Bears Ears: Composition Lesson

Before creating ‘Dancing the Bears Ears’ choreographer Zvi Gothiener travelled to Bears Ears National Monument with his company Zvi Dance and Repertory Dance Theatre. For one week the dancers traveled to different parts of the monument, learning about the history of the land and the people for whom it is sacred. The dancers would spend time at each site improvising with one another, and later used those improvisations to help create material for the piece you see onstage.

Task: Use your own landscape to create a phrase

Go into your yard or to a park and find a spot with enough space to move in. Look at the materials around you. Is there grass or dirt under your feet? Is it soft or hard? Are there any trees? Can you hear birds or squirrels? Do you head the sound of cars passing by, or is it quiet? Do you smell anything? Using the textures, sights, and sounds of your landscape as inspiration start to explore different ways of moving. Maybe you can try playing in the grass, feeling the texture as you roll around. Perhaps there is a tree for you to climb, or someplace where you can dig. Don’t be afraid to let it be more playful than “danced”. You can stay in one spot, or try exploring new places to move.

Write down some of the things you most enjoyed about being outside. What textures interested you the most? Did any specific plants or animals catch your eye? How were you inspired to use the land around you? Use your answers to create a movement phrase that reflects your experience. Memorize it. Record your phrase, either outdoors or indoors. You can share it with your classmates, and see the different ways each person is inspired to use their own landscape to move. How are they alike? How are they different?

Dancing the Bears Ears by Zvi Gothiener

Explore Further:

Using a computer, research the history of the land you live on. Did a specific tribe once call your land home? What about a specific breed of animals? Or was there a native type of plant that was commonly found in your area?

Create a new phrase all about the history of your landscape. If a tribe inhabited it in the past (or still does!), research some of their traditions and find ways to express them through movement. Was there a time that wild animals roamed near your home? How did they move, and how can that shape your movement? If there are any plants native to your area, what texture are they? Do they grow large or small? Combine your phrases about your current landscape and the history of your landscape to make one larger phrase. Share it with your classmates and celebrate the history and beauty of the places you each call home!


Feel free to share these videos, embed them for your students, or link to this page. New online educational resources are being developed every day. If you have suggestions for what you’d like to see let us know: rdt@rdtutah.org.

Lauren began her training in Lowell, Massachusetts at Walker’s Dance. She was a scholarship recipient at the University of Hartford’s The Hartt School, graduating Summa Cum Laude with her BFA in Dance Performance. In her time at Hartt, Lauren furthered her training at the Jose Limon Dance Foundation, Martha Graham School, Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance, and Henny Jurrien Stichting (NL). Upon graduating she was offered a contract with Repertory Dance Theatre, where she has performed works by world-renowned choreographers such as Jose Limon, Elisa Monte, Donald McKayle, Danielle Agami, and Zvi Gotheiner. Lauren is a faculty member at Creative Arts Academy and teaches master classes at studios and University programs throughout the country. She has been a member of the company since 2014.

RDT appreciates the generous funding provided by the Utah Legislature and the Utah Board of Education that help make our Arts-in-Education Programs possible in Utah’s Public Schools.