Multispecies dance movements through endangered worlds

Imayna Caceres über Climatic Dances von Amanda Piña / nadaproductions
 
© nadaproductions
Imayna Caceres über Climatic Dances von Amanda Piña / nadaproductions

What might happen to co-existing communities that are more-than-human, if corporate extractivism continues to be allowed to wreck life, affecting a large multiplicity of ecosystems and modes of living? For Amanda Piña, who has been observing these effects on the Apu Wamani mountain-being located near Santiago de Chile, close to where she grew up and where part of her family still lives, this is a distinctly troubling question. Through highland ritual dances, her aim is to channel the power of coming together towards active modes of co-survivance.[1]

A vulnerable address opens this performance-ritual-event, which immediately introduces Amanda Piña to us not only as a performer but as part of the web that makes her up. She turns around and disappears into the mountain in the center of the stage. The mountain breathes and she emerges with her entrails glittering on the tongue that greets us, through the darkness of her mouth. The mountain-being conjures a series of body languages performed by those co-existing with the mountain in symbiosis: the condor gliding along the air currents that surround the mountain, roots digging themselves into the soil, the embalmed body of a mummy sitting in fetal position. The dancing entity moves constantly around its own axis, following the rotational movements of the earth from which it emerges as a fold, the body folding and unfolding itself through growth and weathering. A transformation of holobiontic experience into metaphoric meaning, as a catalog of movements-with-the-other performed by the complex being which is (with) the Apu mountain. Borrowing from the anthropologist Marisol de la Cadena, one can specify that Apus are sentient entities that do not inhabit the mountains but that are the mountains, and that are in mutual relationships of care with people.[2]

The dancers work with moves and steps from ritual dances (Tipekajomeh and Wewentiyo) by the Masewal people of the Puebla highlands in Mexico. They incarnate the earth-beings they are formed by and coexist with, channeling the lands and waters from the places where they live, and in Piña’s words, ‘summiting together’. Her idea is to “think how we understand the bodies of other beings and to think of the mountain as a holobiont”.[3] Piña’s intent is for her audience to hear, see and witness the will, the desire and the agency of the mountain, how it manifests to her and those forming life communally. She emphasizes that her work “is not a representation of the cosmologies of other peoples” but instead what she knows the world to be like. She reflects that whether it is the connection to the ground or the way of articulating the body, the use of the body in the theater is different to how the body takes part in the communal ritualist dances of first nations of the American continent. And she experiences being with earth-beings “through ecosomatic practices, as a practice of decolonial ecology”. I understand what Amanda means when she says that the ritualist dance is ‘practical’, as it directly addresses the circumstances impacting people in their daily lives.[4]

Traditional ritual dances, unlike what their name seems to suggest, don’t remain static. Rather, each body that dances it transforms the dance, and so the dance continues to grow like a living being. These dances constitute a body-based knowledge that understands ‘humans’ as having been artificially separated from ‘nature’, and recognizes symbiotic relations to other earth-beings, maintaining an invested relationality with the whole of the cosmos. As practices of reciprocity that retain an awareness of our radical interdependence, and where the artistic is spiritual, social, functional and worldly, intertwined with all spheres of life. Facing the current multiple socioecological crises, we urgently need artistic practices that (as Climatic Dances does) apply and intersect with alternative ways of creating knowledge through plural modes of existing, thinking, and moving with others.

 

[1] I have been in the presence of mountain-beings in different parts of the Andes, but not of Apu Wamani. This partial view of the Apu Wamani (Cerro el Plomo) https://bit.ly/wamani aided me in forming a mental image of the meaning of ‘summiting’.
[2] ‘Sentient entities’ is the term used by Marisol de la Cadena to describe earth-beings in Earth-Beings: Ecologies of Practices in Andean Worlds (2015).
[3] Holobiont refers to an “assemblage of a host and the many other species living in or around it, which together form a discrete ecological unit”, as conceptualized by the microbiologist Lynn Margulis.
[4] Piña adds that the companies operating in the region she investigates are Anglo American plc and a consortium of the U.S.-owned AES Gener and the Austrian company Strabag SE.

 

Imayna Caceres is an artist and researcher interested in the makings of communities in more-than-human worlds. Drawing from alternative modes of being in the world, she engages with forms of knowledge that exceed the dichotomies of modernity and Western knowledge. Her work takes various forms, such as ritual and relational practices, digital and analog drawing, video, projects in public space, and writing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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