Renée Copeland

2018 Dancer FELLOW

Photo by Tim Rummelhoff

Photo by Tim Rummelhoff

Renée Copeland is a Twin Cities-based artist originally from the wooded valleys south of Winona, Minnesota. She graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BFA in Dance and minor in American Indian Studies. Upon graduating in 2010, she joined Ananya Dance Theatre and continues to perform and teach with the company, touring all over the world.

She co-founded the dance/performance-art duo Hiponymous in 2012 with Genevieve Muench and became a founding member and collaborator of hip-hop-based dance company BRKFST in 2014. She is also a poet, multi-instrumentalist, and singer-songwriter. She is indebted to her parents for their abundant support and participation in all things creative, nourishing, and sacred. 

 Hiponymous Touring Information


Yeniel ‘Chini’ Perez Domenech

2018 Dancer Fellow

Photo by Tim Rummelhoff

Photo by Tim Rummelhoff

Born in Matanzas, Cuba, Yeniel ‘Chini’ Perez Domenech has been a professional dancer for over 25 years. He graduated from the prestigious Escuela Nacional de Arte in Havana, Cuba in 1991. Chini then became a member of Afrocuba de Matanzas, under the direction of Francisco Zamora Chirino ‘Minini’. He danced in both national and international tours, taught and was invited to choreograph for the company.

In 2006, he moved to Mexico and danced with a variety of groups and performed as a guest dance artist with famous Latin bands including Latin Grammy award winning Los Van Van and Pupy y Los Que Son Son.

In 2011, Chini moved to Minnesota. He immediately began dancing with Rene Thompson’s Street to Stage group. He went on to work with Patrick Scully, Curio Dance and has connected with Brazilian, West African and Hip Hop artists in the Twin Cities. Chini now performs and choreographs for Rueda de la Calle and his own performance identity Chini Company. He is a passionate dance educator teaching Cuban and other Latin dances in a variety of venues from school workshops to nightclubs to Chini Studio. Throughout his career he has performed in theaters, festivals and nightclubs reaching a broad range of audiences and communities. 

Sharon Mansur

2018 Dancer Fellow

Photo by Tim Rummelhoff

Photo by Tim Rummelhoff

Sharon Mansur is an experimental dance and visual artist whose creative work integrates improvisational techniques, somatic practices, and interdisciplinary collaborative approaches.

She has a keen interest in site-situated/responsive art that melds the visual and visceral, body and environment, as well as subtle or invisible internal and external landscapes and perceptions. She loves creating experiences where active viewing and wild imaginations are welcome.

Her live performance and dance on film projects have been presented throughout the United States, as well as in Argentina, Canada, Ecuador, Germany, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Lebanon, Mexico, and the UK.


Sharon Mansur Touring Information

Deja Stowers

2018 Choreographer Fellow

Photo by Tim Rummelhoff

Photo by Tim Rummelhoff

Deja Stowers is a Black artist who uses dance, poetry and theater to explore the many bridges to and from Black America and Africa. She has studied dance at Howard University and with master dancers from Senegal and Guinea. She is also a graduate of Penumbra Theatre’s Summer institute program where she has honed the skill of art for social change. She continuously explores body image, language, culture, and modes of oppression. She believes her art is something not to be performed but witnessed and has replaced the word “performance” with “observance” mainly to keep the artist’s raw emotions intact. The art is not gifted for the observers, but in fact a ‘rites of passage' for the artist. Her most recent work includes Taneber/BLAQ Wall Street with her dance company BLAQ. BLAQ thrives off four main pillars: Dance, Writing, Discussion, and ASL (American Sign Language). BLAQ’s mission is to strive for freedom and aspire to embody the true reflections of themselves and their vast communities. 

Laurie Van Wieren

2018 Choreographer Fellow

Photo by Tim Rummelhoff

Photo by Tim Rummelhoff

Laurie Van Wieren has been a creative force in the Twin Cities for 30+ years. Her choreography has been shown in the Twin Cities, nationally, and in Europe. 9x22 Dance/Lab, her monthly showcase, is the pre-eminent performance platform for local and visiting choreographers. She’s developed work for the Walker Art Center’s Open Field performance, which highlighted 100 local choreographers.

