Si no puedo bailar no es mi revolución.
If I can't dance, then its not my revolution.
by Noemi Segarra Ramirez
I am allowing this entry to take shape in several languages: intersecting, colliding, complementing, tangling and untangling. This entry will allow references and allusions to I / we, here / there, inside / out descriptions and realities. We would like the reader to experience viscerally what displacement might bring forth and to allow a brooding in ambiguity / cavilación en la ambigüedad.
Perhaps there is no follow through in linear mindset or way. El movimiento es mi primer idioma, por eso mi praxis y acercamiento a todo abraza la interdisciplinariedad, la colaboración en el ahora a cuerpa entera (Movement is my first language. My praxis and approach to everything embraces interdisciplinarity, collaboration in the now wholeheartedly and with the whole bodymind. )
I sense that many "urgent dances" / manifestations, direct actions, placements are taking place at present no matter where I / we happen to be. We are taking active steps and situating ourselves a cuerpo entero in the face of White Supremacy, Neoliberalism, Colonialism, Patriarchy, Racism, Xenophobia, and many forms of oppression. This time we are telling OUR story -instead of HIStory. We, who are considered minorities, are more in numbers at this point in this story of humanity. We do not need men speaking up for us, continuing their protagonic roles in writing and defining history and privilege. It is time we speak up in our own voice and bodies: women, transgender, bisexual, lesbian, queer, not North American, instead other minorities. We do not need patronizing or paternalistic heroes, slogans or saviors. This time we are taking it in our own hands, feet, bodies to face lo que nos silencia, invalida, repudia y hace vivir en austeridad y precariedad, en continua violencia (that which silences, invalidates, repudiates and makes us live in austerity and precariousness - or worse, that which makes us die or live in violence).
Placing one's body insistently in the public space and sphere is a practice that claims time / space for other values, ethics, behaviors, possible social choreographies or unprecedented improvisations. Being receptive, aware and identifying my / our privileges, recognizing there are many living beings in conditions or circumstances other than those known or available to me, is a gift that improvisation in public and unexpected placements and spheres allows. Improvisation teaches me / we all about transculturation, diversity of opinion and different kinds of agency in the face of uncertainty and the unknown.
In the dance world at large, not only in Puerto Rico, White Supremacy, Eurocentrism hand in hand with Imperialism, Patriarchy, Capitalism, and Colonialism prevail -- dictating forms, norms, politics, ethics and aesthetics. In Puerto Rico, visual and musical forms take over production modes and international exchange in which working structures (patriarchal, colonial, neoliberal, etc.) remain unquestioned and untouched.
In the performance and dance world at large, regardless of whether it is classical, contemporary or experimental, male choreographers, performers and directors are more visible - please, do a Google search - even when we, women, are the majority in numbers, bodies, administrative labor and force. Before we can go on about post-colonialism, could we please take a close look at who are still minorities and why, when it is evident we are ample in numbers? Then again, who is we? Where are we? Who gets to map, identify, name, structure, organize? Maybe it is time we take in our own hands and engage in making communities with our sense of ethics, values, motions, principles organized and visible, voicing viewpoints other. Our task is to destabilize status quo so that the world becomes more like us.
“El mundo no es. El mundo está siendo.” - Paulo Freire
As part of the Puerto Rican collective identity, I am / we are hybrid, not "either / or" but both, or all of the above.
Puerto Rico is a queer nation. When I state this I am not referring to sexual orientation or identification, but to the politics of being - an unincorporated territory, a governance with lack of sovereignty / autonomy. As an Estado Libre Asociado / Commonwealth of Puerto Rico - colonia, por favor: ¡llamemos las cosas por sus nombres y apellidos! (As a Commonwealth of Puerto Rico - colony, please: let's call things by their names!) - we are second class citizens, not able to vote for the US president nor sovereign to make decisions on our own as part of a greater whole of the Caribe y Latino America. Forever infantilized, we are told how to take care of our impending debt. That's why we now have PROMESA, an Oversight Control Board making decisions regarding "our" debt directly affecting citizens from and in Puerto Rico. Could this be related to "The Coloniality of Power / Descolonialidad del Poder" as Aníbal Quijano presents us in his writing?
