On home, community, and renewal: A conversation about BlakTinx part 2
This is part 2 of a condensed transcript (edited by Dienae Hunter) of a conversation between Sofia Dotta and Dienae Hunter about their reflections on BlakTinx Dance Festival Phoenix 2019. In this part of our conversation we cover Solace, Mi Triste Palomar, One, Trepidity, and Nothing or No One Remains the Same.
Courtesy of BlakTinx Dance Festival photos by Ashley Lorraine Baker
SD: Let’s talk about the next piece. [Solace choreographed and performed by Alicia Lynn Castro-Nacamiento and Zarina Mendoza] This one stuck to me. I think it was the use of language and translation and the movement. It also hit home in a way of missing where you come from and not necessarily ever being able to recreate it. From the beginning, hearing “I miss the smell of coffee in the morning” in Spanish brought up such a sensorial memory of place and family, which is part of your identity and then wellness, coziness, and home. I appreciate the translation of sensory expression that so vividly cued the audience to trigger a memory or a feeling.
DH: That was so powerful and even though I don’t speak Spanish or Portugese, it was still really clear to me that food had significance to the piece, which was effective because food is such a meaningful part of culture and feeling like you’re home. My mom talks about food from her home country more than she talks about anything else. When she talks about missing Japan, she talks about the food.
SD: It’s the language of love. Besides food as language, the two performers also talked about being able to speak their own spoken language without having to feel like you’re being perceived as an outsider. There’s a freedom that comes with being able to live your culture without feeling pushed to change.
DH: The title really captures that feeling for me, that feeling of not being able to be who you would be if you were home, but trying to find some level of comfort in a foreign place. It’s not home, but it is a piece of what’s missing, which is better than nothing.
SD: That’s what I thought was so beautiful about the two performers being from different countries but talking about the same longings for home and being able to create a space for that together. There was a movement motif that where the dancers were doing this gathering motion up from the floor to their bodies, which made me think of recollecting little pieces that remind you of home, the sounds, the smells, the people and keeping them close. They were taking those pieces of home and bringing them into their cores and in the end, the two performers repeated the phrase “my body is my place”.
DH: Yeah, they were bringing those pieces into their cores because where you come from is a huge part of who you are. It was a beautiful piece. The two dancers are phenomenal technicians and performers. Seeing them lift each other was powerful for me because it brought me back to the idea of finding solace in each other and being each other’s strength to get back up and go back out into this world that is so different from home. The athleticism of the piece also spoke to how much effort goes into trying to make a new place a home.
SD: That was such an important component and visually, it worked.
DH: To expand on that, the effort is in assimilating into a culture to the extent that you need to in order to survive day to day while still remembering and holding space for where you come from. It’s this whole balancing act.
SD: That’s another reason why this piece resonated with me so much. The piece as a whole made me realize that my home is within me, so I can be my own solace and I don’t have to adopt a new identity or forget where I come from because I will always have that place in me.
DH: Absolutely, because it’s so deep. Home is so much more than your current street address, it’s a part of you and the reason you are who you are.
Courtesy of BlakTinx Dance Festival photos by Ashley Lorraine Baker
SD: It was a beautiful piece and a great way to start the second half. They brought us right back into what BlakTinx is about. Should we talk about [Mi Triste Palomar by Emigdio Arredondo Martinez and performed by Erina Ueda, Emigdio Arredondo Martinez, Michael Veluz, and Eduardo Zambrana]?
DH: I thought it was a pretty intense piece. There were some movement motifs of standing up to your fears and dancing with them instead of running away. Of course, I’m very scared of birds so that could have biased my interpretation. How about [One choreographed and performed by Shaniece Brazwell]?
SD: This piece felt empowering to me. When the performer started out in a black dress and then took it off, to me it indicated feeling comfortable in one’s skin. She was a beautiful dancer and the aesthetic of the movement was very appealing.
DH: She’s a beautiful dancer. I also thought it was about empowerment, as well as an indulgence and freedom in the body.
SD: And that’s important, especially for women of color to be able to freely express sensuality in an empowering way. It’s so necessary right now because women’s sexualities have always been so heavily monitored and stigmatized. Her presence was very strong and her control over the movement was impressive.
DH: What were your thoughts on [Trepidity choreographed by Alán Pérez and performed by Alán Pérez and Omar Canedo]?
SD: I thought they were beautiful dancers with amazing lines. They showed how impressive of a physical feat dance can be.
DH: Totally, the lines, the physicality was all beautiful.
SD: The movement reminded me of birds when they display their feathers to all the other birds. It was very masculine and showy. I was wondering if they were embodying a fight of some sorts?
DH: That’s so interesting because I interpreted it as a really caring piece. I thought it was about masculine forms of affection and how it’s hard to access that.
SD: That’s where I saw the tension because men are socialized not to care, but to fight. Finding the softness can be a challenge.
DH: This last piece [Nothing or No One Remains the Same choreographed by Hannah Victoria in collaboration with performers Azana Pierre, Armani Morten, Amanda Monteith, Zakiya Johnson, and Hannah Victoria] reminded me thematically of Leanin’ In because of how the movement motifs called upon resistance, struggle, and resiliency. In both pieces I saw recognition of the conditions of white supremacy and racism along with a refusal to accept them as being “just how things are”. For example, Bernard Brown in “Leanin’ In” used the running and the rising up to indicate that and in this piece I saw really hopeful gestures and celebration of the self, which is in itself resistance when it comes to Black and Brown bodies.
SD: The piece also used water as a theme beautifully with how the song “Take Me to the Water” by Nina Simone was layered with sounds of waves. Sometimes the tides are really, really strong and the ocean can be this powerfully destructive force, but water can also be healing and strengthening and cleansing in many ways. The piece made me think about life and how sometimes the tides are high and sometimes they’re low. The ocean is such a strong symbol of cleansing and renewal and to have that as the score for the piece also strengthened the use of a quote one of the dancers spoke during the piece “if we’re going to heal, let it be glorious”. The fight to get to shore and overcome the power of the ocean is glorious. Then, there’s the calm after the storm where the waves come up to shore and make the sand new again.
DH: Yeah, water works in cycles in that a drop of water never disappears from existence, it just takes new forms. I saw renewal in the piece in that there was a lot of upraised arms and sweeping movements that felt to me like a calling back to ancestors and harnessing the power in their lineage to honor the past in the present.
SD: The ending was so powerful. It felt like a sigh, not of relief or of worry, but a much needed breath.
DH: Exactly. And it was a great way to end the show. The piece was healing to watch because seeing an all black cast of performers in the dance world is so important and this ensemble was so powerful. When done well, ensemble performances can be incredibly moving and this was an example of an ensemble cast that really did it well.
SD: The choreographer did a good job of utilizing the entire stage space in this piece, which made everything feel that much more powerful.
DH: Totally, when the cast came forward to the very front of the stage and spoke to the audience, I got chills. I got chills just now just remembering it. For me, that broke down the barrier between audience and performer and gave me the sense that everyone in the theater, whether they were on stage or off, was connected in that we all showed up to support this kind of work.
SD: That’s something I thought of earlier, when watching Solace, that BlakTinx is a way for all of us to find solace in this community, as well as a space where Black and Latinx people are free to express and perform. While we are all different and this city might not be home for all of us, we can come together to talk about things that affect us as people of color, like heritage, memory, who we are, and where we come from.
Dienae is a movement and performance artist who is currently in ASU’s Creative Enterprise and Cultural Leadership Master’s program. Sofía Dotta is a visual artist from Venezuela based in Tempe, also a student in the Creative Enterprise and Cultural Leadership master’s program.