Embodying Resilience

April 15, 2020

 

When I think back to the night of our final performances, I am reminded of the tears,
the pain, the song, the dance, the fireworks and the love. I think about the collective healing
and resilience that took place that night, and the strong sensation and awareness of
connectivity with the land, the past, the present, and one another that I felt. Not only were we
danzando nuestras historias, but we were collectively comprehending the drastic changes from
the global pandemic, expressing our mutual but unique pain and heartbreak from the
abrupt end of our time together, and articulating our profound love for one another and the
group as a whole. 


To me, this night was more than an act of rebellion, more than an act of resistance— it
was an act of resiliency. As a community, we cultivated an intimate space to show our lived
human experiences. Amidst the global crisis, on a scale that most of us have never lived
through, we remained rehearsing the change we wished to see in the world; connecting to
native traditions amidst the brutal forces of military and capitalism, connecting and persevering
with spirituality through the institutions of organized religion, sustaining the strength and
message of Ecuador’s manifestations, and returning to an equilibrium between human beings
and the natural world. All of these topics are intrinsically interrelated to each other, as well as
to the current global crises.

 
However, the current global crises are more than “capitalism and neoliberalism’s version of democracy”, or even the COVID-19 pandemic. According to indigenous pedagogy, “the central crisis is spiritual," “rooted in the increasingly virulent relationship between human beings and the rest of nature” (Magnat, 221). A large majority of humans, especially in the western world, are so disconnected from their roots, land, water, food and Madre Tierra as a whole. Living by false visages of connectivity through capitalistic technology, and solely seeing land as natural resources and property, the harmony and balance of our earth’s ecosystem has been ruptured. I understand the COVID-19 pandemic as a direct result of this disequilibrium. 

 

Disease and environment are directly correlated. A large majority of infectious diseases
that affect humans are zoonotic, and evolve from humans encroaching into wild lands, whether
it be for poaching, wildlife trafficking, deforestation and natural resource exploitation. This virus
is the natural world’s response to this disequilibrium, and also reminds us of nature’s resiliency
and strength. I conceptualize this human pandemic as the natural world’s attempt at combating
the virus—the virus being humans. Moreover, if humans continue living in this manner, we will
die. However, I am not hopeless. 


We as a society have the tools, knowledge, and wisdom to return to this equilibrium.
We must look to our ancestor’s way of knowing, being, living, and understanding the world in
order to find balance again. 


Throughout all of our presentations, the act of healing these uneven relationships was
portrayed through dance, rhythm, and song. But these methods of storytelling were not only
for theatrical effect. They were rebellious acts of embodying decolonization, a pushing away
from “dominant Western culture’s denial and repression of the body, and of experience as a
source of knowledge” (Magnat, 216). By creating these performances, we were collectively
breaking out of the “cage of oppression”, where forces of historical colonization and continued
oppression systematically confine and shape one’s body, and one’s life, “restricting or
penalizing motion in any direction” outside of the cage (Magnat, 72). Instead we made a safe

space without borders, a circle that always opened wider, in which we can embody the past,
understand the present, and rehearse the change needed for the future. 


These methodologies are radical, but they are not new. We are learning directly from
indigenous methodologies and knowledge systems which embody their knowledge through
dance, story, theater, song, drumming and ceremony. While colonialism has tried to separate
the mind and body, life and art, we return to a mind-body/ life-art duality, connecting not only
with the soil beneath us, but the other bodies and spirits around us. This harmony that our
ancestors can teach us, will help us heal ourselves, the earth around us, and reconnect with our
indigenous ways of knowing and being. 


On a more personal level, the song, dance, and energy of these performances drew me
out of my sorrow. I walked into class feeling a deep sadness within my heart that I would have
to leave Ecuador due to the pandemic, but throughout the night my feelings were transformed
into motivation, strength, gratitude, and happiness. The dances and singing from the
performances reminded me of Aya Uma keeping the rhythm, beat, and dance going for days on
end, giving strength to their community. During this time, I literally felt spirits dancing above
us—“as I sang this lullaby during rehearsals and performance, I imagined my ancestors
witnessing from the corners of the theater, helping me in the healing and often painful work of
suture” (Ritenburg et al. 224).


While the current times are uncertain, and this pandemic is seemingly killing more
people every day, as a society we will overcome this, and hopefully recognize that now is the
time to heal our relationship with our ancestors, spiritualities, and natural world. Resilience.

 

 

Citations:

 

Magnat, Virginie. “Conducting Embodied Research at the Intersection of Performance Studies, Experimental Ethnography and Indigenous Methodologies.” Anthropologica, vol. 53, no. 2, 2011, pp. 213–227. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/41473875. Accessed 10 Apr. 2020.

 

Ritenburg, Heather, et al. “Embodying Decolonization: Methodologies and Indigenization.” AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples, vol. 10, no. 1, 2014, pp. 67–80., doi:10.1177/117718011401000107.

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