Body Watani in Water by Leila Awadallah | April 16, 2022

Body Watani (body-as-homeland) is both an improvisational movement practice and an emerging contemporary dance form. A site where improvisational research guides practitioners into their personal ‘body watani’ through spending time with ancestries, contemplating our complex relations to land / water / home, and activating embodied memories into dancing. Developed by Leila and Noelle Awadallah, two Palestinian American dancers, this contemporary form also finds roots in dances of Arabic / *SWANA (South West Asia North Africa)/ Mediterranean geographies through specific movement techniques, music of the region, and cultural / political content to engage with that deepens our relation to Body Watani’s context.

The first half of the workshops will begin with writing prompts, conversations, and improvisation research. Participants are invited to choose how they physicalize the material (dancing, sitting still, everything in between). In the second half, we will share more about our new work: TERRANEA through teaching movement materials that incorporate elements of our technique and we will teach repertoire from the upcoming performance, premiering May 5-7 at the Candy Box Festival. Participants are welcome to witness or participate as they see fit. 

In Collaboration with TU Dance, Body Watani will host a workshop focused on WATER. Ancestral waters, fluid memories, relations to bodies of water as we ourselves are bodies of water. The material will move through the following: What memories are held and carried by waters? What can we learn from the water? What is it to depart and return via waterways? Grappling with the histories and also ongoing realities of bodies moving across water, the imposition of laws and lines on a fluid space, and the loss amongst waves. We will sink into the many complexities and swim together – through.

These workshops are for all levels, all abilities. We welcome everyone from professional dancers, to anyone who wants to deepen their relationship to the movement inside their particular body.

April 16, 2022 | 11:00am-2:00pm

Cost: $10


*Proof of vaccination or negative test within 72 hours + masks are required at the door for all in-person participants. Please read TU Dance Community Safety Statement.

*In-person only. Pre-Registration is required as in-studio space is limited. Please complete the Pre-Registration Form here!

ACCESSIBILITY: Please email for more info & conversation about accessibility within each workshop space and also the structure of this movement-focussed workshop.

Leila Awadallah is a Palestinian American dancer, choreographer, and filmmaker based between Minneapolis and Beirut. In 2019 she began developing Body Watani, an emerging dance project and practice reflecting on notions of home/land through movement research (*SWANA-rooted forms) and performance. Now in creative partnership with Noelle Awadallah, they will premiere Body Watani’s first piece, TERRANEA at the Candy Box festival which is a National Performance Network supported project. Leila has received multiple fellowships, grants and residencies to research her practice and create original works; most notably the Jerome Hill Fellowship (2021-2023), Amalgam Residency (2021), Arab American National Museum Residency (2020), Jerome@Camargo Residency (2020), Springboard 20/20 Fellowship (2018-2019), and the Daring Dances Choreographic Residency & Fellowship (2019). Leila’s artistry as a performer and choreographer is rooted in the formative experiences of working with Ananya Dance Theatre (2014-2019) and co-creating the Kelvin Wailey dance project, as well as her BFA in Dance from the University of Minnesota.

Photo by Leila Awadallah

Meet the Artists | Sensible Existence

Join us as TU Dance returns with live performances at The O’Shaughnessy featuring the expanded, evening-length presentation of Sensible Existence, a TU Dance project originally choreographed by award winning choreographer Marcus Jarrell Willis in 2017. Sensible Existence is a dance work inspired by Descartes’ writings on Self and the World. The work explores the questions surrounding its namesake. Existence is the fact or state of living or having objective reality. Sensible is an adjective describing something that is done in accordance with wisdom or prudence. The new Sensible Existence will draw from its original production elements and will feature new writing compositions uniquely crafted to this work. 

The O’Shaughnessy | May 13 & 14 | 7:30pm

For ticket information click here.

Meet the artists:

Sa’Nah Britt, born in the Twin Cities, began her journey at The School at TU Dance Center as a student in 2014. She graduated from the Perpich Arts Highschool in 2020 and has continued to pursue and shape her passion at TU Dance as a pre-professional student and most recently as a teaching artist for the school, where she strives to inspire and encourage other young artists. During her time at TU Dance, Sa’Nah has performed in various works by Marcus Jarrell Willis, Gregory Dolbashian, Ronald K. Brown, Laurel Keen, Alanna Morris, Abdo Sayegh Rodriguez, Darrius Strong, Maurya Kerr, Leila Awadallah, Alia Kache, and Yusha Sorzano. Her training has included a variety of techniques including African, ballet, modern, jazz, improvisation, krump, and contemporary. Sa’Nah is known for her ability to embrace a choreographers’ vision and present it in a way that is both unique and captivating. She looks forward to other opportunities where she can continue to grow and develop as an artist.

