Taking advantage of the vantage point: two films by Amalia Colón-Nava

Amalia Colón-Nava

by Gina Palumbo for The Dance Journal

“My name is Amalia and I am here on Lenape Land.”

Informance began with a reminder that everything we have – time and the earth under our feet – is borrowed from our ancestors. On Wednesday, December 2nd, Amalia Colón-Nava presented Taking advantage of the vantage point: two films for The PDP Informance Series. I have accepted virtual reality as the exhausted but available option midway through quarantine but was stunned to have finally been carried elsewhere other than a silent theater. Amalia wanted us to document our reactions to her films and notice what naturally manifests itself to us in these works. I did not have a notebook nearby, so myself and others took advantage of the chatbox, but I will keep those thoughts sacred.

The first work, (UN)BOUND Hand & Foot, traversed all over Philadelphia, the polluted city that is sometimes earthly. Silver rings and cobalt blue fingernails crushed berries, and dexterous toes seeped into the mud, like clams settling into sand. The dancers’ adventures were anonymous, only in the sense that all we could see were their extremities. We could only imagine the comfort of this immersion, synonymous with coming to know new textures as children. Sinking bare feet into formless mud or clean grass is something most adults view as a luxury. In other words, they aren’t willing to make time for it. My thoughts from (UN)BOUND were that hands and feet do not receive the credit they deserve when our hands can tell so many stories, and our feet have walked us so many miles.

Pith was filmed in the always recognizable Philadelphia landmark known as Graffiti Pier. One dancer stood with her bare back to the camera, in a vulnerable state as she stumbled into a pillar for balance. After recovering, she was safe and surrounded, as both tattooed and un-inked bodies began to fill the space. They were anonymous again. They created intricate formations and shapes using only their upper half. With their backs turned to the camera for the entire performance, a participant later reflected on this as eerie and something they have never experienced before. PDP’s Terry Fox found the perfect analogy for this location, calling it a “temple” and the dancers its “keepers.” The camera fluidly chased each dancer, even as one bolted off. Their bare bodies collided in a mosh pit and created an instance of intimacy where there was otherwise dissociation.

The participants provided extremely thoughtful input, and Amalia gave each individual the floor as she listened intently. She even took the time to ask the dancers what their experience was in each of the films. Collectively, they agreed that the films were liberating. Talk of comparison between film and live performance arose, and it was concluded that having an eye for film can change choreography for the better. One is not better than the other, but film can take performance beyond the theater’s confines. Amalia asked us what is missing. So much doubt occurs when we look at our own work this closely, and thoughts creep in of what could have been done differently. These films were masterful because of their elements, but it did not stop there. I have a feeling that this exceptional artist is constantly asking what more can be done. With my own eyes, she already possesses what everyone is after, and that is the ability to identity, appreciate, and capture what is often overlooked.

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