Colleen “Coke” Tani is an experimental memoirist and improvisational dancer, interested in embodied and ensouled aspects of human experience. Tani also facilitates workshops for those wishing to illuminate their own stories using creative practices.
Tani was raised in urban Los Angeles in the 1970’s by a family and community imbued with cultural vitality in spite of historic racism and dislocation. Her consciousness was shaped by radical faith-based youth programs that encouraged creativity and dialogue, and by the artful intersection of social reality with resilience and beauty in R&B culture. Exposed to the solo theater work of artist-activists Jude Narita and Whoopi Goldberg, Tani learned how art and performance could bring marginalized experiences to the center of collective inquiry.
Tani earned a Masters Degree in Social Welfare from UC Berkeley and worked as a therapist with individuals traumatized by violence, loss and HIV/AIDS. A virtual safehouse for the stories of others, Tani concurrently learned she suffered from a “female sexual dysfunction” at a time when in American culture there was no similar safehouse for her. Turning to art in her recovery, she studied poetry with Jack Grapes and became a member of the Los Angeles Writers and Poets Collective. Mentored by Grapes, memoirist Maureen Murdock and novelist Mary Rakow, Tani learned about the capacity of the deeply personal, when artfully rendered, to touch upon the universal. Tani’s work has appeared in ONTHEBUS, Spillway, Rattle and Under Her Skin, and she has been a featured poet on KPFK-FM’s Inspiration House. A PEN Rosenthal Literary Fellow, her current attempts to language sensitive yet charged experiences have been influenced by James Baldwin, Bhanu Kapil and Truong Tran.
Tani also returned to dance in her renewal, seeking authentic and nuanced ways to plumb delicate material through butoh and postmodern approaches to dance theater. Her movement has been inspired by Marc Morozumi (Joe Goode Performance Group), Yuko Kaseki and Dana Iova-Koga (Inkboat), and has been cultivated under the guidance of Anna Halprin and through InterPlay©. Cynthia Winton-Henry and Phil Porter, InterPlay’s co-founders, have inspired Tani’s interest in ensoulment and in the body as oracle.
Tani developed and toured her one-woman show Soft Tissue under the direction W. Kamau Bell and Martha Rynberg. Her work has been featured in the San Francisco Theater Festival, the Solo Performance Festival and the United States of Asian America Festival. She has been awarded a Puffin grant for her arts-based workshops with professional caregivers and she has served as a juror for APICC’s USAAF performing arts festival. She is completing her MFA in Interdisciplinary Art at the California Institute of Integral Studies, is pursuing a Certificate in Sexuality and Religion from the Graduate Theological Union, and is a certified InterPlay© and Body Wisdom leader.
Tani is currently interested in how beauty, space and restraint can affect conversations about human vulnerability. She is writing a body memoir exploring intimacy gone awry, erotic transformation and the nature of human longing. As part of this project, she is also creating performative Bed Dance rituals.