luciana achugar’s trajectory has performed a constant theorization on the modes of production of dance. The working title of her new piece, Labor Brujx, resonates with her long-time engagement with exposing dance as a form of labor. This links her to a broader feminist tradition that has collapsed the distinction between productive and reproductive labor. Indeed, feminism’s major critique of Marxism has consisted in putting at center stage forms of labor — domestic, sexual, affective — that had never been recognized as such, but which are vital to the reproduction of labor-power. Capitalism, on its part, has always preyed on forms of unwaged and gendered labor, and has therefore depended on the constant disciplining and devaluing of female bodies. This entails a perpetual Witch-hunt. In this context, as Silvia Federici shows, the Witch (the Brujx) has historically embodied a resistance to the capitalist logics of expropriation and colonialism, and has thus stood for a transformative practice that produces alternative forms of care, healing, female organization, and survival. As achugar herself mentions in an interview with Lucía Naser, her brujx reference is inspired by the chants of the women’s marches in Montevideo: “we are the granddaughters of all the witches that they weren’t able to burn.”
In this sense, achugar brings to the space of performance a conceptual questioning that is inspired by the recent women’s strikes in the Southern Cone: What does it mean to stop working-dancing (for capitalism)? How can we go on strike against the constant commodification of the bodies and movements of dancers? How do we interrupt their incorporation into a larger scale of consumption and profit? In other words, how do we brujx, how do we dance against the grain of an age of neoliberal performance? (Lepecki)
achugar’s answer is an artistic and political practice that espouses a non-hierarchical relationship between the choreographer – the authorial figure – and the dancers. The collectivization and public staging of the creative process works against the usual “choreopolicing” of dancer’s bodies (Lepecki). This aim is rooted in an alternative way of conceiving the dichotomy between rehearsal and performance. Through a ritualistic and demanding collective preparation that she calls “The Practice,” she organizes a space where dancers experiment and seek forms of non-commodifiable bodily pleasure. In her own words, which she used to describe her piece Otro teatro, the performance itself is the “moment of sharing the memory of the process.” Dancing in this context is not an autonomous act separated from the historical memories of the collective resistance that informs it – the fight against dictatorship and neoliberalism in Uruguay, the Occupy movement in New York, the Latin American and women of color feminist revolts – but rather pretends to configure a dimension that is contiguous with it, a practice that shows the material conditions of possibility and the kind of sociability implicated by the historical dimension of every creative act.
Laura Juliana Torres-Rodríguez, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor at NYU Department of Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Literatures. Her research focuses on the intersection between Latin American feminist thought and Marxism.