Jinza Thayer

Genetically and experientially, Jinza Thayer, is a hybrid of both Japanese and American cultures which might explain her curiosity about different worlds, internal and external.  After spending her first six years in Japan, Jinza grew up in Brooklyn, New York.  She graduated from Johns Hopkins University and received an MFA in Dance at George Mason University.  Now based in Mni Sota Makoce, land of the Dakotas, where the Waters Reflect the Clouds, she presents her work as Movement Architecture (MA).  As a somatic movement therapist and educator, she works with deep internal somatic processes to source the body's wisdom and instigate movement.  Those ideas are then housed in immersive installations -- altered metaphorical spaces that inspire awareness of, and reflections on, how we express being in the world. 

As MA, Jinza has created over sixty original works including eight evening-length pieces presented at more than twenty venues in the Twin Cities including Cowles Center for Dance, Red Eye Theater and Southern Theater. MA has also toured to New York City, Washington DC, Austin TX, and Montreal.

MA has been a two-time semi-finalist for France’s Rencontres choregraphiques internationales de Seine-Saint-Denis (Bagnolet) in 1999 and 2001. In 2010, MA received the SAGE Award for Choreographic Concept and Design.

Jinza has been a force in the Twin Cities, teaching generations of emerging choreographers and dancers during twenty years at Zenon Dance Company and School in Minneapolis. Continuing her commitment to dance education, since the onset of the pandemic, she has been offering subsidized dance and somatic training online.

Jinza has received two McKnight Artist Fellowship for Choreographers (2004, 2019), an Associate Artist Residency at Atlantic Center for the Arts (2006), a Blacklock Nature Sanctuary Fellowship (2010) and individual artist grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board (1999, 2002, 2009, 2014, 2018, 2022). Her collaborations with local composers have been awarded grants from the American Composer’s Forum (2006, 2011, 2014).

Visiting Artist | March 21 - April 3, 2023

From Tokyo to Brooklyn: A Jagged Journey

Visiting Artist Jinza Thayer came to MANCC for her first residency from March 21 to April 3, 2023 to further develop her latest project, From Tokyo to Brooklyn: A Jagged Journey (FTTB). A movement, voice and immersive site-specific installation, this piece, which draws from Thayer’s bi-racial identity, focuses on the voice, body and memory where identity and history are stored, and “storied”.

Jinza and her three dancers, Ann Lentz, Leah Nelson, and Sharon Picasso, explored how “otherness” manifests in the senses, how the skin acts and feels, how the muscles tense and how their breathing changes in order to both uncover their own embodied histories and work on shifting the perception of “others” in reality, beginning with their own perceptions of themselves.

During Jinza’s MANCC residency, the dancers worked with her collaborator, theater director Ellen Hemphill, to ground the voice in the somatic and cultural process of learning and re-learning a mother tongue. Hemphill’s vocal artistry works towards the evocation of familiar, familial and foreign states of being – to further the deepest embodiment in the vocal and physical movement of dancers.
In addition to working with a theater director, Jinza worked with visual artist Lelis Brito to imagine the built environment of the piece, aiming to create distinctive “worlds” for dancers as well as audience to move through. Brito enlisted the assistance of FSU’s School of Dance undergraduate and graduate students in the creation of the set, enabling them to learn about the building process and contributions that are behind the creation of a choreographic piece.
FSU School of Dance Junior, Io Ermoli, described her experience with the artists in Jinza’s work as, “I loved having the opportunity to help Lelis Brito create the installation for Jinza’s new work. While sewing, I had a lovely chat with Lelis and found out we share similar family histories and learned a bit more about her career. I didn’t get to see the final product until the showing later that week, and it blew my mind. What Jinza, Lelis, and their collaborators created in two weeks was incredible. And it’s pretty cool I had a little part in bringing this creature to life. I felt a strong connection to her story and her work, so through MANCC, I got to talk with and learn more about Jinza’s creative process. I can’t wait to see how her new work grows!”

Jinza held an open rehearsal on Sunday, April 2 that was open to FSU’s School of Dance students, faculty and staff. The open rehearsal consisted of a performance and explanations from the artists, followed by an invitation for the audience to participate in the interactive experience of the set. 

  • Jinza Thayer and her collaborators explore material for <em>From Tokyo to Brooklyn: A Jagged Journey</em>
  • Anne Lentz and Leah Nelson
  • Lentz, Nelson, and Picasso
  • Ellen Hemphill talks with Thayer and collaborators
  • FSU student Sophia Pfitzenmaier works with Visual Artist Lelis Brito
  • FSU student Io Ermoli works on visual element for <em>From Tokyo to Brooklyn: A Jagged Journey</em>
  • FSU graduate student Emily Gumal works with Visual Artist Lelis Brito on installing a set piece crafted at<br>MANCC
  • Thayer discusses <em>From Tokyo to Brooklyn: A Jagged Journey</em> with her collaborators
  • Jinza Thayer and Sharon Picasso
  • Thayer, Picasso, Nelson and FSU student Stephanie Battle explore material for <em>From Tokyo to Brooklyn: A<br>Jagged Journey</em>
  • Picasso, Nelson and FSU student Stephanie Battle
  • Nelson, Battle and Picasso
  • Thayer leads movement for <em>From Tokyo to Brooklyn: A Jagged Journey</em>
  • <em>From Tokyo to Brooklyn: A Jagged Journey</em> rehearsal
  • Sharon Picasso, Anne Lentz, Ginza Thayer, and Leah Nelson rehearse <em>From Tokyo to Brooklyn: A Jagged<br>Journey</em>
  • Thayer observes Lentz and Picasso
  • Visual artist Lelis Brito discusses set design elements with Jinza Thayer
  • Leah Nelson dances while Brito and Picasso experiment with the movement of Brito's kinetic set design
  • Anne Lentz
  • Thayer and collaborators hold an open rehearsal for <em>From Tokyo to Brooklyn: A Jagged Journey</em>
  • Thayer, Nelson, Lentz, Picasso
  • Lentz, Picasso, and Nelson
  • <em>From Tokyo to Brooklyn: A Jagged Journey</em> open rehearsal
  • Picasso, Lentz, and Nelson
  • Lentz, Picasso, and Nelson
  • Nelson, Lentz, and Picasso sing during open rehearsal
Collaborators in Residence: Anne Lentz, Leah Nelson, Sharon Picasso [Dancers], Lelis Brito [Visual Artist], Ellen Hemphill [Vocal Coach]

Featured Artist

Faye Driscoll

February 22 - 24
Carolina Performing
Arts, UNC Chapel Hill


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