Choreographing borderlands : Chicanas/os, dance, and the performance of identities
“Choreographing Borderlands: Chicanas/os, Dance, and the Performance of Identities” examines the unexplored work of barrio-based dancemakers who choreograph and rehearse the diverse political, cultural and emotional contours of Chicana/o life, thought, and borderlands worldviews. As creative concert dance practices that figuratively and literally per/form at the margins, the borders of both American and Mexican national cultures, I argue Chicana/o concert dance operates as an embodied site to house memory, acts as an important archive for Chicana/o history, structures space to interrogate culture, and in the process asserts a new aesthetics (repertoire) for Chicana/o dance and American concert dance more broadly. My project departs from the 1960-70s Chicano Arts Movement and situates today’s contemporary works within the cultural and artistic legacies produced through decades of innovation and reinvention. My dissertation brings the fields of dance, performance, and Mexican-American/Chicana/o Studies into conversation to consider the Chicana/o dance body as a site for identity production and contributes to larger conversations about race, class, gender and ethnicity and how they are per/formed through body and movement. The choreographies I analyze are Danza Floricanto/USA’s Alma Llanera: Spirit of the Plains (2009, 2014), Guadalupe Dance Company’s Historias y Recuerdos (2010), Latina Dance Project’s Coyolxauhqui ReMembers (2009), and the Aztlan Dance Company’s Loterialandia (2013). These case studies illustrate how dance chronicles Chicana/o barrio history, claims agency to remake tradition, and opens space to articulate contemporary Chicana/o aesthetics in movement culture. Each chapter is arranged thematically around recurring Chicana/o tropes and aesthetics practices. By locating Chicana/o choreographers and their respective companies in space, place, and time, I demonstrate how dancemakers actively participate in giving voice, body, and visibility to Chicana/o subjectivity through dance and contribute to larger genealogies and trajectories of Chicana/o cultural production and performance.