Regina Klenjoski, Artistic Director of Regina Klenjoski Dance Company (RKDC), is a choreographer, performer, educator and dance advocate. Founded in 1999, the company’s repertory consists of dance works varying from choreographic studies to evening-length works, dance films and site-specific installations. Klenjoski is the recipient of 24 Lester Horton Award nominations, produced the SOLA Dance Festival from 2001-2008 and her work has been commissioned and presented nationwide.

Marking its first major appearance in the Los Angeles area since 2013 and the 20th anniversary of the company’s first presentation at Torrance’s James R. Armstrong Theater, RKDC will present the West Coast Premiere of Klenjoski’s  FAR FROM HOME at the Armstrong Theatre on March 14, 2020 at 8 PM. The performance is presented by Torrance Cultural Arts Foundation.

Regina Klenjoski - Photo courtesy of the artist.

Regina Klenjoski – Photo courtesy of the artist.

This recent work by Klenjoski sprang from her own parents’ story of leaving their small town in Macedonia 50 years ago and explores the urgent and nationally relevant topic of immigration through her own personal lens. I wanted to ask Klenjoski how she manages a company that has been based jointly in Wichita, Kansas, and Torrance, California since 2017, and to learn more about the genesis of her evening-length work, Far From Home.

In 2014, Klenjoski’s husband was offered a good job opportunity in Wichita, Kansas; so the family, which included their three small children under the age of 7, moved there. Her family lived in Denver, and so the move fit the bulk of her personal life, but not the majority of her career. All that was back in Torrance.

At first I flew back often; I just extended my commute a little bit.” She said, putting some dry humor regarding the time spent commuting on freeways in the Los Angeles area. Klenjoski still maintains a Dance Education Program, Dancing with RKDC, that takes place at the Torrance Cultural Arts Center  with an enrollment of over 400 students. RKDC continued to perform in the L.A. Dance Festivals, to do residencies in local colleges and universities in the LA area, and Klenjoski was setting works on dance students at Irvine Valley College and South Bay area schools. In addition to all that, she was also teaching part time at Wichita State University.

Regina said that she had such lovely dancers in California, but that it was financially impractical to try and keep an ongoing company in both cities. “After much thinking, I realized that it is a global world,” She said. “Let’s see if we can make a go of it. To see if I could still find ways to do what I love to do, as well as continuing to grow the programs that I already had.”

In 2017, Klenjoski decided to re-up RKDC in Wichita with the majority of local dancers. She lived there and needed to work with dancers that she could choreograph and rehearse with over a sustained period of time. The new version of her company began giving performances in Wichita and in 2018 Klenjoski began work on Far From Home.

Because Klenjoski is so personally attached to this work, I asked her to talk about the origin of Far From Home and why she chose to make it now. She explained that although the work premiered in Wichita in 2019, she has been developing it for much longer.

If I had to distill it down to a personal core,” She said. “I really wanted to honor the sacrifice my parents made giving up everything they had in order to come to America.”

Regina Klenjoski Dance Company - "Far From Home" - front couple - Makayla Williams, Max Mayerle - Photo by Lillian Bartlett

Regina Klenjoski Dance Company – “Far From Home” – front couple – Makayla Williams, Max Mayerle – Photo by Lillian Bartlett

Klenjoski’s parents are from a beautiful mountainous area of Macedonia, hours from any major city, that Klenjoski lovingly calls “Middle Earth”. In 1969, when she was still an infant, they gave up everything and migrated to Vienna. In 1971, they came to American and settled in Ohio, a move that totally uprooted their lives and impacted their careers. After moving to America, her mother began working at colleges as a cleaning woman. Her father, who trained as an engineer, became a machinist.  “As an adult and as a mother, I noticed more and more what they gave up.”

It was in 2016 that Klenjoski decided to create this very personal work but aimed at keeping its message universal. She set out to make a work that honored the sacrifice her parents and millions of other people have made in search of a better life for them and their children.

We discussed how this subject strongly reflects the current immigration crisis taking place around the globe, not just here in America. “I wouldn’t discount that that had an effect as well; that this was the time to do that.” Klenjoski added. “There is such pervasive myths about immigrants that I wanted to put
a human face on it; I wanted to put my family’s face on it because they are no different then the next door neighbors. We all want similar things: safety, food, shelter, community, love, purpose.” She also talked about the difficulties her father had assimilating into the American culture.

There is a wonderful representation of collaborations from both Los Angeles and Wichita. The cast of Far From Home includes Wichita dancers Max Mayerle, Makayla Williams, Nadia Khalidi, and Sarah Frangenberg with LA based guest artist Chad Vaught, who ironically grew up in Wichita and went to Tisch School of the Arts. Costumes are designed by longtime collaborator and BCBG pattern maker Denise Lichter who lives in LA.  The filmmaker, Jake Simms, is from Wichita; poet Victor Scott is from Wichita; the violist and the Lighting Designer Alison Brummer are both from LA. The original score for Far From Home is by Macedonian composer Toni Kitanovski, whom Klenjoski met in Macedonia during the summer of 2018 while researching this work; and LA videographer Logan McNay.