Madison Elliott is a NY based dancer, performer, choreographer and teacher. She is originally from Sioux Falls, SD where she co-founded, and is now the Executive Director of an award winning nonprofit, The Headlights Theater (a pop-up/drive-in performing arts collective that helps uplift local artists while bringing the community together in a safe way during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond). She attended the University of North Carolina School of the Arts for High School and went on to receive her BFA in Dance and a Minor in Arts Management from SUNY Purchase College, class of 2020. Madison has worked with several companies in New York including HIVEWILD, Pocket Fuel Groovers and MeagMove. She has performed works by world renowned choreographers such as Doug Varone, Trisha Brown, Roderick George, Abby Zibkowski and many more. She has been featured in Dance Magazine for her dance film Empty Vessel, which has won 2 awards and been chosen for inclusion in the Future Dance Festival, Screen Dance International Festival, Astoria Film Festival, Portland Dance Film Fest and Lights Dance Festival. Madison also creates journals out of reused/recycled materials.

Amarachi Valentina Korie began her dance training at Baltimore County Youth Ballet at the age of 10. She attended Carver Center for the Arts and Technology and graduated as a 2014 Bill Gates Millennium Scholar. Ms. Korie then attended the Ailey/ Fordham BFA Program and there she performed Alvin Ailey’s Memoria during Ailey’s 2016 and 2017 New York City Center seasons. Soon after she became a Company Member with Ailey II from 2018-2020. She has received scholarships to The School at Jacob’s Pillow, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Joffrey Ballet School, and The Ailey School, having performed works by Robert Battle, Kyle Abraham, Darrell Grand Moultrie, Linda-Denise Fisher Harrell, and Emily Molnar. Ms. Korie is a 2-time regional NAACP ACT-SO competition gold medalist and Maryland All-State Dance awardee.

Joe LaLuzerne (Brooklyn Park, Minnesota) began dancing at  age 8 at Summit Dance Shoppe, training competitively and  studying ballet with Linda Muir Finney. Joe graduated from Texas Christian University in the Spring of 2021 where he obtained a BFA Ballet and a BA in Political Science. Joe has had the opportunity to work with choreographers LeeWei Chao, Darrell Grand Moultrie, Elizabeth Gillaspy, Susan Haag, Gabrielle Lamb, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Carmen Rozestraten, Keith Saunders, Amy Seiwert, Joshua Peugh, and Christian von Howard, among others. Joe has danced at summer intensives with Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet, Jennifer Archibald’s ArchCore40, BalletX, Dark Circles Contemporary Dance: Arts Lab Desert Peaks, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Kansas City Ballet, and most recently with The School at Jacob’s Pillow as a member of their Contemporary Ballet Performance Ensemble under the direction of Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. After the completion of his undergraduate studies Joe attended Milano Contemporary Ballet’s International Training Program in Milan, Italy, before returning to Minnesota and joining TU Dance for this project.

Samantha Meryhew, a Saint Paul native, is currently a company member at Shapiro and Smith Dance, and was a former Apprentice at TU Dance Center. In 2011, she started her training towards her professional career as part of the first generation of The School at TU Dance. She has performed in works by Garth Fagan, Brian Brooks, Marcus Jarrell Willis, and Kjara Staric Wurst. She has also been a guest artist with Shapiro and Smith Dance performing in their production of Bolero in the Spring of 2017 and 2018. She has attended summer programs at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center, Complexions Dance, Alonzo King LINES Ballet, and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. She is proficient in classical and contemporary ballet, modern, and African dance. Noted often as a hard worker and a quick learner, she strives to delve deep into the physicality and emotional nuances of the movement presented to her. Samantha has a Bachelor of Art in Dance and Art from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.

Connor Simone received training at Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists, the TU Dance School, and the University of Minnesota. Connor is a current member of James Sewell Ballet in Minneapolis and has previously danced with TU Dance, Threads Dance Project, and the University of Minnesota Dance Theatre. He has performed works by artists such as Marcus Willis, Kjara Wurst, Gregory Dolbashian, Gregory Vuyani Maqoma, Will Couture, Carl Flink, Sidra Bell, Maurya Kerr, and Michael Walters among others. Alongside performing, Connor has worked for several arts organizations across the Twin Cities in IT and web development and is also teaching ballet for Eleve’ Performing Arts Center. 


