My name is Amanda Piña.

I am a choreographer and dancer.
Maybe it is important to mention that I have mixed heritage, so I do not identify only with one country, which is not unusual in the Americas. My father is Mexican, my mother is Chilean. On my mother’s side we have Syrian-Palestinian ancestors, Lebanese who emigrated to the Americas, to Argentina and then to Chile, at the beginning of the 20th century – at a time when young people were being drafted into the Ottoman army. The parents of my mother’s grandfather decided to send their son away and never see him again, instead of sending him to be cannon fodder on the front line. At that time, this was very difficult. It is different for me living away from my parents: today we have WhatsApp and I’m in daily contact with them. 

I grew up in Chile under the dictatorship and would go to visit my father in Mexico every year. When the dictatorship officially ended – it didn’t really, because the structures continue to be very authoritarian today – I was 19 years old.

I differentiate between dance and danza, to emphasise the difference from the Western canon of beauty in classical, modern and contemporary dance. Which, in a way, is very much linked to issues present in Western thought or modern colonial thought: they are enacted through that concept of dance and that concept of the body Amanda Piña

The moment I finished theatre school I went to Mexico, where my father had invited me to live with him. In Mexico, I considered studying anthropology. But I couldn’t learn that way: there were classes where you had to sit for three hours on a very small chair, with just one break of fifteen minutes – this was very uncomfortable. I did not want this. My friends were anthropologists and friends of people from indigenous communities who had come to study anthropology. So we took trips to these friends’ communities: this was like an initiation trip to the desert. It had a very strong impact on me, because I decided I could not do this type of learning, sitting and digesting knowledge that somebody is passing on from a book. But I remained interested in anthropology and other forms of knowledge, other forms of being or existence. 

I had a friend at the time who was an anthropologist and she told me: »You know, we are going to a dance class and we’re going to become dancers and choreographers.« So she led me along this path I did not expect. Because I didn’t do dance when I was a child – I was more of a tomboy.  

I went to dance classes out of an anthropological interest; this was the entry point. 

There are so many danzas in Mexico: it is so rich and diverse.
White, Western dance is a very small context, but it’s full of different manifestations of danza. I differentiate between dance and danza, to emphasise the difference from the Western canon of beauty in classical, modern and contemporary dance. Which, in a way, is very much linked to issues present in Western thought or modern colonial thought: they are enacted through that concept of dance and that concept of the body. Dance was not really my main interest: I had to do dance in order to gain the authority to be able to do what I wanted to do –, which was not only white dance, I guess. I didn’t understand its abstract nature, the abstraction that is apparent in a way because it’s not real. The abstraction of the theatre or the museum is never abstract. It appears abstract, it appears detached. In a way, it’s similar to the Western concept of knowledge and related to the idea that you have to know something from a distance, which means you have to isolate it from everything it is related to, which is a very violent gesture. 

Danza is a much more integrated concept of dance: you cannot separate it from everyday life, you cannot separate it from the cycles of nature and the calendar, the stars and how much the sun shines or not. Danza is not abstract but rooted in earth and the community. 

»Endangered Human Movements«, has to do with remembering. Remembering other forms of existence, of thinking, of being in the world, of knowing. Amanda Piña

»Endangered Human Movements«, as you asked me, has to do with remembering. Remembering other forms of existence, of thinking, of being in the world, of knowing. I once worked with a shaman, a Mara’akame from north-east Mexico, on a piece called The Jaguar and the Snake. I invited Rolando Vázquez, a scholar and decolonial thinker and when we were sharing together, I asked him: 

»Rolando, can you explain to Maestro Katira – who is a wise man with a lot of knowledge, but not in the Western sense – can you explain to him what decolonial thought is?«

First, he thought: »Oh! How am I going to do that?« Then Rolando told him: 

»Maestro Katira, coloniality is the imposition of forgetting. It makes people forget that there are other forms of being together, of knowing, of understanding the world, of existing – of making a body. Decoloniality is the act of remembering all those things that have been dismembered by coloniality. Decolonial thought is the pearl of memory.« 

 

I think this project »Endangered Human Movements« has to do with that, with remembering, by enabling those forms of being to reappear in the world through our bodies. So it’s not only remembering something that has been, it is an active remembering that makes the past exist again in another context, in the context of art or … I feel that somehow we are dealing with ancestral forms of movement, ancestral forms of understanding, of being and relating to each other, and there is something that reappears – and when it does so, it not only speaks with words, it manifests itself in the flesh.

The choreographer and performer AMANDA PIÑA has been collecting movements and dances that are threatened with extinction in her archive »Endangered Human Movements« for many years. In this text, she introduces herself and her work.