I am not a "choreographer" this is a conscious choice. My commitment to movement improvisation reflects resistance in motion, the diasporic, Afro Caribbean nature of my culture, heritage and of who I am. My praxis and way of life is in between spaces and places: nomadic, ambiguous, not yet defined, always evolving and anchored in the present in an open refusal to settle. Non conforming, I find myself searching for freedom within definitions and structures, remaining grounded in the now, dealing and wrestling with what is hard to capture in words - the ephemeral. In an active tension with borders and de-limitations, seeking action, integration and interdependence braiding elements: all important and contributing to a greater whole and process.
In Puerto Rico improvisation is often misunderstood and is given a pejorative connotation. It is thought that government presents last minute solutions, often with incomplete, not transparent or accessible communication to citizen participation.
We all problem solve on a daily basis in the tropics, it is part of our way of life and survival. The "call and response" format is a legacy of African culture in resistance, which implies a capacity to be open and build together in the now. In Puerto Rico we recognize call and response in afro-boricua musical forms as bomba y plena. Perhaps this notion does not extend to noticing the different ways we engage in call and response in everyday life. As a contemporary experimental female artist, recognizing the African legacy in the practice of movement improvisation and the everyday is claiming a study or other perspective of the archeology of our history.
Structured improvisation study and practice requires rigor, discipline, reflection and self-knowledge. It is perhaps easier to visualize jazz musicians (often men) who practice daily to achieve the freedom and mastery in which they express themselves. In the field of dance, mainly comprised of women or members of the LGBTQI communities, classic, traditional and heteronormative forms still dictate production, pedagogical, administrative modes, aesthetics and ethics. We can not measure, imagine, receive support and resources with these impositions or expectations as a point of measurement or departure, when we are a diverse community.
PISO proyecto’s research is not at the service of the market economy. We aspire to decolonize the gaze of those we come in contact with, as well as our own. We desire to open an interstice or new doors to see ourselves in the everyday contributing to leave things as they are, or co creating movement towards change. Paulo Freire in his pedagogical philosophy proposes that both educator and educator meet and learn, are both transformed in an ongoing process. This all points to what we call "personal practice," which is the point of departure to give ourselves tasks. Self-management or self-reliant projects (what we call autogestión in Puerto Rico ) can arise from giving ourselves tasks that we problem solve or develop by our own means often in collaboration with existing governing structures or institutions. Auto gestion seeks to ease process and allow autonomy in our colonial context.
En Puerto Rico la improvisación tiene una connotación peyorativa o malentendida. Esto se debe a que existe la noción de que el gobierno "se saca de la manga" soluciones; muchas de estas no comunicadas adecuada, transparente o completamente a la ciudadanía.
Si reflexionamos, todxs resolvemos a diario. Es parte de nuestro legado y manera de sobrevivir en El Caribe. Mientras que el formato "call and response" / llamado y respuesta afro diaspórica es legado de la cultura africana en resistencia, lo que implica una capacidad a estar abierta y construir en conjunto y desde el ahora - este se relega y visualiza a formas musicales como la bomba y plena. ¿Porque no se amplía esa mirada? PISO reconoce el legado Africano en la práctica de la improvisación con sus estructuras móviles a estructurar en el momento. Este reconocimiento puede ser un rescate y un re contextualizar la arqueología de nuestra historia.
La buena improvisación estructurada requiere rigor, disciplina, práctica, reflexión y autoconocimiento. Se nos hace fácil visualizar a los músicos de jazz (hombres mayormente) practicando diariamente para lograr la libertad y maestría con la que se expresan. Pero en el ámbito del arte del movimiento o en la danza, la mayoría somos mujeres o miembrxs de la comunidad LGBTQI. En la danza formas tradicionales y heteronormativas imperan dictando modelos pedagógicos, de producción, estéticas y éticas a las que aspirar incluso en algunas prácticas que se denominan improvisatorias. No nos podemos medir, imaginar, recibir apoyo y recursos todxs con esas imposiciones o expectativas como punto de partida.
Nuestra investigación en PISO no está al servicio del mercado y busca descolonizar la mirada. Paulo Freire en su filosofía pedagógica propone que tanto educador como educando se encuentran y transforman ambxs, lo que se puede traspolar a la relación movedora - testigx o espectador. Se empieza en casa, con una misma. Todo esto apunta a lo que llamo "práctica personal" que es la base o el preámbulo a poder "darse o darnos tareas." De darse tareas puede surgir la autogestión - siempre compartida en un esfuerzo colectivo y en alianzas, en nuestra experiencia.
