Utah * Spirit Place * Spirit Planet * Tukuhnikivatz

Original Performance on August 20, 1996

NYC Pt 1 -3 Shadowsjpg72.

1996 – an evening length multimedia installation and performance based on ancient and contemporary earth consciousness commissioned by  Lincoln Center for Lincoln Center Out of Doors, GREAT DANCE in the Band Shell Series, Damrosch Park, New York City, NY.   Research took place over a period of 7 years with Maida Withers and Verabel Call Cluff engaged in on-site research in the Four Corners Area of the Southwestern United States. Time was spent with the Hopi and other Native American peoples to understand the Earth philosophies of the Native American people living in the region.  Video of the rock art was obtained by hiking into various locations – mostly in obscure places in Utah.  A six-week residency of dancers and filmmakers at four Earth sites in Utah provided the footage of dancers on landsites.  Many of the ideas for the work were spawned by Maida’s family history and their personal interest in the land, especially the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon. Maida’s family built and operated the Kaibab Lodge  (VT Ranch)18 miles from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  The Lodge continues today.

Pioneer ancestors of Withers settled in southern Utah in the 1860s.  Spirit Place * Spirit Planet refers both to her ancestors love of the land and Native American peoples who resided in the region.  Mount Tukuhnikivatz is a triangle-shaped sacred mountain there – the place at the “end of time” where people will gather, the place where the “Sun last sets” in the La Sal Mountains in Utah.

The immensity of the project made additional performances of the entire work almost impossible.  We were honored to have 2500 people attend the Lincoln Center Out of Doors performance. The work was conceived, choreographed and directed by Maida Withers.  Brent Michael Davids, Mohican Nation, composed and directed the music with his Blue Butterfly Group musicians.  Bruce Hucko, Earth photographer,  Verabel Call Cluff and James Byrne were the filmmakers responsible for the landsite projections throughout the production.

“In 1988, I returned to the land of my birth in Utah with a group of artists for a five-week experiment of living and dancing on selected land sites to create a dance video.  Each day we understood better how to join with the forces of nature.  We experienced the extraordinary physical and spiritual powers of this place and its inhabitants, and we glimpsed our most inward selves.  Slowly I began to make linkages between my concern with new art, my own culture, and these ancient sites and people.  The connections involve the relationship of nature and culture and, more importantly, raise questions relating to the very meaning and function of art.”  Maida Withers, 1990.

Utah * Spirit Place * Spirit  Planet * Tuhnikivatz is a co-collaborative undertaking that fearlessly moved forward in a bold trajectory, knowing there will be only one performance for one time and one space.

Deemer - MRW close with deer shadow behindTGAjpg72.
Bruce HuckoJPG72.
Bruce Huck, Earth Photographer
NYC PT 1 - Earth slides of red rockTGA72.
NYC Pt 2 Sarah Slifer & Alesia Y parallel with arm outTGAjfp72.
willjpg72NYC Pt 2 -Buffoon Character with groupTGAjpg72.
scan0018_BrentDavidsCropjpg.Brent Michael Davids, Musician and Composer
Alesia Young raise arm SS behindJPG72.
Deemer - MRW close with deer shadow behindTGAjpg72.
MRW 2nd position in Bluejpg72.
GW group kneel - women clasp hands powerman roleTGAjpg72.
NYC pt2 Joseph Mills & Giselle R masks, each leg liftTGAjpg72.

Will Goinsjpg72. Will Gins, Singer and DanceNYC Pt1 Joseph Mills reiding on Reggie CrumpTGAjpg72.
Deemer - 5 dancers, fingers touch at chestTGAjpg72.

Residency at Utah State University:
Artemis Preeshl, professor of dance and theatre at Utah State Univeristy , presented the following with the support of a grant from Marie Eccles Caine Foundation to host Maida Withers Dance Construction Company in the Utah premiere of Utah * Spirit Place * Spirit Planet * Tukuhnikivatz (work in progress) an epoch work commissioned by Lincoln Center for Lincoln Center GREAT DANCE in the BANDSHELL, NYC.
This work was part of the inaugural season of The Performance Hall in the Caine Center for the Arts in 2006 where Artemis was part of the curating team at USU.
The residency included a significant scholarly lecture and performance along with teaching.

“Withers is a brilliant teacher.  Her students were very intelligent and responded to all of our movement improvisation and composition problem solving related to Earth mythology of historic Utah indigenous peoples.”


What the press is saying

Utah * Spirit Place * Spirit Planet * Tukuhnikivatz, a work drawn from the ancient art of American Indians and the rugged wilderness of Utah ...Withers' piece was ambitious and awesomely complex, filling the stage of the Damrosch Park bandshell with layer upon layer of huge video images and photographs projected on rocklike sculptures. Live bodies moved among them, both dancers and ceremonial figures. ...Evoked a midworld between dreams and everyday reality.
Jennifer Dunning, The New York Times Jennifer Dunning
"Maida Withers depicts primitive terrain. ...The dancers are in constant action, pushing the boundaries of pure physical dance." Gia Kouias- Time Out New York
"As things began to roll, Withers decided she wanted to discover her own history. And where else could she turn? Back to Utah, of course. Rocks, cliff art, shadows and historical events brought images to Withers' mind." Scott Iwasaki- Deseret News
"A multimedia work by Maida Withers inspired by Native American legend and the Utah landscape. Set to music by Brent Michael Davids, and performed by the Dance Construction Company, the work premieres August 20 in Damrosch Park at Lincoln Center." New York Fashion
"The artists she assembled have been drawn to the power of the landscape Miss Withers is evoking... In the work's most riveting moment, these shapes are lit from behind, become luminous, and reveal figures moving in archetypal poses." Jean Battey Lewis- The Washington Times
Thank you for the more intimate close up view--the works are beautifully shot and compiled--the use of sound, color, shadow and shape was so powerful. Watching the pieces, I found myself moving through Thai shadow puppets, Egyptian hieroglyphics, Greek vase painting, underwater...and insects! Strange ghosts in the machine. And the music--instruments, voice and use of breath--were unique and so aligned. It is so hard to get close to the sensory experience of watching dance and I thought this worked well, thank you for sharing Isabel Swift, personal letter 11_1_2021

Other Performances
  • Preview Performance: Utah * Spirit Place * Spirit Planet * Tukuhnikivatz(map) on January 1, 1970