May 30, 2003

First I dream

The Woman in Ritual Dance Company will interpret a Sor Juana Poem in the New York Fringe Festival

…Este, pues, triste son intercadente
de la asombrada turba temerosa,
menos a la atención solicitaba
que al sueño persuadía:
antes sí, lentamente,
su obtusa consonancia espaciosa
al sosiego inducía…

Fragment from First I dream from Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

By Mariana Martinez

The racetrack at the state’s athletic center seems huge and empty; the sun is coming down, giving everything a white glow.

Far away, three woman are running, two, four, six laps and then they drop to the floor to sweat just a little more. Their bodies come off as worshiped and flexible tools.

After running, they go to their capoeira or Japanese dance technique class and that’s before even rehearsing with Dora, the company’s director.

Woman in Ritual is a dance/theater performance company born in 2000, a creation of the mind and soul of the dance director and choreographer Dora Arreola, who has over 15 year of experience in performing arts. Arreola has traveled through Europe and the United States where she has studied dance and theater with many prestigious artists, including Jersy Grotowski, Suzuki technique with Marcos Martínez, Butoh dance with Diego Piñon and Yumico Yoshoica and Scene Director Techniques with Ludwick Margules. Because of her work she has been awarded several scholarships in México and the US including one by the prominent National Performance Network.

With Woman in Ritual, Dora Arreola bets on a mixture of experience and raw talent, working with four young dancers: Mara Maciel, Daniela Rodríguez, Grissel Avilés and María Vale. Her students quickly became her partners in the search of expression and passion for the movement.

Woman in ritual dance company. Photo taken by Liliana Tamayo.

Since these five woman started working together they have worked on several projects: Ofelia’s Rivers, based on a character in Hamlet; Perfecto Luna, The Stuff of Madness and De Granadas Mi Vida, all of which have participated at the Autumn Cultural Yucatán 2000 Festival in Mérida, the Durgas Woman Performing Art Festival (2001) in San Diego, California, Cuerpos en Tránsito 2001, 2002 y 2003 in Tijuana and the Fringe Vancouver’s Theatre Festival (2001) in Canada. And recently they have been invited to participate in the New York Fringe Festival, to be held in early August and couldn’t be happier.

Even though the company is fairly new, they have shined for their disciplined performances and hard work, making them the winners of the FOECA grant in 2001 and this year, Daniela Rodríguez won an individual grant for young artists.

First I dream

First I dream is one of the most famous poems by world-renowned Mexican philosopher and author, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. Born in Nepantla, México, from Spanish parents in 1651 (1649 according to some authors), she started working for the Vicereine when she was only 13 and then she entered the Geronimo’s religious order by the age of twenty one, where she soon became a nun. She was said to be of enchanting beauty and received many marriage proposals, but her life was imprinted with her on going search for knowledge in what she called “my dark inclination.”

Her work is characterized by an acute perception and a keen sense for critique for the patriarchal and inquisitory society that tended to drown women’s search of self (I wonder what she would say today…).

First I dream is one of her most known poems, where she weaves an intricate allegoric web of self search, showing her own contradictions and private fights, some of which are stunningly similar to the daily debates of today’s woman.

“One day, Dora came to practice with copies of the poem, and the next day she asked us to comment… Nobody wanted to say anything because we all found it to have a complex structure and a lot of words and figures we don’t use today,” Daniela remembers. So in order to get the production going, they asked for the help of literature professor Olimpia Ramirez who kindly helped untangle the poem to more modern understandings. Olimpia defines the poem as “an allegoric construction of the trip from the macro to the micro, going through night and day, through body and soul, among shadows or light.”

It was then that the work of Sor Juana with all her worries and anguished confessions came to be, mixed with the dancers reality, they were able to interpret the conflicts in the author’s poem.

The final performance was not just a translation of the poem into dance, but a deep analysis of existentialist worries and the many roles woman play in everyday society and the ongoing debate about those roles. The corporal narrative of the piece seems to me a time line of the different circumstances woman have been in through out the years, the many archetypes that answer to the image of “being a woman” where in some cases it means woman/mother or virgin/woman or sexed/woman, woman as an idol or the image of beauty. Woman confused between the “want” and the “should” and the many assertions of those battles.

Woman in Ritual and their work with First I dream is performed by all four dancers, with musicalization by Emil-iano López Guadarrama; member of the Baja California Orchestra, who decided to mix acoustic sounds with very recognizable pop music and in between, live performances by musicians Magdalena Loza and Leopoldo González. The lighting was designed by Guadalupe Arreola and sound design by Oscar Guzmán

The contrast between “night club music” and classic pieces interpreted live by orchestra musicians, along with the many costume changes throughout the whole performance seem to contribute to the idea of indecision and constant change, where the dancers shift from a table dance ambiance to a dark feeling of abandonment and disarticulation where the inadequacy felt by the author comes to us in the deep penetrating voice of Mara Maciel, as a way for Sor Juana to come alive once more.

First I dream

Dance performance by the Woman in Ritual Company of the Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz poem of the same name will hold its last benefit show this Friday, May 30 at the CAEN alternative forum (in the underground parking lot at CECUT) at 8:00 pm $10.00 dlls. fee to help them with the cost of going to the NY Festival in August.

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