Award: Research & Development Grant

Discipline: Performing Arts

Project Collaborator(s):

City/Town: Tempe

Year: 2019

Artist Website:

The rock climbing and hip-hop communities are inherently social and welcoming to diverse age groups. Both operate through resource sharing. In hip-hop, the saying “each one, teach one” symbolizes the need to spread knowledge. Likewise, rock climbing is a sport done in groups. Climbers share knowledge and resources with one another.

Excerpt from Michelle Marji’s R&D Grant application

As a person of color in two male dominated activities (rock climbing and hip hop dance), Michelle Marji hopes to diversify the involvement in and knowledge of these activities through community events. Her goal is to bring communities together through collaboration and authentic expression. More specifically, in her upcoming event, Michelle will initiate conversation with a performance that combines rock climbing and dance, story circles, art, hip hop, food, and music. This free event will be open to dancers, climbers, outdoor enthusiasts, families and more,  and will take place at the Phoenix Rock Gym. Conversations will be centered around women in male dominated fields like hip hop and rock climbing, and people of color in outdoor communities. Michelle hopes to create a welcoming space that will drive future events such as a day of free rock climbing, accessible rock climbing workshops, and maybe even a breakin’ class at the rock gym.

Michelle’s greater goal is to continue collaborating with her community and creating events as a co-founder of an up and coming non-profit organization, Twined. The co-founders Ruby Morales, Shelley Jackson, and Michelle Marji are driven by their mission, to collaborate with communities to help provide authentic spaces that promote communal growth and encourage expression of culture and self.

Desert Dance

Choreographer: Michelle Marji
Dancers: Ruby Morales, Emma Neimuth
Music: Sinking by Feverkin

Desert Dance was choreographed and presented in 2017. Desert
Dance is an ephemeral and visceral exploration of the desert
landscape in relationship with our humanity and emotional experience.


Choreographer: Michelle Marji
Dancer: Michelle Marji
Music: Nation by Kristian Silviano Rodriguez

Nation premiered at the Beta Dance Festival in 2018. Nation explores
current socio-political themes in the U.S. such as gun violence, racial
bias, and the national political divide.

Michelle Marji is a dance artist, social activist, researcher, and rock climber in Tempe Arizona. She graduated from Arizona State University with a BFA in Dance and a BS in Psychological science. Currently, she teaches and performs as an Education Specialist for the Be Kind People Project. She is a director of the Orphanage Dance Project, a non profit organization that facilitates art making and community performance with children in Mexico. She is Co-Founder of Twined, an organization that promotes authentic expression of culture and the self. She is an independent choreographer and event coordinator who has recently performed solos for the Beta Dance Festival and Breaking Ground. Michelle was awarded best college choreography in 2017 by the Arizona Dance Education Organization. She was also a recipient of the Tempe Vibrant City Grant in 2019.

Michelle conducts research with the Indigo Cultural Center, an organization that promotes racial equity and the study of culture. She also conducts research with the Embodied Cognition Lab at ASU. She was awarded the National Psi Chi summer research grant for her research in embodied learning with children.

Michelle has a passionate and intentional drive to promote awareness and actionable change through research and the arts in her communities. She is an improviser, a mover, and a lover of her family, culture, and community. Currently she hopes to continue creating work and performing with a thoughtful understanding of the communities she comes from and from a place of authenticity and love.

Artist photo by Courtney Nichols