Van Wieren has curated performance for the Southern, Ritz, Bryant Lake Bowl Theaters and Soo Visual Art Center. She is a recipient of fellowships/grants from McKnight, Jerome, Bush, NEA, Rockefeller Foundations and Mn State Arts Board. She has received a Special Citation SAGE Award and a SAGE Award for Outstanding Performance. Van Wieren received a City Pages Artists of the Year in 2016 for her solo dance Temporary Action Theory and her ongoing curation. She is currently making site-specific ensemble dance performances for parks and large spaces and a series of solo works for small spaces. 

Laurie Van Wieren touring information

Taja Will

2018 Choreographer Fellow

Photo by Tim Rummelhoff

Photo by Tim Rummelhoff

Choreographer Taja Will is a queer, Latina artist. Her body of work includes multi-dimensional contemporary performance and holistic therapy. These two parallel worlds come together in her artistic work through modalities of somatic movement and structured improvisation. Will’s aesthetic is one of spontaneity, bold choice making, sonic and kinetic partnership and the ability to move in relationship to risk and intimacy.  Her practice and performance works are deeply rooted in exploring a visceral connection to current socio-cultural realities.

Will’s work has been presented throughout the Twin Cities and across the United States. Including local performances at the Walker Art Center Choreographer’s Evening, the Red Eye Theater’s New Works 4 Weeks, the Radical Recess series and Right Here Showcase. Will has been named ‘One to watch, one to embrace’ as the Keeper Award recipient in 2010 from Metro Magazine, she received a 2011 Sage Award nomination, and was a featured artist in Lavender Magazine’s ‘Choreographers that Move Us’. Will received the Right Here Showcase commission, Jerome Travel Study Award and Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant for her most recent solo work Bruja // Fugitive Majesty. Her futuristic trio Gospels of Oblivion: To the End premiered at the Southern Theater presented by ARENA Dances' Candy Box Dance Festival, and received support from the MRAC Next Step Award and MSAB Artist Initiative grant.

In addition to her own work Will has collaborated and dance with Rosy Simas Danse, Aniccha Arts (Pramila Vasudevan), Deborah Jinza Thayer, Off Leash Area, Vanessa Voskuil, and Body Cartography Project among others. Will maintains a private healing practice blending modalities of healing justice work with developmental psychotherapy and somatic bodywork.

 Taja Will Touring Information

Impilo Mapantsula: Vusi Mdoyi, Sicelo Xaba, Sello Modiga

2018 International choreographers

Photo by Chris Saunders.   Left to right: Vusi Mdoyi, Sicelo Xaba, Sello Modiga

Photo by Chris Saunders.

Left to right: Vusi Mdoyi, Sicelo Xaba, Sello Modiga

IMPILO MAPANTSULA is a professional organization that promotes the development of pantsula dance, creates formal standards, and acts as an industry representative. Impilo Mapantsula was founded by German researcher Daniela Goeller and the South African pantsula dancers, choreographers and company directors Vusi Mdoyi, Sello “Zilo” Modiga, Joshua “Jeje” Mokoena and Sicelo “Malume Ka” Xaba. The organization aims to document and protect the living legacy of the vibrant street culture that has shaped the identity of generations of young people in South Africa, as well as create a network to support dancers in professionalizing and further developing their art.

Pantsula has had increasing international success; it has the potential to provide interesting job opportunities for the disadvantaged youth, and pantsula artists have taken on social responsibilities in their communities. Yet pantsula struggles to gain mainstream acceptance. Pantsula culture is still associated with low social status, immorality, and crime in South African townships, even though the dance-form has long found its place in in the global urban dance community and in the hearts of all audiences.

Impala Mapantsula gives workshops and training, initiates projects, organizes events, and represents pantsula dancers. The organization creates learning opportunities and supports artistic creation and self-expression through educational, artistic and professional programs, with an emphasis on job creation, international collaborations, exchanges and shared experiences.

Vusi Mdoyi, photo by Chris Saunders.jpeg

VUSI MDOYI is a dancer, choreographer and director of Vusi Arts Pro. He was born in 1980 in Johannesburg and lives and works in Katlehong, Ekurhuleni. As a dancer and later co-director and choreographer of the multidisciplinary community dance crew Via Katlehong, Vusi has toured the world for more than 20 years and performed on many major stages in Europe and the US. He is a talented, very passionate and versatile artist and performer, and he has experience with pantsula, gumboots, tap-dance and contemporary dance, as well as acting and signing, and has collaborated with various artists internationally. Beside his experience as a dancer, choreographer, artistic and administrational director of Via Katlehong and Vusi Arts Projects, he is also a graduate of Wits Business School. Vusi is a visionary choreographer and artistic director, who is able to inspire and unite people in the creative process.

