Bogota Reflections

3/4/13

7 a.m.—Departing Bogota airport. I like Bogota in May. The rain cools everything off, but not so much that I need to wear socks in my sandals. The city has a bouncy, enthusiastic energy, but not hurried or forced. I sensed little tension, or pretension, despite the fast pace of traffic and pedestrians. Everyone seemed busy, no one seemed desperate. I would like to wake up and be a native Colombian bouncing along the streets of Bodota, but able to follow the rapid Spanish that gushes along like rivers.

Festival de Danza Contemporanea poster

Universidad Militar Nueva Granada put us up in luxurious hotel/apartments and bought us meals in restaurants. It seems clear that my overall impression of abundance in Bogota stems from my experience of abundance during this short trip. Jimena Alviar is one of my favorite people! Organizer of the festival and dance faculty at the U, she looked after us, designed our lights, called our cues, translated during my class, and generally mommed us into complete comfort.

Overall, the show went very well. We performed Aurora’s Dream, Penelope and Odysseus/Waiting, Medusa, and Icarus and Daedalus at the Aula Maxima auditorium on Thursday evening, May 2, 2013. We had performed most of the pieces recently, so we danced with confidence. I love a piece that feels like home! The altitude affected us, making it harder to breathe deeply, making us more exhausted than usual by the end of tech. We bounced back in time for the show.

I am still divided about performing the Penelope solo. On the one hand, it seems a bit silly for a man to play Penelope; on the other hand, men experience the same emotions: frustration when our work is overlooked or must be abandoned, grief over lost loved ones, humiliation when we feel we have been left behind. Indeed, I tend to get too wrapped up in the character. As in North Carolina, the last time I performed it, I got carried away and threw the chair with more force than I intended. In each case, I flung it offstage and narrowly missed production equipment that, had I damaged them, I could not have afforded to replace. I start to fear that next time I won’t be so lucky.

I am proud of our performance, although there were some technical glitches. If I could do it over again, I would arrive a day earlier, or start the show later, to leave time for a dress rehearsal. On the bright side, Heather’s boyfriend Van Pham, an experienced techie, worked backstage for us and smoothed the process considerably. He especially helped by fixing our ramp, which had been falling apart.

After the show, we went out with Jimena for lovely Thai food. Restaurants in Bogota have an unhurried pace. There is no sense that the waitstaff wants you to move along and make room for the next customer. On the downside, if you are very hungry, or have limited time between rehearsals, the food seems to take forever to arrive. It was always good when it got there, though. We ate at an authentic Colombian soup place for lunch on Friday. The soups were rich and full, but there was no vegetarian option. I braved the frijoles soup in beef stock; Mary made do with fried plantains and rice. There were several veggie options in Bogota overall, however.

Friday morning, I taught an introduction to contact improvisation to a room full of enthusiastic students! They were very willing to try, even though that level of physical contact is as unusual in Colombian culture as it is in US culture. Indeed, we got many incredulous looks through the glass door of the studio, which opens onto the weight room of a gym. The students danced on despite this, clearly enjoying the curious mixture of control and lack of control that is contact. Alex took the class and helped demonstrate.

After lunch Friday, Heather, Mary, Van, and I trekked out to the Gold Museum downtown. What wonderful shapes! The allure of gold, I start to see, is not its flash, but its suppleness. It may be shaped into such elaborate, often miniature, figures. My favorites were the animals: birds with speckled beaks, bats with flaring noses, leopards with swirling spots, monkeys with unfurled tails, serpents with dragon heads, and even shamans in the process of transforming into animals. I now better appreciate the challenge of smithing gold. There is a terrible freedom to sculpting with such a yielding medium—knowing that you may make anything, where do you start? This reminds me of choreography: the body offers almost too many avenues to explore. The exhibit was exquisite.

Afterward, we walked along downtown, past lights and music billowing from glitzy shops in the stream of people out for a night on the town. We had to get up early, though, so took a taxi back. Taxi drivers in Bogota are fearless and tuned to the pulse of the city, weaving into and out of tight spaces with an almost telepathic timing. I usually shut my eyes so that I would not cry out in fear.