I make work as a practice of growing oneself a body as one would grow a plant. I make work as a practice of growing a new body: an uncivilized body, a decolonized body, a utopian body.
I make work as a practice of growing . . . A practice of growing a body of work; a practice of growing a collective body; a practice of growing myself, the dancers, and the audience a new body—a utopian body, a sensational body, a connected body, an anarchic body, a body in pleasure, a body in love, a magical blooming body.
A body that knows itself to also be the floor—the earth—thus finding itself to be a tree body—a walking, jumping, sitting, lying, dancing tree. A body that is nurtured and in love with the ground it belongs to; a body that knows itself as connected to everything it sees with its feet talking to the other feet that share the same ground. A body with flower hands; a body with hands that grew from its crotch; a body with hands like flowers that grew from the ground to the crotch to the heart, hands that know the pleasure of holding other hands, hands that know no labor but the labor of love.
I make work as a practice of being in pleasure. A practice of being in pleasure with a brain that has melted down to the skin, the flesh, the bones, the guts, the feet, the hands, the tail, the heart, the eyes . . . Eyes that see without naming, eyes that see without knowing.
I make work with a desire to escape the oppression of the arrow of time, to arrive at a place of beyond time, body time, plant time.
My work is concerned with the postcolonial world in ruins. I was born and raised in Latin America as the daughter of politically exiled parents. I grew up keenly aware of power dynamics in world politics and have since been deeply disturbed by the consequences of colonialism and U. S. imperialism. My dances are a way to resist this ingrained system of thought that made imperialism and colonialism (and therefore racism) possible.
I make work as a transformative, healing practice for myself, for my collaborators, and ultimately for the audience. I make work to rid ourselves of shame by empowering and giving a voice to the body, the instinctual, the feminine, the animal, the uncivilized within us, subverting the notion that these are of lesser value. Within my process there lies the fantasy of erasing hierarchical power structures to allow the collective experience of the group to become the content of the work. My dances give the audience time to settle into their own experience while they witness the performers’ real-time, real-life transformation. My work resists Western assumptions of organizing one’s body, to offer the possibility of a new post-civilized, decolonized self.
Doing the practice of being in pleasure feels like a kind of activism but via alchemy—literally practicing what we preach. There is so much work to do with direct action—aiding refugees, resisting fascism, engaging in social justice actions—and making art can seem like a frivolous practice. But I have come to realize that the only hope for change is a deeply internal one that comes from within each of us. Rather than a revolution, I like to call it an embodied rebellion. The role of art is to make change at a very abstract, energetic, vibrational, perceptual level. I feel compelled to make theater because it is a space for utopia, to practice new ways of being, to practice empathy, to practice loving, to practice letting go of the illusion of separation, to build another kind of theater, OTRO TEATRO, that can perhaps let us peek into another possible non–patriarchal, white supremacist, colonialist, dualist, violent world.
The following pages show a sequence from An Epilogue for OTRO TEATRO: True Love, co-commissioned by Gibney Dance Center and The Chocolate Factory, and performed at Gibney Dance Center, in 2016. This work was created to grow organically as a memory of itself, by engaging in a collective practice of being in pleasure and allow the form to emerge in time—as one would grow a plant.
From An Epilogue for OTRO TEATRO: True Love, performed at Gibney Dance Center in New York, co-commissioned by Gibney Dance Center and The Chocolate Factory, in December 2016. Left to right: Oren Barnoy, Jennifer Kjos, Shantelle Courvoisier Jackson, Michael Mahalchick, Molly Lieber, luciana achugar, Nikima Jagudajev, and Rebecca Wender. Photograph by Scott Shaw.
Molly Lieber (left) and luciana achugar, in An Epilogue for OTRO TEATRO: True Love, 2016. Photograph by Scott Shaw.