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Pradine was a first-year student at Dartmouth when she decided to take on the challenge of performing with Guillermo Gómez Peña and his professional collaborators in "Orozco Mexotica." Under the guidance and encouragement of Guillermo Gómez Peña, Juan Ybarra and Michelle Ceballos, Pradine and a group of Dartmouth students workshopped and developed their characters, and Pradine's natural talents as a spoken-word performer and dancer served her well in her final performances.
I enthusiastically leaped into the Mexotica project without really understanding performance art. I love performing and have a passion for issues revolving around –isms (i.e., sexism, racism), and other forms of social politics. Yet I had never considered, combining my interests into a multi-layered media experience. I was blown away by the complexities, the spins and turns of everyone's character. I was blown away by how rapidly we each became transformed -- almost unrecognizable -- as we delved into the meanings and purpose of our respective characters.
Being American implies a knowledge of one's cultural history while still reaching out to learn about a person's history. Being Americanized addresses not the abandonment of identity, but the willingness or ability to suffocate culture specific acts, gestures, or leanings. The suffocating culture becomes at the mercy of the current generational fad. I considered this notion of suffocation, in both projects. I wanted my audience to be able to detect a breaking, or painful tearing away from societal fads or "norms." What happens when a person is relieved from suffocation? He or she attempts to take in as much air as possible. I wanted my projects to take in the air in a similar fashion, lingering so that people may decode the messages contained.
I allowed the priestess to sweep over me. The stigma associated with voodoo being evil cart-wheeled through my mind. For many of the people who practice voodoo, it is a religious faith grounded in a belief in a divine being. Spiritual possession of the body is a humbling of self, an invitation to enlightenment and I found myself staring eye to eye with some people and I imagined that I was sifting through their thoughts, opening webbed closets, peering inside. This journey liberated me, because for that moment, that two hour span, I was able to be curious and stare straight into the eyes of anyone I chose. I was free from myself, and I allowed my frustrations to flow in waves of animalistic gestures and movement.
[on the Gómez Peña "Orozco Mexotica"
I do not believe I could have fully enjoyed this freedom had it not been for the heavy collaboration with all of the performers. In rehearsal, it is difficult to see which movements or stances exude the most energy, power and confidence. Furthermore, we engaged in a variety of exercises that made us, the student performers) more attuned to the important role of body language in performance. A simple gesture, appropriately timed, has the potential to infer a great deal of information or emotions. Taking this notion into account, we engaged in exercises that increased our familiarity with the human body. We used each other's body to create an interesting image that deals with a variety of issues. We, the performers, each had the opportunity to be the living molding clays, giving way to the creativity of our colleagues.
[on Brian Delgado's photography project]
Trusting the creative insights of colleagues in collaboration also played a crucial role in the portfolio [of photographs and poems]. In my collaboration with Brian and Angela, I provided them with poems for select photos that spoke to an issue that we wanted the audience to note. They, with some of my input, shaped the portfolio in such a way that the language of the words and of the photos do not clash. The notion of simple but complex is present in some of my poems.
I assumed my audience would understand my points of reference. In media, it is necessary to assume things about the audience. Otherwise, there would be no framework within to create and explore the art. [In my poems] I use Spanish language and make references to Malinche and Omara Portuondo. Provided that my audience understands the terms, they will draw a certain message from the photo and the poem that will differ from someone who is unfamiliar with the terms.
I truly feel I learned a lot from this project-based course, because not only was I made aware of the significance of identity (in terms of nomenclature), but I would have never had the opportunity to work with Guillermo [Gómez Peña], Michelle [Ceballos], and Juan [Ybarra]. The Mexotica project is an experience is a highlight that I will associate with LATS 41. As for what I will take from this class…funny, I never thought I would ever have to put it to words. This has been a phenomenal experience. I have met and bonded with some of the most amazing people through this course. Being the only freshman in the course was also such a treat! I listened to the experiences of the upperclassmen and have become more aware of cultural and race relations on campus. It is best for me to notice such things in my freshman year so that I can begin to work on ways to improve campus life.
It is really strange to be writing all of this, because I am realizing that the course is really over, and I doubt I will have an educational experience that will parallel or exceed this one. I sincerely hope you offer this course again. I get the feeling that people do not criticize or question the media as much as they should. Furthermore, there isn't much discussion with respect to the representation of Latinas/os. For the most part, it has been my experience that the focus, with respect to representation, tends to be on African-Americans more so than other populations.