.

Rulan Tangen‘s dance journey centers around the founding of DANCING EARTH CREATIONS (DE) in 2004. After years of teaching dance workshops to reservation youth, she strove to create hope and opportunity for aspiring performers, theater artists and technicians, who also serve as culture carriers, art educators, and leaders. Dancing Earth has thus inspired a new generation of Indigenous performers to express their culture in vital contemporary and experimental forms.

Her professional experience spans international ballet, modern dance, opera, circus, film and television production including includes NYC’s Michael Mao Dance, and Peridance Ensemble; Canada’s Karen Jamieson Dance and Banff Aboriginal Arts; Littleglobe’s Memorylines Opera; and Wise Fool New Mexico’s One Solstice Circus; Marin Ballet, Catskill Ballet Theater, Redwood Empire Ballet and New York Grand Opera. . Native productions include Bones Dance Opera, Ordway Theater’s TRIBE, and Northern Plains traditional powwow dancing. She has danced, acted or choreographed for TV including PBS’s “Music From a Painted Cave” and “We Shall Remain” series, Much Music command performance for HRH Princes Charles, and films Apocalypto, The New World ,Woman Walks Ahead, Drunktown’s Finest, and Ancestor Eyes, for which she received an Action On Film nomination for Best Actress.

Surviving cancer to discover her leadership purpose, Tangen continues to teach extensively in Native communities across the Americas, as well as institutes of higher learning. With a vision for inclusion, she cultivates a new generation of Native dancers, through creative practice that explores intertribal diversity. Many of her students have danced with the company, crediting the work to have empowered their identity as well as their scope of artistic aspiration. Her teaching credentials include Washington University’s Visiting Distinguished Scholar; guest artist instructor at Stanford University’s Institute for Diversity in the Arts for “RACE AND ENVIRONMENT;” Native Wellness Institute Leadership Academy; Artistic Residencies at UC Riverside, Santa Fe Art Institute, and Arizona State University; and New Zealand’s Intercreate symposium.

Her vision is recognized through honors including the first dance fellowship for Artistic Innovation by the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, the Costo Medal for Education, Research and Service by UC Riverside’s Chair of Native Affairs, and as Dance Magazine’s pick as one of “25 To Watch,”  the New Mexico School for the Arts‘ Community Arts Leadership award, the 2015 Arts & Social Change Award from Arts and Healing Network, and was honored as a top ten finalist across all disciplines for the Nathan Cummings Fellowship for Social Change.

Her work values movement as an expression of indigenous worldview, honoring matriarchal leadership, dance as functional ritual for transformation and healing, the process of decolonizing the body, and the animistic energetic connection with all forms of life on earth. She has recruited and nurtured a new generation of Indigenous contemporary dancers and holds the belief that “to dance is to live, to live is to dance.”


ArtChangeUS@Kennedy Center National Conversations is a series of dialogues between prominent artists and pivotal change-makers who are advancing a pluralistic vision of America.