Review from El Universal! (Translated) / by Nicole Baker

  Song for Cello and Piano  (2017)

Song for Cello and Piano (2017)

Avant-Garde: danza multicultural

BY JUAN HERNÁNDEZ

The National Network of Festivals has been reduced due to the disinterest of the National Institute of Fine Arts, through the Dance Coordination. It has ceased to be a guiding axis for the decentralization of choreographic activity, as well as an instrument to generate dance culture in the country.

In spite of everything, there are some festivals that maintain their activities, among them the Avant-Garde Festival, directed by Cristóbal Ocaña, in Yucatán. In particular, we emphasize this event by the peculiarity of its vocation. If dance festivals in Mexico is already rare, in the context of the current artistic activity, the Avant-Garde is twice as important.

The Yucatán dance festival is focused on the attention of vulnerable groups: people living with HIV, victims of sexual assault, indigenous Mayans, among others, who attended this dance event.

Avant-Garde is a festival with a social responsibility. It is not about keeping art as a privilege of the elites, but the festival's goal is to take it to the undeserved community in Mexican society. It's director, Cristóbal Ocaña, has had to find the resources to support such a project.

This year, Eryc Taylor Dance, a New York company with ten years of work, gave movement workshops to people of the Mayan community of Chocholá, as well as to girls who have been victims of sexual violence.

The objective of the workshops is to empower vulnerable groups and offer them a tool to recognize themselves as a person of dignity and rights. This is done through an introspection work, based in movement.

Eryc Taylor taught a choreography to the participants as a product of the week's workshops. The structure may have been simple, but the young people enjoyed the memorable experience. The piece was presented, first, in the esplanade of the Municipal Palace of Chocholá and, later, in the monumental José Peón Contreras Theater, in Mérida, the capital of Yucatán.

The Avant-Garde Festival is an independent artistic activity of Umbral Danza Contemporánea, AC, it also had support from the Municipality of Chocholá and the Ministry of Culture of Yucatán, a relationship that opened the doors of the José Peón Contreras Theater for the performances of Eryc Taylor Dance, on November 18 and 19.

The Eryc Taylor Dance, company with residence in New York, presented three choreographies in Chocholá, and five in the José Peón Contreras Theater. The outdoor function was a challenge, since the works were made for a conventional theater. However, the creator adapted a program that offered artistic rigor, to an audience that rarely has access to this type of cultural activities.

In the José Peón Contreras Theater, on the other hand, the American company offered choreographies Chaise Lung (1992), The Box (2015), Song for Cello & Piano (2016), The Missing (2010) and the Yucatán premiere of the work Cycles , with the dancers Taylor Ennen, Nicole Baker, Chris Bell, AJ Guevara and Alex Tenreiro Theis.

Having experience of the daily life in the Big Apple, the creator has a refined cosmopolitan language that formed the presented pieces. They offered a wide range of styles: from the gestural and theatrical humor of the piece Chaise Lung , with a stylized tango, to the deep emotionality of the solo The Missing , played with passion and dedication by the dancer Nicole Baker, or the abstract and sober language of Cycles, with contemporary electronic music.

The production of the works offer a sample of the interdisciplinary work, in which composers, costume designers, lighting and technical designers participate. The choreographies by Eryc Taylor, who is a keen stage creator, seek to introduce in his dances styles of movement, coming from the academic language of ballet, the expressive freedom of contemporary dance, popular dances and street dances, such as hip hop.

The Eryc Taylor Dance dancers enjoy the freedom to develop a personal way of moving, exploring their temperament, enhancing their personality and putting their life experiences at stake.

The multicultural feature of the company's cast is very significant in the era of current US President Donald Trump. Eryc Taylor is taking on the challenge "to create bridges, not walls", in such a way that their cast expresses the plurality of the identities of the world.

Chris Bell is an African-American dancer, AJ Guevara has Filipino roots and Nicole Baker is white-skinned. The multiculturalism of the cast is important, and in the current era, it is a political stance in itself. And so Taylor assumes this stance as a response to intolerance, racism and hate speech.

The New York company was presented for the third year in a row at the Avant-Garde Festival, an initiative that is part of the Umbral Danza Contemporánea, AC projects, an organization that has insisted on operating against the official cultural policy and adhering to the needs and demands of the most vulnerable groups in their immediate environment.

  Cycles (2017)

Cycles (2017)