Bears Ears: Improvisation Circle

During RDT’s week-long exploration in Bears Ears National Monument, we improvised outside every day.  We never danced to counts, or music, instead we danced to the natural rhythms of the wind, birds, landscape and the power of the earth beneath our feet. Dancing, improvising in that way created an energy that I’d never quite felt before. This experience was a gift, among many, given to met by our generous Navajo guides and the strength of my colleagues who opened up the “space”, allowing us to receive as much as we could during those seven days.

On our hikes and during our improvisation sessions, our Navajo guides shared stories with us. Some of these stories were personal while others were related to the history of the land and its people.  They asked us to share stories of our people and the things we love and treasure. They shared with us the stories of their home, their land. Using these stories, movement experiences and our interaction with the land and the Navajo people, the piece Dancing the Bears Ears began to emerge.

Lesson Plan – Improvisation Circle

To Begin:  Find a space that you feel comfortable moving in.  Use the prompts/ideas below to begin moving, however you see fit.  This is an improvisation. There are no rules or specific movements required, only your imagination and the ability to move and not judge or edit your movement.  See what happens!

  1. Be thankful for what you can call “home”, even if it is a temporary home.  Be thankful for what your home provides you, food, warmth, entertainment, family, pets. What sounds do you hear? What do you feel? Use all of this information to inform your dance.  Thank your home. This is your dance.
  2. Based on your experience during the first improvisation, now imagine that you are being evicted next week.  Imagine your home is being foreclosed this summer. How does this influence your “thank you” to your home? How would this information influence the stories and memories you share with others about your home and everything that has taken place there?  Thank your home again, knowing that you won’t have it for very much longer, and despite fighting for it, there’s nothing in your power to stop this from happening. You lost. This is your dance.
  3. Either go outside or imagine you are outside.  Use the ideas of the above two prompts, but now expand them to our whole planet, our whole world.  Genuinely thank Earth for providing us this home, using anything you see, hear, taste, smell and feel.  Nature is a powerful force and it can move you literally and figuratively if you allow it. This is your dance.


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Tyler Orcutt was born and raised in Ohio, and began his formal dance training upon his move to Florida in 2005. He is currently a professional dancer with Repertory Dance Theatre, residing in Salt Lake City. He joined RDT in 2012, shortly after receiving his B.F.A. in Modern Dance from the University of South Florida. While attending USF, he had the privilege of dancing in works by Bill T. Jones, Doug Varone, and Michael Foley. During his time with RDT, he has performed throughout the United States in the works of Zvi Gotheiner, Molissa Fenly, Claire Porter, Danielle Agami, Ze’eva Cohen, and Andy Noble, among others. Also through RDT, he has had the distinct honor of performing in works choreographed by some of the great modern dance pioneers of the 20th century, including José Limón, Merce Cunningham, Ted Shawn, Charles Weidman, and Michio Ito.

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.

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