We build through presence, doing, moving and generating social capital “off the grid,” seeking other kinds of infrastructures, relationships, allowing sustainability along with long term mobility or intersections which imply we are not to become dependent, instead if anything, interdependent in active solidarity exchange. Our viewpoint and presence is felt, seen, heard, acknowledged even when it defers. It is a two way street, if not: we stop.
"Paramos, nosotras paramos, paramos por las condiciones de precariedad en nuestros hogares, la revolución será en todos los lugares."
We stop, we stop, we stop because of precarious conditions in our homes, the revolution will be everywhere.
“Estamos hartas del sistema, estamos puestas pa’l problema.”
We are fed up of the system, we are ready to problem solve / mobilize.
-consignas de Colectiva Feminista en Construcción #ParodeMujeresPR
Returning to Puerto Rico, December 2009, was and is all about generating a space that does not yet exist as I envision it. PISO, PISO móvil and its many itinerant iterations is a space for experimentation, movement improvisation, somatic practice, social capital and justice - generating an ample and diverse community receptive to this line of work, interdisciplinary, intergenerational and committed to process and transformation - open ended / ongoing.
This line of work signals other modes of production that have nothing to do with passive or Capitalist consumption. instead with co-creation, collaboration, commitment to the process, allowing a sense of shared building or allowing something to unfold and reveal itself. This also nurtures relations and ethics that alter "reality" and propose another world to move or behave within, even if only ephemerally.
There are plenty of self initiated projects, what we call autogestión, en Puerto Rico. While autogestión generates new spaces and with it new policies, ways of being other within what exists, without the connection to existing institutions, norms, and laws, I sense we are just “paving a way” instead of forcing and tensing the structures that govern us. It is here, in the tension and struggle that improvisation - leaping into the unknown and opening instertices to possibility that new ways of doing and being can truly take place.
When will we regain a sense of balance and justice? I do not see it happening anytime soon. I think we have to take it, make and change it from the root. The time is now.
Quizás vamos a ser unxs pocxs, no una mayoría en consenso. Los espacios de cultura, arte, salud, educación, bienes en común y tantos otros deben ser politizados de manera abierta y frontal: llamando las cosas por sus nombres y apellidos, haciendo los reclamos que por tantos años hemos callado por las razones que sean. Tener a la Colectiva liderando como ejemplo me / nos da fuerzas para arriesgar aún más, perteneciendo a una comunidad que sí nos representa. Sí no es Feminista e interseccional no es mi / nuestra revolución.
Maybe we'll be just a few, not a consensus or majority. Spaces for culture / art, health, education among other having to do with basic needs being met by a vast majority must be politicized calling things by their names and making the claims that for so long have been silenced. Having Colectiva Feminista en Construccion leading as an example gives me / us the strength to risk even more. Finally we belong to a community that does represent us. If it is not Feminist and intersectional is not my / our revolution.
For the time being: speak up, use all mediums and spaces possible, involve more, mobilize, organize, activate, agitate -- this is a process. Be very aware of your placement, self-identify instead of letting others tell you who you are (resistance in motion) and also identify the structures you are moving in vs. those you want to move in. Gather and connect, there is power in collective action and movement. DO things together in the public space. Support each other. Build common ground with those you do not agree with. Open up to dialogue. Let's build bridges, not walls. Show up and stand for what you want to see more in the world. The time is NOW. Love relentlessly.
¡NO a la colonia! ¡Fin al patriarcado! ¡Abajo al Capitalismo que mata la vida! Venga lo nuevo, que aún desconocemos, que no tiene nombre ni forma y que está en proceso.
I am grateful for mentors Merián Soto, with her extensive corporeal improvisation methodology, her living example of mastery and commitment to artistic experimentation, and Jane Gabriels, my mentor in the writing / production realm with whom I have learned to give shape and structure to what Is an idea or intangible. I apply this knowledge not just to art production, management and administration but it translates to the creative process of structuring improvisation and art making, also collaboration. Thank you teachers!
PISO would not exist without the support, time, energy and presence of collaborators Andrea Bauzá, Félix Rodríguez-Rosa, Alejandra Martorell, Marielys Burgos Meléndez, Marili Pizarro and others. Awilda Rodríguez Lora, and Yadira Tort.
Thanks to Colectiva Feminista en Construcción whose clarity of action, organization and discipline along with its open risk and clear intentions is teaching me to tell it like it is aligned and all that in service that moves through you. Thank you, comrades!
March 2017, Santurce, Puerto Rico
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