Nü Kids on the Block

Nü Walkers art collective calls for the return of play, silliness

What a math PhD, a Santa Fe Opera communications professional, a fine dining restaurant manager, a clown and a travel/whitewater rafting guide have in common, at least insofar as creating art and performance pieces goes, is kind of a hard question to answer.

In the case of fledgling Santa Fe arts and performance collective Nü Walkers Global/Local, the core ethos and connective tissue seems to be rooted in silliness—and make no mistake, friends, the folks behind Nü Walkers are certainly silly. But rather than some sort of directionless, shiftless, pointless bit of amateur buffoonery, the group’s core tenets (a return to play, a desire to perform, the demystification of what we might call anti-Brechtian über-seriousness in the arts and total commitment to the bit) are more in league with Monty Python than they are with forced eccentricity. What do they have in common? For starters, they’re all on the same page.

“We connected at an art gallery on Canyon Road on a Tuesday night,” says co-founder Marissa Aurora, the SFO pro. “It kind of happened organically on the dance floor. We connected through movement; we all started doing these ‘nü walks.’”

What is a nü walk, you might be wondering? Well, it’s part movement exercise, according to Aurora; a practice of moving forward through whatever means compel you. This can be strange or simple, but the idea is that it’s creative. Think Python’s “Ministry of Silly Walks” sketch, though rather than meticulously plotted absurdity, Nü Walkers takes an in-the-moment tack. Thus far in Santa Fe, this has been most publicly observable at the group’s 10 Person in a Trench Coat performance at Wise Fool New Mexico some weeks ago. Which brings us to the clown—Kristen Woods, the co-executive director of Wise Fool.

“Point number one is that a lot of stuff is not fun…and silliness and fun are really important in achieving the business acumen we’re looking for,” she tells SFR. “As a circus artist, I maintain that a lot of things can be good but not fun.”

“There are things that are good, things that are fun and things that can be sort of anywhere on the spectrum—like going to see a Bach concerto, which is good, but it’s not any fun,” explains Nü Walkers co-founder Derek Desantis, the math guy. “The only thing we care about not being is in the not fun/not good category. We’ll do anything outside of that category.”


“Part of our last performance included a kind of ritualistic cult ceremony,” adds co-founder Cedar Elford-White, the restaurant manager. “That was really for us. For the audience…I don’t know that it was fun for them.”

As text doesn’t convey tone well, let it be known that Elford-White is joking. Mostly. The thing is, Nü Walkers practically demands buy-in from an audience as well. Take 10 Person in a Trench Coat, which literally was an attempt to embody the old cartoon trope of a number of kids posing as a singular adult by stacking up inside a trench coat. Perhaps perplexing to the audience, as all Nü Walkers performances could very well be, the event sort of paradoxically required the watchers to let go and get engaged.

“Because it’s a state of being,” notes co-founder John Michael Hailey. “No moment is too small or too normal to make un-normal. If we’re not having fun…though we’re not saying life always has to be fun. Searching for the opportunities is the number one goal.”

OK, but does this answer what Nü Walkers actually is? Perhaps not, though knowing that seems impossible. This is the group that worked out the math for how many hot dogs in buns could fit inside each cubic square foot of the Rio Grande at its maximum flow. This is the group of previously unconnected people who somehow started dancing together at a sparsely attended gallery opening, then turned that chance meeting into a nebulous movement.

“It’s very adjacent to acting,” Elford-White says by way of an explanation.

“This is part of the challenge,” Desantis continues. “It’s like, how do you describe what we like to do? Historically, we’ve all been to great parties with a fun DJ where people dance. After you’ve done that a bunch of times, it’s not memorable. We want to make it memorable.”

So while there’s no specific answers as to how or when the collaborative buffoonery of Nü Walkers might pop up—though the group does promise it’ll have a little something this summer—chances are, if you’re into the concept of play, you might jive with the whole Nü Walkers gestalt.

“Spontaneous creativity,” Hailey concludes. “I’ve been a part of many creative endeavors, but never have I laughed as hard as I do with this crew.”

A ringing endorsement if ever there were one.

Follow @nuwalkersglobal on Instagram or email to get involved yourself or simply learn more.

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