Sandra Paola López Ramírez / El Paso, TX, USA
Sandra Paola López Ramírez (BFA, EdM) is a latinoamericana dancemaker, improviser and performance activist. Her community-based interdisciplinary work plays with gender, identity, and sociality, and it has taken her through the US, Colombia, Brazil, Cyprus, France, Canada and Mexico. Since moving to the United States from her native Colombia in 2004, she has studied with renowned artist such as Kirstie Simson, Ruth Zaporah, Cynthia Oliver and Jennifer Monson and has developed her art practice to integrate her creative process and her community organizing efforts. Driven by her commitment to social transformation, Sandra Paola co-founded and directs the Institute for Improvisation and Social Action (ImprovISA) – an organization empowering diverse populations to develop through performance and improvisation in the U.S.-Mexico border. In her work, she combines Social Therapeutics, Ensemble Thinking, Action Theater, contact improvisation, meditation and Latin American vernacular dances to create developmental approaches to social change and decolonization. She is currently dance faculty at the University of Texas at El Paso and is completing her MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts with a Performance Creation concentration at Goddard College.
I make dances. Bailo.
I work with the myriad of possibilities of the body, including my physical body, my partner’s body and our cultural body. Mis danzas son expontáneas, created in the moment, in relationship to what is aquí y ahora.
My dance practice is inherently social and interdisciplinary, it integrates my interest in improvisation, social therapeutics and meditation with my commitment to feminismo, community building and social transformation… desde la raíz.
I use culture to organize community and organize community to create culture.
My dances are collectively created and I want them to go beyond my experience and imaginación. There is unforeseeable wonder in what we can create relationally – en relación con otras personas.
I believe humans are revolutionaries, completely capable of transforming ourselves and the world. I am not interested in our “truths” or ideologies. Those are irrelevant to whether or not we can build together
I am interested in breaking long-established jerarquías and in constantly redefining what dance is and who gets to participate in it. Rather than having a defined aesthetic, my dances respond to the context in which they are created.
I am mestiza.
I am a daughter of colonization. I was born of contradictions. I embrace them. I refuse to fixate any definition of myself – ¿quién soy yo? – or my work. I am stubborn and full of rebeldía. My work is informed by the rich vernacular dance practice of Latinoamérica and by the erasure of the indigenous and African heritage in my privileged upbringing en un país “tercermundista.” My work is a constant dialogue between checking my privilege and embracing my brownness and queerness.
In my work there is a continuity and commitment to working with women, las creadoras de vida, and empowering us to be other than what we’ve been acculturated to be.
My work is political by nature; improvisation is playful resistance.
Most of my work over the past 5 years has centered around my identity as an immigrant queer latinoamericana.
What are the expectations of behavior and appearance of a Latina, an immigrant, a woman— a queer woman?
Where do these come from?
What happens when you break them?
Underlying that work, there has been a constant questioning of home, what it is in the constant flux of a migrant society and what it means for me as I create and recreate my identity. Living en la frontera— the U.S.-Mexico border— in the cities of El Paso, TX and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, has heightened this sense of ephemerality of place and has lead me to question how we become native to a region, how and when a new home gets established and what social, political and cultural contexts frame that experience.
Being in residence at SFAI offered me focused time, space and support to deepen this journey, as I looked at my family lineage and ancestry to see how that informs my corporeality, my relationships and my work. I framed this research as a decolonizing activity of both my improvisation practice and my family’s history. During the residency, I focused on three paths: Reclaiming indigeneity— by expanding my understanding of listening and relational presence while remembering how to establish a reciprocal relationship to land and more-than-human nature. Honoring African roots in vernacular Latin American dances— by practicing characteristics of the African aesthetic (e.g. body isolations, polyrhythms, dancing closer to the floor) and expanding my current practice to include rhythmic-based improvisation. Using storymaking to reclaim a lost family lineage while confronting and wrestling with the complexities of mestizaje and checking my privilege— by writing (mostly) fictional stories about my ancestors.