photo: Frances Pollitt
Performed by Danza Contemporánea Integrada ConCuerpos. Hemispheric Institute Encuentro 2009, Auditorio Carlos Martínez, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá, 23 August 2009.
Azul (Blue), performed by the contemporary dance company ConCuerpos, is an imaginative piece exploring the interaction of differently-abled bodies and the potential of dance to envision new paradigms of social inclusion for individuals with physical or sensory disabilities. Under direction of the British dance artist Charlotte Darbyshire (formerly a member of the dance company CondoCo) and with the assistance of The British Council, ConCuerpos developed Azul, their first full-length piece. Azul was performed at the biennial Encuentro of the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics in Bogotá on August 23 at the Carlos Martínez Auditorium of the National University of Colombia. As part of the 7th Encuentro, “Staging Citizenship: Cultural Rights in the Americas,” Azul invited spectators to reflect upon the unique power of integrated dance for engaging questions of cultural and civil rights, rehearsing the implementation of equal citizenship, and enacting new modalities of belonging.
Formed in 2007, ConCuerpos is one of the first integrated dance companies in Colombia to propose contemporary dance as a form and practice for involving performers with a range of different abilities. According to Carolina Caballero Segura, one of the group’s founding members, ConCuerpos combines pedagogical and artistic approaches to create scenarios in which people with and without disabilities may explore embodiment creatively and collectively. This empowers performers through movement and removes barriers that have traditionally kept individuals with disabilities invisible and excluded from classic and modern dance performance.1 ConCuerpos has brought people together from diverse regions of the country including Bogotá, Tunja, Sincelejo, and Cali and has facilitated workshops in which participants discuss and enact discourses relating to bodies, movement, disability, integration, and the constitution of subjectivity through integrated dance.2 In 2008, the group initiated a research project called “Cuerpos IndiVisibles en movimiento” [IndiVisible Bodies in Movement], which, according to Caballero, strives to “put on the table some reflections on the body, disability, and dance in our Colombian context to promote more inclusive and integrated spaces for our society.”3The performance begins with a gradual awakening. Illuminated by a hazy blue light, the stage reveals dancers spread out in varying positions on the floor, stretching their limbs to produce a series of bodily metamorphoses. Because these six dancers begin the performance lying down, it only becomes clear later on that one of the dancers is paralyzed from the waist down and will perform the majority of the movements from her wheelchair, which is present onstage at the opening of the piece. Structured into passages accompanied by Jules Maxwell and Kenji’s playful musical score, the performance brings the dancers together in a continually transforming cosmology of movement and bodies. The spirited duet performed by Carolina Caballero and Andrés Lagos is particularly expressive, evoking the intersection of life narratives, relationships, and experiences. The props incorporated by the dancers add a surrealist, dreamlike tone to the performance. In several passages, the dancer Paulina Avellaneda achieves surprising grace while wearing flip-flops and eye-goggles. Toward the end, Christian Briceño, one of the dancers who is deaf, peers through the frame of a television set while signing to the audience. Further along, Avellaneda and Briceño introduce a hanging mobile with fish bobbing cheerfully in the empty cavity of the television set. Though playful, these original constellations of bodies and objects contribute to expanding imaginative capacity for envisioning new social realities. One of the passages that most strongly exemplifies the objectives of ConCuerpos features Luisa Fernanda Martínez, seated in her wheelchair, and Paulina Avellaneda. The dancers’ movements combine symbiotically in a duet that expands and re-imagines the boundaries of what is bodily possible.
Considered contextually, the integrating mission of ConCuerpos is timely and profoundly important given Colombia’s history of violence and the disintegration of Colombian communities, families, and bodies generated from decades of civil unrest and ongoing drug wars. The prevalent use of landmines by armed groups illustrates a disturbing development in the kinds of violence perpetuated and exercised on bodies in Colombia over the last decade. Though casualties resulting from anti-personnel landmines have decreased in recent years, Colombia still has the highest number of landmine casualties after Afghanistan and Cambodia—the Landmine Monitor reports that 7,052 people have been injured or killed by landmines in Colombia since 2002.4 In December 2009 ConCuerpos performed at the Summit for a Mine-Free World held in Cartagena, and the group plans to develop initiatives for involving landmine victims in their work.5 In the larger context of the Encuentro in Bogotá—where many of the performances, installations, and urban interventions participated in the documentation and denunciation of different forms of violence against the body—ConCuerpos presented integrated dance as a performative mode for re-signifying social formations both collectively and individually, fostering awareness of rights for those living with disabilities, and rehearsing inclusive social relationships that reconstitute subjectivities in a context of belonging through dance.
Dancers: Paulina Avellaneda, Christian Briceño, Carolina Caballero, Andrés Lagos, Laisvie Andrea Ochoa, Luisa Fernanda Martínez.
Music: Jules Maxwell, Kenji Ota
Costume and Lighting: Rafael Arévalo
Scenography: Rafael Arévalo y Marvan Helberger
Brenda Werth specializes in contemporary Latin American Theatre and Southern Cone Studies. Her areas of interest include Argentine theatre and film, memory studies, and theories of spectatorship. She has published articles on theatre’s role in the negotiation of unresolved mourning and memory politics, the intersection of media, crisis, and performance, and the confrontation of social injustice during the nineties in Argentina. She is currently working on a book project titled Dramatic Interventions: Theatre, Performance, and Memory Politics in Contemporary Argentina. She is an assistant professor of Latin American Studies and Spanish at American University in Washington DC.
1 Caballero, Carolina Segura. “Cuerpos IndiVisibles en movimiento: danza contemporánea integrada como espacio de inclusión social,” Presented in Workgroup, “The World and the Stage. Revisiting Paradigms, Envisioning Rights,” Encuentro, Bogotá, August 21-30, 2009, 2.
2 Ibid. 3
3 Ibid. (my translation) 2-3.
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