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THE BUZZ: Blurred Borders Dance Festival: nexus of creativity and exchange


Blurred Borders Dance Festival: nexus of creativity and exchange

Article by Rebecca Romani

The fierce Chicana poet, Gloria Anzaldua, once said something marvelous about borders and how they intersect. According to Anzaldua, that intersection is not some barren angst-ridden void waiting to be named, but an unbelievable nexus of creativity and exchange. A space where ideas flow and ebb and elide and culture shifts around like pebbles in a tumbler.

It’s an idea not too far from what the Blurred Borders Dance Festival under the direction of Patricia Rincon of the Patricia Rincon Dance Collective (PRDC) has grown to be over the last 16 years. From a simple tour of a few international choreographers, the festival has gained a reputation for cutting edge, innovative collaborations with dancers and creators across the globe and across the border

This year’s festival, from May 22-23, performed at the UC San Diego Dance Studio Theatre, enlarged that creative space through a thought-provoking interweave of video, dance, sound, and hybrid spoken word that draws on sources as varied as yesterday’s Buzzfeed and the timeless poses on temples in Asia.

Rincon looked to parts both east and slightly south for the first half of the program. Inspired by the Tibetan Nuns Project and photography by Canadian Brian Harris, the first piece, “mara,” was a gorgeous, lyrical short film shot at the Sweetwater Zen Center in National City. “mara,” featuring a beautiful, stopped down look hovering just above black and white, and elegantly edited by the video’s photographer and editor, Roosevelt Ulloa, takes the idea of the self in meditation, and factors out the unquiet and inquiring mind. The sound design, featuring Brian Harris’ recordings of natural sound made hyper real was particularly intriguing. Director Natalia Valerdi, Associate Director of the PRDC, choreographed a multi-level dance, featuring the same, long-limbed, controlled dancer, Sarah Navarrete as both meditator, and aspects of the self which try to pull the meditator into the chattering now- suggesting that we can all be at once a manifestation of the meditating Buddha and the distractions that “mara” represents.

“Mara” gave way to the premier performance of “Mara’s Daughters,” an elaboration on the same theme of distractions that tempt the meditating mind, but this time with an expanded sound track and two dancers, Sarah Navarrete and Bonnie Lee. Again, in her solo, Navarrete displayed an elegant, controlled interpretation of Valerdi’s choreography. While there was nothing particularly daring about the moves, the interweaving of poses with a sound design that borrowed from the video’s natural sound track was both striking and cleanly executed.

Lee’s solo was both exciting and a little puzzling. Lee’s movements drew deeply on the vocabulary of Cambodian temple dancers and the storytelling movements of Indian dance with beautifully articulated hand and foot poses. It was interesting to note a possible unintended shadow play on the wall thanks to the deftly hung lighting design that recalled South Asian shadow puppets. However, it wasn’t clear if giving Lee this choreography was based on her excellent execution of the movements, or because she is Asian.

Together, Lee And Navarrete created lovely, if somewhat at times mistimed pas de deux. Dressed simply in white shorts and tops, Lee and Navarrete commanded the stage in a graceful, supple yet controlled synthesis of their two individual parts.

Drawing on the idea of reclaiming what women might be and say was the premier of “Better Metaphors” by Kristin Idadzak and choreographed and performed by Erin Tracy. Idaszak, based in Chicago, has received numerous awards for her work and will be a fellow at the Sundance Theatre Institute. Tracy, currently pursuing her MFA at UCSD, has had her work shown in major venues throughout the US and has received various grants to develop her provocative and original pieces.

Smart, funny and on point. “Better Metaphors” picked up the discussion of women’s voices and power where ‘Mara’s Daughters” left off. Unlike the two-person dance piece, “Metaphors” was a one woman, spoken word performance that was at once sexy, straight shooting and ready to challenge social stereotypes.

Dressed in a red dress with an almost dead white face, Erin Tracey teased the audience with charade movements that led to pithy moments such as the truth about the graham crackers being pulverized beneath her feet.

Graham crackers, Tracey pointed out, were originally developed to help women overcome their sexual desires. From there, it was a short hop, skip and an oh so decorous jump to bland ideas designed to keep women so distracted they don’t realize that power and intelligence equals both sexy and dangerous. Part of the continuing problem, Tracey suggested, is that the very fact the term “feminism” is up for discussion again is part of a campaign of distraction to weaken female civic participation.

Tracey’s timing was impeccable and her witty, sometimes sardonic deliveries propelled Idadzak’s brilliant script through the grinding of the graham crackers layered over sharp observations of how women have been controlled and sometimes contribute to their own regulation. The ultimate end involved a clear call for women to take back their power, and to use all that distracting state of the art domestic machinery to vacuum up the bland and replace it with some straight up straight talk by someone that knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to go get it herself.

Moving on with the theme of work and group dynamics as a way to keep people in line, the Mexican dance collective, Lux Boreal, delivered an intriguing look at how technology both connects and alienates us.

“QR Move” was a brilliant series of quotations ranging from references to the Borg to elements of Fritz Lange’s ‘Metropolis” with its synched up choreography and lighting design by Henry Torres and Justin Humphries, which cast a metallic pall over the dancers. All six dancers were dressed in dark suits and subtle shirts, reminiscent of the Amish, used as shorthand for collective.

Choreographers Angel Arambula and Octavio Dagnino made excellent use of the space as the dancers moved from perfect precision to cogs in the machine desperate to break out, only to be worked back in by their partner cog. In the end, none of the cogs permanently broke out and the metaphor moved on to a collective chaos from which no one escapes. Even when moving in angled lines, following an assembly line pattern, the dancers were perfectly in synch, elegant, clean movements underlying the chilling beauty of the dystopia of conformity through technology.

Now one year past its quinceanera, the Blurred Borders Dance Festival is moving ever deeper into Anzaldua’s borderlands where race, gender, voice and affiliation present ever more pressing questions as to who we are when we live on and over a border. Rincon continues to inspire an exciting collaboration between multiple disciplines and a dynamic insight into the live wire artistic work being created just beyond the checkpoints.

Hopefully, this is a harbinger of the quality and diversity of PRDC events to come this year. Keep en eye on them. It’s not often that this depth of creative collaboration between artists on both sides of the border comes together in such striking spaces.

You owe it to yourself not to miss the next one.

Vanguard Culture

Vanguard Culture is an online media entity designed for culturally savvy, socially conscious individuals. We provide original interviews and reviews of the people, places, and events that make up San Diego’s thriving arts and culture community, as well as curated snapshots of the week’s best, most inspiring and unique cultural and culinary events. We believe in making a difference in the world, supporting San Diego’s vibrant visual and performing arts community and bringing awareness to important social and community causes.

One Comment

  1. […] I was thrilled to work with the talented dancers Sarah Navarrete and Bonnie Jiyoung Lee through the Patricia Rincon Dance Collective’s Blurred Borders Dance Festival, where I serve as Associate Director. Thanks to the encouragement and support of Patricia Rincon, Mara’s Daughters was welcome by audiences and received a wonderful review by Rebecca Romani, writer for Vanguard Culture called “Blurred Borders Dance Festival: nexus of creativity and exchange.” […]

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