GROUND SERIES is a dance and social justice collective. We use performance to practice place-based justice by cultivating accountability
to land, body, and history.
what we do
Postmodern dance, interdisciplinary scholarship, and social practice yield our funny, relentless works that honor discomfort and failure.
Anti-racist praxis undergirds everything we do. Dancemaking, performing, writing, and teaching become multi-purpose platforms to amplify local justice initiatives, pay reparations, and nurture radical hospitality.
Tailored classes, lectures, and post-performance conversations around each GROUND SERIES project welcomes audiences, community members, and site stakeholders into deeper accountability and connection.
GROUND SERIES asks:
What does it mean to be HERE, in my body, inside of a moving and relational practice for slowing down and listening in?
What does it mean to be HERE, now, in my body, inside of a historical-political reparations practice?
What does it mean to be HERE, in my body, inside of the greater ecology?
how we do it
We dispense with linear production processes, asking questions at the intersection of choreographic desire, personal positionality, political social systems, and ecological interconnectivity.
We engage a broad range of research methodologies including personal introspection, academic analysis, ethnography, and site-based observations, and movement practice.
We ask permission from the land and its stewards to make a work for, about, and with the site.
We cross-pollinate our research with improvisational scores, phrase work, comedy sketches, and peer education.
We partner with community stewards and target audiences to receive pointed feedback and accountability before, during, and after the work is shown.
We perform in spaces not usually activated by dance, creating opportunities for unexpected audiences and radical accessibility.
Our performances redistribute resources to historically marginalized site stewards, community partners, or collective members.
GROUND SERIES asks:
What is the history of this place, and how does it translate into storytelling, characters development, and images?
How do the formal and energetic elements of this place generate our original gestural vocabulary?
What is the history of bodies of my particular political identity in this place, and how might I abide with those histories living in me through movement, task, or weight study?
why we do it
The histories of colonialism, capitalism, and racism have been so artfully buried.
These traumas live everywhere — in our bodies, our communities, and in the land.
These traumas can be unearthed, understood, and reckoned with through performance.
Dancemaking is a way for complex learning to be embodied and shared.
Every body has wisdom that can be transmitted and through movement.
Dancemaking cultivates awareness and agency in everyone who participates -- performers, audiences, partners, and passersby.
In this way, performance can undo and remake the world for the better.
GROUND SERIES asks:
How can we as artists excavate that which has been hidden in plain sight?
How can we retell our lost stories such that they animate our hearts and bodies into action?
how we serve
GROUND SERIES is committed to ending oppression for all people.
GROUND SERIES is committed to developing deep, ongoing relationships with our accountability partners, students, audience members, and site stewards.
GROUND SERIES is committed to raising funds for accountability partners through our performances, classes, and events as a critical practice of reparations.
GROUND SERIES is committed to care, consent, active listening, responsive relationality, and full transparency.
who we are
GROUND SERIES dance collective began to assemble in the mid-2000s, somewhere between Wesleyan University, Joshua Tree National Park, and the Santa Fe River Arroyo. Sharing a background in experimental community-based performance, critical theory, and somatic healing practices, early members Sarah Ashkin, Brittany Delany, Paolo Speirn, Samantha Sherman, Aine McCarthy, Miles Tokunow, and Shayna Keller began to gather, project by project, to create site-specific works.
As the product of millennial culture workers, GROUND SERIES was established in the era of the global climate crisis, the Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality and mass incarceration, the #NODAPL action on the Standing Rock Reservation, ongoing war in the Middle East, the #MeToo movement, as well as the rise of ICE, mass deportation, and privatized immigrant detention. By 2016, GROUND SERIES shifted toward social justice and has committed to a creative practice that invites performers, audiences, and students to dismantle colonialism, capitalism, and white supremacy.
GROUND SERIES moved with its founders from the San Francisco Bay Area to Philadelphia, then to Santa Fe, New Mexico, onto London and then to Los Angeles, CA. The collective now exists as a radiant web of artists, partners, and community members throughout the United States. GROUND SERIES has collaborated with upwards of 30 artists to curate, produce, and choreograph over 20 performances, reaching thousands of audience members and students across the US and UK.
Center for Contemporary Art (Santa Fe, NM)
University of Art and Design (Santa Fe, NM)
The Railyard Performance Center, (Santa Fe, NM)
Temescal Arts Center (Oakland, CA)
Dance Discourse Project (San Francisco, CA)
The Foundry (Berkeley, CA)
Liberty Lands Park (Philadelphia, PA)
Simeon Den Gallery (Cathedral City, CA)
University of Roehampton (London, UK)
School of Dance and Circus (Stockholm, SW)
Pieter Performance Space (Los Angeles, CA)
Navel LA (Los Angeles, CA)
The Paseo Festival (Taos, NM)
Highways Performance Space (Santa Monica, CA)
Mountain House (Arcadia, CA)
Claire Trevor School of the Arts, UC Irvine (Irvine, CA)
Ring Mountain Open Space Preserve (Corte Madera, CA)
Sonoma State University (Rohnert Park, CA)
Buckwheat Space Residency (Morongo Valley, CA)
The Tannex (Albuquerque, NM)
Etiquette (Santa Fe, NM)
San Francisco Movement Arts Festival (San Francisco, CA)
Sarah Ashkin (she/her) is a co-founder and leader of GROUND SERIES dance collective. Sarah understands her work as a white choreographer, performer, teacher, producer and curator as a cultural healing practice for racial justice. The great-grandchild of enslavers of African people, Sarah uses her dance practice to confront and dismantle the white supremacy sewn into her body and beyond.