Photo by Chris Saunders

Photo by Chris Saunders

SICELO XABA is a dancer, choreographer and director of Red for Danger Pantsulas. He was born in 1977 in Johannesburg and lives and works in Mohlakeng, West Rand. As the leader of one of the oldest active pantsula crews, Sicelo has a broad knowledge and understanding of the history of pantsula dance and culture that has earned him a lot of respect in the pantsula community. He shares his knowledge in the form of public speeches, called “umrhabulo”, and in form of dance training and workshops in South Africa and abroad. Beside his experience as a dancer, choreographer, artistic and administrational director of Red for Danger Pantsulas, Sicelo is a very talented poet, writer, and theatre director with a great passion for books. Sicelo has been invited to dance in festivals and theatres around the world, including Carnegie Hall in New York. He is an undisputed expert of pantsula dance and culture and one of its most competent and authentic representative.

Sello Modiga, photo by Chris Saunders.jpeg

SELLO MODIGA is a dancer, choreographer and director of Real Actions Pantsula. He was born in 1980 in Johannesburg and lives and works in Orange Farm, Sedibeng. Under Sello’s leadership, Real Actions Pantsula has developed into one of the most successful pantsula dance crews in South Africa and toured in Europe and the US. Beside his experience as a dancer, choreographer, artistic and administrational director of Real Actions Pantsula, Sello has been organizing, judging and participating in dance battles internationally. Sello is passionate and talented teacher and has solid international experience in giving pantsula dance workshops for all audiences. He has mastered different pantsula styles and other street dances like hip-hop, house, or Chicago footwork, and can explain the specific characteristics and the historical development and significance of the pantsula movements.

For more information: www.impilomapantsula.com


Impilo Mapantsula was in residence in the Twin Cities May 28 - June 17, 2018. They created a new work for 12 area Hip Hop dancers, for Maia Maiden Productions, our partner for the 2018 residency.  Mdoyi, Xaba and Modiga taught classes in pantsula, tapsula and gumboot at The Cowles Center. They participated in a variety of community events, including a Meet the Artists public talk and pantsula demonstration at Indigenous Roots Cultural Center in St. Paul. On June 15 & 16th, the artists premiered a commissioned work as part of ROOTED: Hip Hop Choreographers Evening at the Wellstone Center in St. Paul, MN. 

Saturday JUNE 2nd, 2018 10 am - 12 pm
Tapsula / Gumboot Class **
At the Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts, Studio 5B (5th floor)
528 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis, MN 55403

Monday JUNE 4th, 2018 7 - 8:30 pm 
Pantsula Class**
At Indigenous Roots Cultural Arts Center 788 East 7th St., St. Paul, MN 55106

Saturday JUNE 9th, 2018 10 - 11:30 am
Pantsula Class**
The Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts, Target Education Studio (2nd floor)
528 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis, MN 55403 

Saturday JUNE 16th, 2018 4:30-5:30 pm
Pantsula Class
Wellstone Center, 179 Robie St E, St Paul, MN 55107


Tuesday MAY 29th, 2018 6:30 - 8:00 pm FREE
Meet the Artists: Public talk and pantsula demonstration at Indigenous Roots Cultural Arts Center, 788 East 7th St., St. Paul, MN 55106

Featuring: Vusi Mdoyi, Sello Modiga, and Sicelo Xaba; 2018 McKnight International Choreographers
Maia Maiden; Director and Curator of ROOTED
Moderated by: Arleta Little; Arts Program Officer & Director of Artist Fellowships, McKnight Foundation.

Monday JUNE 11th, 2018 7:00 - 10:00 pm FREE
Open Rehearsal of new dance work At Indigenous Roots Cultural Arts Center 788 East 7th St., St. Paul, MN 55106

Friday JUNE 15 and Saturday JUNE 16, 2018 7:00 pm 
World Premiere Performance choreographed by Impilo Mapantsula, performed as part of ROOTED: Hip Hop Choreographers’ Evening at the Wellstone Center, 179 Robie St E, St Paul, MN 55107