Elliana Vesely (cover) is a Twin Cities, MN based dance artist who grew up in a small town in Northern Wisconsin. As of May of 2020, she holds a B.A. in dance from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. She complemented this degree with studies in biology and health & wellness promotion, receiving minors in both. While at the U of M, Elliana was cast in works by acclaimed artists; Leah Nelson, Joan Smith, Robert Moses, Eko Supriyanto, Kjara Wurst and Carl Flink. While in school, she also had the pleasure of working with Crash Dance Company, Shapiro and Smith Dance and performed in the 2018 North-Central American College Dance Association Gala. Elliana is honored to have been a recipient of the Beth Hope Suran Scholarship (2016-2020) and the Jean Congdon Scholarship (2019-2020). She is ecstatic to be dancing with Shapiro and Smith Dance, Black Label Movement, and ARENA Dances as a company member. Elliana has most recently toured with Burning Air by Shapiro and Smith Dance and run with me by ARENA Dances.

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and culture heritage fund.



Photos (top to bottom): Marcus Jarrell Willis and former company member Taylor Collier by Yuval Moyal; Welcoming the Artists: Sa’Nah Britt by Vizionary Studios, Madison Elliot by Alice Chacon, Amarachi Korie by Nir Arieli, Joe LaLuzerne by @benedettepitscheider, Samantha Meryhew by Blake Nellis, Connor Simone by Isabel Fajardo, and Elliana Vesely by Armour Photography.


Please join us this Spring for a series of 3 open adult class offerings (each offering will include 4 weekly classes) featuring 3 different Twin Cities teaching artists. Join for all 3 offerings or drop-in as your schedule allows. Each class will be followed by an optional time to connect with one another over coffee/tea provided by TU Dance — either socially distanced in our green room space or outside on the loading dock, weather permitting. We hope to create a space where people can explore movement and dance but also build community by staying to connect through conversation and reflection of their shared experience.

We goin’ back, waaaaayyy back in time to the days of house parties in the basement with blue and red lights on in the corner.  All boom boxes in full effect, all street dances come correct-It’s time to sweat!  Come shake your groove thang and enjoy setting your spirit free with your favorite Old (True) Skool Hip Hop & Street dance styles.  We’ll groove together and get our solo shine on in the Cipher! All dance lovers on deck!  Let’s get it!!

Saturdays, April 9, 16, 23 & 30 | 4-5:30 pm (CST)

Cost Options: $12 or $15 (sliding scale)(previously purchased class cards accepted)

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*Proof of vaccination or negative test within 72 hours + masks are required at the door for all in-person participants. Please read TU Dance Community Safety Statement.

*Pre-Registration is required as in-studio space is limited. Please complete the Pre-Registration Form here!

Aneka McMullen is a Dancer/Performer/Choreographer & Dance Educator who hails from Minneapolis, Minnesota and holds a BFA in Dance from The Ohio State University. Her extensive dance experience spans more than two decades and includes dynamic skills in performance, choreography and instruction in the genres of Hip Hop, West African, Modern, Afro Modern, Jazz, and Ballet.  

Aneka is a co- founder and artistic director of Epitome-No Question, an open Old Skool Hip Hop dance ensemble dedicated to celebrating the community conscious roots of Hip Hop culture, through dance theater. Epitome-No Question represents Old Skool Hip Hop because it reflects the West African roots of the genre.  Hip Hop with the “Hop” in it! 

She has recently completed five seasons with BLAQ, an Afro Modern observance based dance company in the twin cities, a teaching residence with the Ordway’s Dance to Learn program, and teaching dance at her alma mater North Community High School.  Previously, she also completed five seasons as a performer with the Minneapolis based Threads Dance Project, and has also performed with Women in Motion (Ananya Dance Theater)

Aneka has been blessed to slay & present her work on stages across MN, the U.S., and abroad.  Her work has been featured in the award winning Rooted:Hip Hop Choreographer’s Evening, Lori Carlos’s Late Nite Series,Choreographer’s Evening (Walker Art Center), Black Choreographer’s Evening (Intermedia Arts), B Girl Be, and most recently in Body Prayers 2021, Momentum New Dance Works 2020, and the 2018 16 Feet: Splashes of Dance Choreographer’s Evening.

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