Floricanto’s Journey at CounterPULSE

Floricanto’s Journey at CounterPULSE

Gema Sandoval is a Performing Diaspora Resident Artist at CountePULSE.

See her and Danza Floricanto/USA at weekend 1 of Performing Diaspora, November 12-15.

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Floricanto’s Journey at CounterPULSE

Although I have worked as a dance artist and choreographer for over 30 years, I am still a neophyte to many aspects of the creative process. And while I understand that this is due in part to my folk dance background (limited flexing of the creative muscles), the road I have chosen for the coming years, demands that I get better at listening to my artistic voice, clarifying my choices, and choosing the proper mix of past and present to create the hybrid that I am looking for.

The blogs were particularly helpful in finding this voice.   Prior to this process I had not really been aware of how my own  past has

influenced my creative choices. When I realized this, I understood so much about my dance creations and about where I was trying to go artistically. It helped me plan my next steps.  And  to understand what my creative process needs to be.

The “works in progress” sessions were another wonderful revelation. The Liz Lerman Creative Response format used was a great tool for eliciting audience response in a constructive, choreographer/dancer friendly manner. It helped me to both clarify whether my ideas came across clearly to the audience and to strengthen my resolve in my artistic choices. It felt as if my work was being taken on the road like a Broadway musical, before coming back to a better, stronger, more cohesive premiere performance. That was a great luxury!!! Muchas Gracias, CounterPulse.

What I actually learned was how to tell my story better. And this is where the dancers’ growth came into play. Folklorico attracts dancers with very traditional values usually coupled with close family ties to Mexico. And the dances they learn closely mirror and reinforce these values.

When I decided to follow my muse in the development of Chicano dance, I knew I needed to work with Mexican folk dancers because I needed their footwork skills which take years to develop.  These are an integral part of my new dance vocabulary.   Yet, as we worked to develop these new pieces, no matter how hard I tried, I wasn’t able to completely reassure the dancers that it was OK to veer from the path they knew so well and dance with conviction in this new way. They did what I asked of them because of the wonderful relationship and trust we have with each other. But a dancer needs an audience to make the creative cycle complete. And through the “public process” they were able to draw the inner strength they needed  to make meaningful movements within this new context. As the final product will show, they have helped me evolve this new genre in a very genuine way. Thanks to the “works in progress” sessions I believe the transition I needed the dancers to make in order to continue our growth together has happened. They now see themselves, not just as folk dancers, but as dancers.

After our week at CounterPulse we will be returning home to Los Angeles and continue working on a full evening, two hour production of Alma Llanera-Spirit of the Plains which will premiere on April 9th, 2010 at the Armory for the Arts in Pasadena. From the Diaspora Festival we take away the certainty that we can do this next step well.  We will try to replicate the Creative Response process a few times before this final production and I might even start blogging about my work on a regular basis.   And, while I don’t know if I have created a new dance genre, I know I am well on my way towards my version of Chicano dance.   It has been an eye opening growth experience-for all of us in the company. I thank CounterPulse for their vision to “work towards a world that celebrates diversity of race, class, cultural heritage, artistic expression, ability, gender identity & sexual orientation” and for including us as part of that vision.

One Comment

  • Anna

    Felicidades Gema….the work you have created really blew my mind…the rich mix of pop and traditional movements, the complexity and creativity of the choreography and the costuming, the voice of the child narrator, the energy and polish of the youth dancers of all size and ages so confident and beautiful… just seeing them dance in the very first piece brought tears to my eyes that i couldn’t seem to get rid of (I have seen dance for many years, and I think this is the first time this has ever happened to me.) To me it represents pride in being the Mexican American children of immigrants and the unique beauty and culture of Los Angeles. Thank you for this beautiful work. I am writing all my friends in LA to tell them to save April 9 on their calendars. I would even go there to see it again. Congratulations to all of the dancers…they did such a beautiful job.

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