Reflections on Dancing in Guatemala
I want to be present for every moment of this trip.
I am going to Guatemala to dance. This will be my first international presentation of my work. Inspired by the injustices toward women that I read about in three books, I was particularly struck by a story in Guatemala. It was only after I was invited there to present a solo from my 2016 work (re)MOVE: Back Toward Again the (re)TURN Facing, that I remembered the harrowing story, along with other global stories of injustice toward the female body and the earth. These stories propelled me to create this work, taking in every shade of violence and overcoming and survival that has been, and continues to be, for women. And now, with Dance-Forms Productions, under the direction of Susana B. Williams, I will present the solo with the Furioso from These Hills of Glory by Seattle composer Wayne Horvitz, in Guatemala City and Quetzaltenango.
A Movement Collection of Words that I wrote down about this solo as I resurrected it in my body this summer:
Is she a warrior? Is she a slut? Is she a Goddess?
Shakti. Mother of God.
The light and the blood in the earth darkness.
holding on through the press and pull and stabs of pain
squeezing through the narrow toward
cut to pieces, gathering inward
back toward the beginning.
H o v e r i n g
above the body.
body, breast, labia, canal toward the fight back.
A bullish brute heart of gold;
stampede on fire.
What do you see? Is it only a man on a cross?
Or do you see the three year old girl shot through
just in our lifetime?
Wise woman, old hag
keenest sight from within
in the only way out:
of armour around center,
the sword erect in offerings of caressing
charred tissues and the smell of the day
when the choice is only to cover in synthetic perfumes
of modern day ancient edifices
crumbling with the weight of fear.
Still-born the Woman Clothed in the Sun
is waiting for the silence
and the still point
where movement is
Video of the 2016 solo begins at 11:20
“Have the grace to be a lady with disgrace”- Tori Amos/Boys for Pele- Frog on my Toe
I spent hours relearning the 2016 solo with Boys for Pele playing in the background: music of my younger years when all the noise of being in this body crescendoed.
I wonder what this solo excerpt will be, outside the context of the larger work, for the viewer in Guatemala and for the other performers.
This summer I picked up studying Spanish again. It has been 20 years since I followed a boy to Spain, separated from him while there, and began recovering the dancer in me. It was the beginning of my journeying through the Rhythms of Bodily Becoming (Also see Why We Danceby Philosopher/Dancer Kimerer LaMothe) toward -”Back Toward Again”- well-being and grounding in vocation as a movement artist and as a human.
Often I wonder about what I have carried in this body to overcome. I imagine it comes from even beyond this lifetime. It feels bodily familiar the ongoing ravages of the lands and the violence toward women and indigenous peoples of the Americas and their earth-based spiritual practices. The heinous colonialism of my European lineage and the self-interest of my country still reverberate in patterns of repression and overcoming in Guatemala (in all the lands!). In the movement practices of my own overcoming, in the dances I create, I continue to ask, how can I facilitate more movement for the earth and for others toward overcoming “transcendent injustices?” (A phrase I read in Half the Sky.)
For now I will contemplate every step I take, every pass through the air and land, every exchange of words with each person I meet, and this wonderful opportunity to dance and present art in beautiful Guatemala.
Something has shifted in me. Or connected across hemispheres.
I returned home late Monday night from a marvelous experience, still energized with memories of dancing with new friends from France, Wales, Guatemala, and various parts of the United States. With a technically efficient performance and a decent audience in urban Guatemala City at IGA Dick Smith Theater, we moved onto subsequent days of movement through the lush, green landscape of mountains, deep valleys, Mayan colors, markets, churches, art, and architecture of Antigua – we even saw an ongoing erupting volcano! – and Quetzaltenango.
After a broken down bus, change of bus, and leaving behind one of the Guatemalan dancers asleep on the bus(!), we made our way to the Municipal Theater in Quetzaltenango for our second scheduled performance. A gorgeous, old theater!
Our introduction to a 3rd world experience presenting dance in a government run theater was highlighted by a memorable ending moment when the entire country blacked out in protest of the government! The backstage dancers and audience quickly turned our phones to flashlight and pointed them at the stage as the Guatemalan dancer finished his solo in silence and profound dedication to the dance. Imagine our relief when the electricity was restored only moments after our group bow!