Regina Klenjoski Dance Company - "Far From Home" - Max Mayerle - Photo by Fernando Salazar

Regina Klenjoski Dance Company – “Far From Home” – Max Mayerle – Photo by Fernando Salazar

Kitanovski has had other connections to the US, attending school in Boston and composing for a contemporary dance company in Dallas Black Dance Theatre. ““He has created a beautiful score that is at once, folk-inspired, and decidedly contemporary. It’s a beautiful mix of tradition and modernity.” Klenjoski continued. “Then there’s a 16-minute documentary that begins the work.”

The company created three-hour long workshops called “Share Your Story through Poetry and Dance” with the goal of bringing together immigrants and nonimmigrants from the community and beyond. Along with poetry therapist Jennie Linthorst, who lives in Manhattan Beach, CA., they drew people from different immigrant organizations, from the public, dance communities and international students from different colleges. They had over a hundred people from all over the world participating in the workshops.

On a wonderful side note, Klenjoski said that in Wichita there were over 80 languages spoken in the school district. “It was such a wonderful revelation for me.” She said.

Linthorst took the workshop participants through a 75-minute session in writing a poem about the places, people, foods, and personal journeys they associate with the larger theme of home. For the next 75 minutes, Regina led participants in simple warm-up exercises designed for all abilities, and guided them to create movement sequences from the written poetry, offering a physical expression and embodiment of their memories and emotions. She introduced them to gestural work, a method which is at the core of Klenjoski creative process. After working in groups, the participants performed their work for each other, followed by breaking bread together.

Klenjoski explain that there were 7 themes – lifeline, assimilation, opportunity, faith, community, loss and home – that emerged from these workshops and how RKDC set about refining it for what would become Far From Home. A different poet, Victor Scott of Wichita, created seven poems based on these themes, and parts of his text introduce each section of the work. The text is read in English by Toni Kitanovski and Dobrila Grasheska, a Macedonian singer.

The workshops were documented by Logan McNay before he relocated to LA., and filmmaker Simms took over the project, filming 5 participants from the workshops who were asked to dig deeper into their stories. Klenjoski’s parents, who now live in Wichita, also shared some of their stories on film, as well as footage from Klenjoski’s trip to Macedonia.

Far From Home premiered in Wichita, Kansas May 10 and 11, 2019. When questioned about what reaction her parents had when they first saw this work, Klenjoski paused. “Oh, my gosh!” she said. “I don’t really know because they are such quiet and gentle Eastern European folks that they didn’t have a lot to say.” She did add, however, that she could tell that they were very moved and that she had heard from friends in the audience that her parents, especially her father, had a strong emotional reaction to the piece.

Klenjoski is very proud of this work. “It was thrilling to me to make a piece that was so personal, so humanistic, that at both ends, honored my family, that I did something for my parents to bring alive their story and their sacrifice. But, I also created a work that is universal and that many people can relate to and see themselves in.”

Regina Klenjoski Dance Company - "Far From Home" - Sarah Frangenberg - Photo by Lillian Bartlett

Regina Klenjoski Dance Company – “Far From Home” – Sarah Frangenberg – Photo by Lillian Bartlett

In the press release Klenjoski stated that a question that she hoped to answer with Far From Home. “Was the difficulty and promise of leaving one’s home and making peace with another worth it”. I wanted to know if she felt that she had answered the question. “I don’t know if I answered the question for others.” She said. “Of course, others have to come to that idea themselves. Even my mother and father felt differently about that answer. I think that the answer for me is that it is very much who you’re with.” She thinks that the answer is yes if one is happy with who they are and who they’re with. After being in Wichita for a few years, Klenjoski has come to understand that home is who she is, who is part of her journey and who she loves.

There are numerous inroads to this work for the non-dance spectator who is attending a dance performance for the first time. The colorful costumes created by Denise Lichter to reflect the colors and patterns of eastern European and Macedonian folk wear. There’s the film that tells the stories of many people’s journey from one place to another. There is the beautiful music and poetry, and, let us not forget, the virtuosity of the dancers.

Since its inception, RKDC has been a leader in arts education and community service within the South Bay area. On Saturday, March 7 RKDC will hold a children’s performance with over 400 young dancers onstage. On Sunday, March 8, RKDC will hold a FREE poetry and movement workshop at the Torrance Cultural Arts Center Dance Studios, 3330 Civic Center Drive, Torrance, CA from 2-5pm that is open to the public and requires no dance experience.  Conducted by Regina Klenjoski and Jennie Linthorst, the participants will participate in a creative writing and movement experience that reflects deeply on ideas of ‘home’. Those interested in taking part in this workshop may register at

Written by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle, March 3, 2020.

To visit the Regina Klenjoski Dance Company website, click here.

Tickets prices for Far From Home range from $20 to $30 and are available through or by calling the 310-781-7171.

Featured image: Regina Klenjoski Dance Company in Far From Home – (l to r) Brennon Madrid, Sarah Frangenberg, Max Mayerle, Nadia Khalidi, Makayla Williams – Photo by Lillian Bartlett