Renée Copeland

Dancer, Rehearsal Assistant. Since 2010.

I came to dance through infancy, with my instant appreciation for music, holding onto the couch before I knew how to stand, bouncing to the beat. My passion for dancing has only swelled through realizing the rich and powerful potential of choreography. I seek to choreograph and lend my body to work that is deeply committed to taking risks like Ananya Dance Theatre has taken, performing in an aesthetic that challenges the Western model of beauty and centralizes marginalized stories.

To participate at any level with ADT’s work saturates one in a wide range of intense emotions, perhaps because we work to humanize the harrowing truths that the media normalize. My favorite moments in ADT repertory are when prophecy becomes apparent and the work glaringly relevant. For example, in Neel we began developing the beginning of the show nearly a year before its opening. Its joyous prologue ensemble piece devolves after 3 minutes into a massacre in which every dancer falls, one by one. I had always imagined this shooting as one enacted by a government on its peoples, but I was pulling from the well-written Marquez book 100 Years of Solitude as inspiration and connection. Then a horrifying story came out of Isla Vista, where Elliot Rodger went on a killing spree and left these parting words in a 137-page document: “Women’s rejection of me is a declaration of war…It will be a war that will result in their complete and utter annihilation.”

Suddenly our all-women troupe was reminded that our work is read as a direct threat to the enforced patriarchal paradigm. This piece thickened with meaning yet again, just a month from the show, locating us in systemic racism as we witnessed the footage of those most recently shot down by police for simply being people of color: Mike Brown, Kajieme Powell, and John Crawford III. ADT’s shows demand that we engage further, for we leave the theater with heightened social awareness. As a performer, I feel that I have embodied transformative ideas and enriched my community with compassionate intent.

It’s an honor to do such activism in Minnesota, where I was raised in the southeast of Dakota territory, in Wiscoy Valley. I feel the spirit of the prairie, bluffs and valleys of that beautiful land shaped my identity, in fact is my identity, though I am of European ancestry. I carry the lessons I learned about communal-living, respect and stewardship of this ransomed land to Minneapolis. I understand part of my work as a human and artist is to dismantle white supremacy from the inside out by knowing when to listen and when to speak up, by being a bridge, by facilitating conversations among the spectrum of Minnesota citizens, and most urgently, by maintaining a vigilance for violence.