Sarah has over 10 years of experience teaching social justice driven site-specific dance pedagogy to students of all ages. She is a Lead Facilitator for Practice Progress, providing body-based anti-racist learning workshops to organizations nationwide. Sarah earned a BA in Dance Choreography and Performance and Environmental Studies from Wesleyan University, and an MA in Dance, Politics, and Sociology from the University of Roehampton London. She is part of the 2020 Cohort at the UC Davis PhD program in Performance Studies. www.sarahashkin.com
Brittany Delany (she/her) was born in Boston, Massachusetts. As she grew up playing sports and learning dance moves from Janet Jackson music videos, she found dance homes in several communities including hip hop, jazz, contact improvisation, modern and postmodern dance. In 2009, she earned a BA in Dance: Choreography & Performance and a BA in French Studies from Wesleyan University. She has performed with Pedro Alejandro Dance & Dancers, Tribe the Dance Company, Unyted Stylz Crew, de la femme, Funkanometry San Francisco, and Mary Sano, among other artists. Since 2012, Brittany has been founding co-director of GROUND SERIES. In 2016, she co-founded intersectional feminist creative collective Wyld Womxn, based in Greater Palm Springs, California. With over a decade of experience working as a dancer, choreographer, event producer and writer, Brittany values the power of imagination and teamwork.
Gary Ashkin (he/him) is a father, inventor, engineer, and designer. He builds scenic elements, custom lighting, site-specific seating, and runs show time tech for GROUND SERIES productions. He is an ongoing collaborator with his best friend Scott Geary and his daughter, Sarah Ashkin. He is a founding member of the old timey Fast Pesos String Band as the first fiddle. Gary loves to fly fish, build things with his hands, and problem solve with artists. He has lived in Santa Fe, NM for the past 40 years, but is often found slick rocking the sandstone in Utah or wading the streams of Colorado.
Adam McKinney’s (he/him) artistic research questions how one might perform traumatic events of the past without re-performing trauma into the present. His dance making furthers cultural expression and dialogue about issues of culture, identity, heritage, race, class, and trauma across the contexts of live concert performance, participatory dance classes and workshops, dance-film, and augmented reality (AR). Past works have traced Adam’s own African American, Native American, and Jewish heritages onstage and through dance films created at historic sites of ancestral displacement. His latest project is the development of a AR app to foster dialogue and engagement at sites of American lynching in and around Fort Worth, Texas.
Adam has been a core member of GROUND SERIES since 2014.
Paolo Speirn (he/him) is a writer, climber, dance maker, and outdoors educator. Reflective and immersive, his work occurs in the intertidal zone between history and individual experience. Fascinations include the joys and politics of the outdoors, backroom deals between irony and sincerity, and the anatomy of familial conflict. He benefits materially from whiteness and patriarchy. His next project is a collection of creative nonfiction. He has been working with GROUND SERIES since 2011. @paolospeirn
Miles Tokunow (he/him) is a new father, a multimedia storyteller, community organizer and educator; he has been Black homesteading in New Mexico since 2010. He creates experimental performance rituals for healing and justice by layering Butoh dance, improvisational music traditions, academic analysis, social practice, and radical pedagogy. Tending to the intersections of Blackness + land, masculinity + healing, and peace + action, Miles' work is often about the layers of history and culture within identity. As an Afro-Futurist, he interrogates the historical, spiritual and tangible relationship of body to land.
Miles has been a founding member of GROUND SERIES since 2011. He holds a BA from Wesleyan University in Anthropology and a Masters in Media Arts from Highland University.
Miles believes in magic, laughter, constellations, socialism and beauty in small things. www.bagelsandlocs.net
what we mean
a critical framework that describes the ongoing effects of racism, colonialism, and historical processes of enslavement including the Trans-Atlantic slave trade and their impact on structural conditions as well as personal, subjective, and lived experience and embodied reality.
working to oppose interpersonal and systemic racism and white supremacy.
a form of Japanese dance theatre developed in 1959 with common features including playful and grotesque imagery, taboo topics, extreme or absurd environments; it is traditionally performed in white body makeup with slow hyper-controlled motion.
a form of knowledge gathering that prioritizes the physical experience of the body over technological or abstract data.
the complex, cumulative way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlap, or intersect, especially in the experiences of marginalized individuals or groups.
a formal statement that recognizes and respects Indigenous Peoples as traditional stewards of this land and the enduring relationship that exists between Indigenous Peoples and their traditional territories.
aims to deconstruct systems of oppression by partnering with local residents, organizations, and other leaders to focus on justice issues within a clearly defined geographic area.
the skilled action of respectful, compassionate, and authentically interested inquiry guided by the aims of right relationship.
a work of art designed specifically for a particular location and that has an interrelationship with the cultural, geographical, political, and natural aspects of that place.
the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices.
a concept of justice that not only protects all bodies but is embodied by all.
a term that stands for 'Black, Indigenous, People of Color,' it is meant to unite all people of color in the work for liberation while intentionally acknowledging that not all people of color face the same levels of injustice.
a term in evolutionary biology that refers to evolving mechanisms of cooperative or altruistic behaviour that may be favoured by the probability of future mutual interactions.
a movement of non-Indigenous people that works towards the sovereignty of Indigenous peoples and towards the reparations necessary to restore their right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they inhabited prior to colonization.
a collection of research techniques and methods used by researchers (including journalists, social scientists and others). It is intended to unearth secret, hidden or obscure information that can build a more comprehensive picture of the issue under investigation.
a practice of putting extraordinary effort and emphasis on making people feel welcome and focuses on breaking down barriers that prevent people from participating in an effort, campaign, or community.
a commitment to making public acknowledgement of or apology for past violations, responding to former systems of oppression through acts of financial support.
an artwork created through human interaction and conversation, with attention given to relationship, aesthetics, ethics, collaboration, methodology, antagonism, media strategies, and social activism.