Story of a Skirt ~ Seafoam Skirt
Since 2020 I have been working with a white folklorico practice skirt in dance performances for stage and screen. It has shown me the many layers of art making. We are celebrating three years working with this teacher. Here is it's story thus far...
I contacted Ballet Folklorico Mexicano de Carlos Moreno in San Leandro in November 2020 for a custom order, a white Folklorico practice skirt. We needed the longest measurements possible to fit dear Annalise. Upon picking up the order, Carlos Moreno Jr. greeted me in their colorful shop brimming with costumes varying in design based on region. He shared some of the history of the school, one of the first performing companies in the Bay Area sharing Mexican Folklorico Dance in the late 60's. His father had opened the school, and during the early days when they had to drive down to Mexico to pick up ribbons and other costuming, they started having friends make requests to bring back goods for them. Soon their cars were loaded with more fabrics and sewing materials than they had room for, upon which they decided to open the costume shop as well. All these years later, they still perform and tour the surrounding areas with their dance school. And their shop stands in a beautiful building tucked into a residential neighborhood. I had the privilege of learning all this and that Carlos Moreno Sr. had sewn my costume himself.
For me this opened new possibilities to connect with my ancestors. I remember the first time putting on the skirt and immediately finding my feet stomping to rhythms that lived in my bloodline. While I had never taken a Folklorico class, though I had seen several performances, something was just coming out of me and through my body. The weight of the layers of fabric begged to be swirled and swayed, picked up and spun, twirled and moved beyond just draping. And the wind that passed as I spun in my living room rippled the posters on the wall, and brought down the dried flowers. To create wind. To live in folds of fabric that brimmed with life. To be tied into a piece of family.
Annalise and I began rehearsing in Golden Gate Park in December of 2020. While social distancing was still recommended, we laid out our individual Mexican blankets (fitting), and started to play and explore possibilities. As two individuals who had been trained in ballet and modern dance (western dance forms) was it possible for us to listen to the stories of our ancestors and weave together movements that were true to our bodies? True to our lived experiences and what we knew. It was important to us that we weren't replicating or trying to do Folklorico, neither of us had the training or ability to pay homage, we were curious to find something new. Something that honored us as 21st century adults, with a desire to connect to ancestry, something that saw our mixedness. In the space of inbetween where we occupy. I remember reeling on the floor verklempt with beauty as Annalise jumped and spun with joy. That white fabric sparkled on the backdrop of the green grass. A few shots I took on my camera made me melt. It was joy. And so we continued meeting up in Golden Gate Park, and prepped for our film that was to be shot and edited in early 2021 into "Speranza."
In early 2022, I traveled to Nova Scotia with my suitcase half full of the skirt to experiment and work on the material. Some themes were connected, some new questions arose. It was three days of continuous chipping at the stone to reveal the beauty at the core.
And then again in 2023, as we readied for the performances of Upwelling: the next iteration, I faced new challenges. I had made choreography into film before, but had I tried the reverse? Something built for film and then redesigned for the stage. It was a new challenge, one I was up for. Annalise and I began working at Shawl-Anderson Dance Center exploring the possibilities, while Joe Krempetz worked on designing new music. This piece, with influence of the film, would take on themes of seafoam, seawitch, and octopus-sensitivity. We were well into the remaking. Alas, the performances went well and Annalise found her own connection to the material and the music that were lovely. While we had workshopped this new piece, it still felt like a version not yet fully realized.
It wasn't until I got the opportunity that Fall to perform with the FACT/SF Summer Dance Lab. I put back on the skirt and began the restaging process, this time on my own body. I pulled the material directly from Annalise's version, though changed some of the facings to adapt to the new space. In the process of re-establishing the opening, I explored some of our original ideas. Could there be more sensitivity in the hands, what was possible in traversing the floor? Alas, I found a version that would work and performed it August 26, 2023.
Annalise was the first to re-watch and exclaimed as if she had never seen it before. Well, she hadn't. She had always been on the inside, and video footage of rehearsal material couldn't quite do it justice. We had spent so many hours rolling and playing and discovering in that skirt. Now I finally felt it shared its story. A story of who we are, honoring where we've come from, and where we are now. Part seawitch, part octopus, part beacon calling to the benevolent ancestors, part Mexican, part of us. The skirt became part of us. An expression of what's possible. As I share the video with you, I hope you'll feel a little more understanding with the story of where it came from. I feel that this skirt has made its three year cycle and I am ever grateful for the input each kind soul contributed. Who knows where it will go next.
Inspiration ~ Blue Mind
This book came into my life nearly 10 years ago. When I was a student at UC Santa Cruz, the author came and gave a guest lecture about sea turtle restoration and nesting habitat protection followed by his signature gift of a blue marble. I received my first inkling into this blue planet society.
This book shares so much insight, but what I keep coming back to is the many ways we can find blue mind in our lives. So much of our day is chaos, so much is stress, so much of living in society is a hardening, overstimulated, frantic world we just get through. And this moment of pausing, finding a body of water, taking a moment to connect with your own body of water and with the others around you. Change is possible.
I find that I use this as my choreographic lens. I want to make soothing, peaceful art that encourages those watching to connect with themselves and lean into this blue mind space. “A restful involuntary attention” that which Nichols speaks of when taking about the repetition and novel patterns in water. It both keeps your attention and allows your mind to find a restorative space of calm and peace. It is a feeling, to create movement that feels like sitting by water. To use my dance composition knowledge, to engage the viewer, and also to fall into this intuitive space of what feels good, for both dancer and viewer. Blue Mind continues to find new pathways in my knowing, I hope it does for you too. Find out more here.