Photo by Ian McMorran www.ianmcmorran.com
I make dances to process my interactions with the world, connect with communities and become a better person. As my body interfaces with political and social phenomena it responds by softening, resisting, or activating. It holds memories, impressions, and potential energy. When I make dances I tap into these corporeal impacts and I birth gestures. I create imagined worlds in which I can work out intellectual and emotional dissonance at the site of my physicality with both full bodied and subtle gestures. Movements emerge when I give myself space to unfold and digest my research, and they filter through my bound, athletic yet supple body with a massive spatial appetite that my pelvis drives and rides. My Mexican roots never cease to make an appearance through circular hip patterns or cumbia rhythms and footwork.
I make corporeal interventions that disrupt normative flows. I invite the dancers, audience, and myself to interrogate the normative world and see its complications. I am perpetually fascinated by power, so consequently my work interplays with the concept of identity. How are differently raced and gendered bodies perceived? How can these perceptions be called into question? How can assumptions about particular bodies be dismantled and transcended through performance? What needs to happen to empower the powerless? Witnessing and being a dancing body has the potential to foment empathy, dissent, and political revolution. The body is a site of discourse where ideas can be presented, re-presented, challenged and transformed. I honor the body as a vessel of cultural and ideological transmission, and in my performative work I set bodies in motion to rub up against political and social environments and locations.
At present I am intrigued by the experience of Latinx identifying people in the United States. As a dance artist I am experimenting with ways to visibilize, interrogate, and reimagine the Latinx experience through dance performance, and create an artistic dialogue about U.S./Mexico relations and the resulting borders and displacement that they materialize. It is a tense era for Latinx people in the United States, and as a Chicana from Texas my body has been activated to respond, reflect, and reimagine the events that have transpired, as well as to uproot the long history that precedes them. I turn to Latinx theorists in performance studies, ethnic studies, women and gender studies, and history books to honor and evolve methods of drawing attention to social injustices and activating audiences to rethink and resolve important issues. Most notably I have been implementing José Esteban Muñoz’s Disidentification theory to present and then subvert stereotypes of Latinx people, more specifically Latina women, through dance performance. For example, a dancer can exaggerate the stereotype of being a “wild, untamable, sex crazed Latina,” through extreme pelvic gyrations that at first seem sensual and enjoyable, but by implementing violent and forced aesthetics of movement overtime, this same motion appears more like a rape. This process illuminates the damage caused by stereotyping Latinx women. It also reveals that a Latina (so quickly categorized, put into a box, and dismissed by hegemonic culture) is complex and human, not object or alien. Rather, the representation of humanity in my dances works within Gloria Anzaldua’s Borderlands framework, which calls for acknowledging the liminality of Latinx people in the United States who shift between many cultures, and have beautiful, complicated and contradictory identities as a result. This perspective dismantles the limiting assumptions and generalizations placed upon Latinx Individuals. I actively seek new methods for disrupting hegemonic views on marginalized identities through performance, as well as evolving my current methods and applying them to other phenomena.
I experiment with borders in my work as both metaphoric and geographic spaces. I investigate how they serve as markers of difference and enforcers of displacement. I also look at how they can be dismantled, transcended and serve as a point of connection. On a corporeal level I investigate liberation and constriction of the body, how both of those qualities can exist at once, and how the spectrum shifts as bodies change their proximity to borders. I test the limits of connection between bodies, experimenting with how much they can merge together, and the emotional and psychological states that arise when they do.
I am currently living at the border in Tijuana, Mexico, working as an artist in residence with Lux Boreal Dance Company. I am developing The Borderlands Dance Project, which is meant to ignite a dialogue between dancers in the U.S. and Mexico regarding the border and the friction that exists between the two countries. I draw inspiration for the piece from my daily encounters: the sudden transition to being immobile when waiting at the port of entry, the need to redirect my route when I encounter part of the border wall, the natural flow between Spanish and English, the panic that set in when the U.S. closed the port of entry for an indefinite period of time, the daily sightings of migrant camps all over the city, and the stark contrast between either side of the Border wall when viewed from up high. But the most inspiring place is Friendship Park. It’s a part of the border close to the beach where friends and family from either side can connect through the mesh border fence during certain hours on the weekends. This is where the culminating performance will take place. The Borderlands Dance Project will depict the complexities of border life, and the perspectives of individuals who live on the border as well as U.S. dancers who feel the impact of the border wall from afar. Even though the border creates division, and presently is creating a humanitarian crisis for Honduran refugees, it is also a crux where people can meet, ideas can be exchanged, and messages (and dances) of social justice can be seen and heard. I am elated to be able to engage in this collaboration with Lux Boreal Dance Company, and look forward to the scholarly and creative ripples this experience will have on my future work.