- about -
Magnolia Yang Sao Yia
Pang Hnong Hlis Yaaj
I am a thinker, a dreamer, a mover, spirits dancing through/into life. Sometimes I choreograph dance on bodies. Sometimes I choreograph text dance on paper. Sometimes I dance choreographies of the visions of others. Sometimes I speak the visions that come to mind. But most of the time, my body speaks the visions my ancestors wish me to dance.
In 2015, Magnolia Yang Sao Yia was the first Hmong woman to graduate with a BFA in Dance from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Alongside majoring in dance, she received a Minor in Asian American Studies and was the recipient of the Carolyn Nayematsu Award, the Stefannie Valencia-Kierlin Scholarship and the Beth Rubinger Suran Scholarship.
Currently, she is a PhD student in Critical Dance Studies also pursuing a Designated Emphasis in Southeast Asian Studies at the University of California, Riverside. In 2019, she was the Chair and organized the Southeast Asian Studies Graduate Student Association’s first annual conference, “Southeast Asia and the Diaspora: Gender, Labor, and Performance.” She is the Assistant Coordinator of Indigenous Choreographers at Riverside Gathering, and holds graduate teaching assistant positions for courses, “Introduction to Dance” and “Dance: Cultures and Context.” Through the support of the Dean’s Distinguished Fellowship Award and the Gluck Fellows Program of the Arts, she will be researching dance and embodied practices of the Hmong diaspora in the United States. What is Hmong dance
As a former practitioner, Magnolia grew up Hmong dancing with her mother as her teacher under the group name Paaj Tawg Tshab. In her adolescent years, she was also immersed in social dance club culture that led her to House music and House dance. Today, she practices and teaches House dance at UCR. She is kinesthetically drawn to and exploring fluidity and flow as a political aesthetic and stance in House dance, is historically conscious of queer, trans, femme and women presence/absence, and is spiritually connected to and respectful of the energies and black ancestry among her.
Magnolia is a choreographer who creates dances to reflect, transform and decolonize. In her solo work, she explores Hmong womanhood, statelessness and spirituality.
Magnolia began dancing with Ananya Dance Theatre (ADT), “the leading creator of Contemporary Indian Dance in the global arts and social justice movement,” in 2013. She performed in Neel (2014), Aahvaan (2015), Roktim (2015), Horidraa (2016) and toured Mohona in 2014. She will be rejoining ADT onstage for the premier of Sutrajāl: Revelations of Gossamer at The O’Shaughnessy on September 20-21, 2019. She is infinitely grateful for Dr. Ananya Chatterjea and the artists of ADT for nurturing and cultivating the dance artist and scholar she is today.