Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Journey of Immigration

I had the role of choreographer, along with Kathy. Choosing the theme of immigration meant that my group and I had a lot of steps to choose from. With each dance step we did, we wanted to tell the journey the immigrants must endure each and every day to come to this country. So, not only does every step mean something, it is also the order in which the steps are made that is important. The beginning of our dance signified the beginning of the journey. Every started in a circle, representing unity and the wholeness of immigrant families prior to the male’s arrival to the states. As the circle broke up, so do the families, once their father leaves to go work. After a couple dance steps, we paired up, with Jorge and I at the front of the group. This was to signify the men going off to work, hence the use of Ogum’s machetes. We Left the women behind, temporarily, just as the immigrant fathers do. The women followed doing yemanja’s sewing dance move, this was to signify how many Latin American female immigrants make and sell quilts, textiles, clothing etc.

Reaching the pavement, the group lined up in a single-file line. We all chanted “Immigrants united for justice” while throwing right and left fists. The punches were meant to signify the annual and constant protests that are held for immigrant justice, and a more liberal border policy. After that, we switched up to using yemanja’s dance move of the mirrors (still in single file line). This was to represent the immigrants looking back on their lives as they drew closer and closer to the border. Everything in their life was about to change, so we used the mirrors to show us reflecting on our lives. The next step was to have the group swim, as if to represent those who come across the US-Texas border by crossing the Rio Grande River. We also did this to show that our nation had European immigrants that came by boat centuries ago.

We tried our best to integrate themes and dance moves we learned into class into our routine. Brazilian presence was pretty obvious with our music, use of samba, and orishas. A lot of Brazilian themes were used in the scene of the crossing of the border. This was our main scene and was performed in front of the judges. We used a batucada rhythm from Carnival for our song. Yesenia and Sharron made the border, and made alternated hand gestures to show the complications and constant change of the border. It seems that legal immigration is getting harder and harder to obtain, hence the surplus in illegal immigration as of recent years. Once the border was made and the music started, the single file line in front of the border began to move forward. All of us used a move by Omolu, however we replaced the meaning to symbolize itching sunburns. The sunburns were obviously obtained from the long and difficult journey across the desert made by many Latino immigrants into the states.

Some of the group was stopped by Sharron and Yesenia, just as so many immigrants are sent back all the time. Finally, the whole group made it through the border, forming a circle. This circle was to represent the unity families and friends share once their loved ones make it to the states. We had a short celebratory dance where we danced in a circle. We used Yemanja’s dance of dipping into the water, but we altered it to fit our purpose. Once we dipped our hands down, we brought them back up, showing that once people make it to the states, there’s an abundance of goods available, that is, in comparison to their previous lifestyle. Our exit, after our miniature celebration was once again in single file line. We, yet again, used Yemanja for our dance. This time it was her dance using water (cupping the hands) but for us, we made the hands go a little lower to show the agricultural work that most immigrants are active in.

So not only were the steps in themselves significant and representative of our theme, but also the order that we did them. It started with men leaving the family, and slowly but surely, the whole family following. Then, it moved to border, where we (the immigrants) reflected on our past lives, and new life to come. We were all swimming to get to the border, and had sunburns while waiting to cross. Then we eventually crossed, celebrated, but only for a while, because we have to get to work. And that was how we ended the routine, working, most immigrants in the states never get to retire, and often work in grueling conditions.

The entire experience was full of challenges, yet was extremely fun. I am proud of our group and the work we did as we were much smaller than the rest of the groups. I found that I can definitely get frustrated easily, especially because I imagined everything to play out beautifully, but that was totally unrealistic. We had to make room for error, and our practices helped immensely to the overall performance. I needed to put trust into my team members, because I am someone who typically works solo. The whole ensemble helped me improve my tolerance/patience level, and enforced my love for dancing. I feel that our group did a great job of incorporating Brazilian themes to our subject topic of immigration. Despite many different ideas and sudden location/music changes, our performance turned out great.

1 comment:

  1. Geoff, I had no idea you were one of the choreographers. Que coisa! You all made significant strides after the dress rehearsal. I know that was rough, but you managed to really put much more analysis into the choreography, pushing yourselves to communicate clearly with each other and he audience. Parabens. A bit more effort on the costuming would've gotten you over the top.

    Your writing is effective and clear. It was very useful to hear the story of the choreography.