With a sense of privilege and expectations, the European and United States dancers, myself included at moments, struggled with disappointment and confusion over the technical problems with the old theater and minimal audience. The next morning at a delightful breakfast with the two dancers from Guatemala, Josue, the dancer who finished in blackout, asked us how we felt about the performance. Before we could air our frustrations, he was quick to heartfully apologize and communicate in broken, but thoughtful English words, his apology for the experience. He went on to express that for him, as the other Guatemalan dancer nodded her head in agreement, the challenges were normal.
What Josue said was absorbed deeply into the moment as we sat at the table together, recognizing that it was this moment, these moments, that we see each other, hear each other, move with each other, that matter the most. I think the beautiful time we had together transcends the performing we came to do; it transcends applause from masses of strangers, or support and funding from governments; it is about something so much more: moving together, building connections of love and joy and laughter toward a deeply meaningful and beautiful life!
In the United States, I think we have forgotten about this in our work, in our policy, in our education and in our art. Within a structure of the 1% vs. the 99%, it is easy to be immured by the perceived obstacles toward human progression. But we must go at this progression with “oblique angles” (Marty Kahn) overcoming the hegemonic force of the systems in place that are not cultivating movement for the artist, or humanity. (I had the honor of meeting Marty today through KSD music partner, Brian Chin, of the Universal Language Project.) I believe these oblique angles are found in patterns of humility and love, and choosing to believe in forces more beautiful and higher than our own conceived aims.
This is what came home with me from Guatemala. This is the journey and the center; the shift and the connection; the truth that I have been seeking for the last few years to fulfill in my tissues. I have been cultivating patterns in hopes of movement for a beautiful life: a body-I (Kimerer LaMother) creation of moving art that matters beyond the work that I do, that is seen and reverberates beyond all suffering, repression, and control.
I may not have yet had a significant impact in Guatemala, or even Seattle for that matter, with the 2016 artwork I presented, but I was grateful to receive this from Ana Valeria, one of the few audience members in Quetzaltenango:
“I think dance is a very personal language. When I see someone dancing with learned dance steps, it’s like repeating a speech written by someone else. For me the dance is to express what words can not, and to celebrate life, expressing fear, euphoria, pleasure, emotions. It also frees the body from the oppression it is subjected to in society. It is therapy against rigidity. In your dance I could find all these factors. I thought it was very authentic, the movements unpredictable and you moved with a lot of energy; it was like watching a drama movie. For some reason I felt anxious and imagined Alice’s rabbit in Wonderland is always in a hurry and lost, but I was just a spectator watching your battle. The song you chose also complemented the movements. I felt that your body spoke directly to my body. Personally, it inspired me a lot.”
Back in Seattle this week, with travel fatigue in my body, I made my way to a regular yoga class I attend before rehearsals. At the end of class a man next to me raised his head from a forward cross-leg bend to tell me how good it was to practice next to me. I quickly responded to him admiration for his open hips in pigeon pose that we practiced earlier in the class, but withheld sharing with him my momentary envy toward his deeper pose than I have yet to achieve! He dropped his head to the mat mumbling, “That is not what I mean.” Something propelled me toward him, now registering for the first time the unusual dark glasses he had been wearing the entire class, to ask him what did he really mean. With head on the mat he croaked out the works, “My son died.” I leaned across the space between our mats and placed my hand on his shoulder, whispering words of “I am so sorry.”
Lo siento: I feel it.
From that place, he told me, it was so good to be next to such a beautiful yoga practice.
Space. Silence. A moving, still point.
The sanskrit definition of yoga means union or connection.
I told him I would be imagining for him a peace that surpasses all grief, and then I cried for a very long time in the bathroom. I cried for his suffering, and I cried for the grace of beauty that moved through me in spite of the patterns of old thoughts I am still overcoming that miss the mark toward my truest body-self.
I cried for gratefulness to continue to be, create, and inspire through the dance, moving patterns of union, connection and beauty in a world overcoming, (re)MOVEing and (re)TURNing back toward love.