July 5, 2009

Prisma Forum, Oaxaca & DF, Mexico

Sunday July 5th, 2009
I wrote this while in Mexico City for week 2 of Prisma Forum a hybrid event that resembles a European contemporary dance festival (with all its hybridities of performance, choreography, laboratory, conference) with more participatory, communal and DIY aspects of popular social forums. Instigated by participant interests, daily plenary sessions are complimented by several seminars, round tables, and informal discussions. At least 10 daily classes or ongoing workshops, from physical techniques in somatics, dance, yoga, and chi gung, to choreography and performance making influenced by a wide range of strategies from shamanism to permaculture, discursive questioning and experiential anatomy. In the late afternoon and evening there are several performances each day. Contemporary work from emerging and experienced artists from New York, many European countries, Mexico, Brazil, Israel, South Africa, Korea and beyond. A big vision and an extraordinarily generous commitment by the small team of Mexican organizers stewards this pioneering experiment.

The highlight of the first week (held in the city & small pueblos of Oaxaca) was a brilliant talk by Amaranta Gomez, a Muxe political candidate running for federal office. To a North American queer, muxe seems synonymous with transwoman, but Amaranta was quick to request that she not be called trans. Indigenous to the Zapotecas, muxes have a traditional social role. The word muxe, adapted from the Spanish mujer, identifies males who live as women. Muxes are pre-colonial, pre-Spanish. When I asked Amaranta if she worked in solidarity with LGBT activists, she briefly spoke of common struggles with AIDS and homophobia and that she was a member of ILGA, the international lesbian/gay NGO. However, Gomez said that muxes had more in common and more solidarity work to do with feminists than with those focused on queer issues. Amaranta spoke simply, directly, warmly and with a sharp wit, addressing more intersections of issues than any pomo interdisciplinarian could imagine addressing within a single hour. She embodied and shared generously her contemporary indigenous wisdom. Her talk became an inspirational reference for many of us, and we quoted her throughout the week.

I taught a 3-day workshop called Potential Shamanic Action. Staging the class as an encounter between a European-based international community of dancers with local Oaxaqueño artists of all ages, I framed a few simple ideas (the earth is sacred, everything is connected, the border is a space not a line) for experiential explorations in ritual and performance. Over 50 people participated, of whom half were Mexicans. We're still buzzing...

I hope to write more about this amazing and complicated encuentro but I'm still travelling...