The following interview is part of a larger publication of collected interviews among Center for Performance Research’s New Voices in Live Performance artists: Sidra Bell, Antonio Ramos, Elisabeth Motley, and Alexis Zacarello. The publication edited by Elisabeth Motley and J. Haggis provides a platform for shared dialogue and conversation for both the participating artists and public.
Alexis emails Antonio
AZ: How did you come to dance? When? Where? Why? Has it changed over the years? I am so tired. Get sleep. Xxx
AR: Dancing is part of my crazy Puerto Rican… When I was a child my parents used to dance around the house. We moved all the furniture and have a blast, we dance and sing to everything perhaps the sun make us do that… My parents were such an inspiration. The passion and sexy appeal goes well with the sun…I think my mama always wanted to be a dancer she always mentioned if she had another life that will b her choice… So instead she decided to put me in any talent show. She directed and choreographed on my elementary school Xmas special / eastern / my sister will act and we dance together. It was fun but that’s how I become the only butterfly in school and really bullied about my flamboyant moves…So there was this amazing show, El show de Iris Chacon. She was what we called la vedette- a voluptuous woman / Artist. In her show was plenty of flesh, dance, comedy, and so on. It was tacky- so bad that it was so good & funny. All her dancers were exotic wearing such amazing colors she was always my inspiration.Contrary from my mother, my father was a very military man and was really opposed to this love of arts so anything related to art he refused to support. Instead he make me work, attending to labor work. So I worked in the farm since age of 6,7 until I was 17. The hours were crazy. Get up at 4 am clean the barn in the morning and nights pasture the cows, goats, pigs, clean myself and off to school. And weekends I wasn’t aloud to play. Instead I was my father assistant of a plumber Sa/Sun. Life was hard and I was always rebellious about it. I’ll get up early and run away on the weekends. But it didn’t work all the time… Don’t get me wrong there was something enchanting about being a farmer and I loved the animals but every time u falling in love with, ur pets were being dragged to b slaughtered for some stupid celebration. No wonder I was vegetarian for 10/15 years. My hearts desire was time to play with my sisters Barbie’s and dress up with my mothers clothing- only when they were away, I was in my country, my world full of fantasies… So dance became a tool to escape from my crazy father’s obsession of teaching me how to do hard labor work… How to b a man… Whatever that means. More to come. ipad is about to die.
AZ: And what about the nudity in your work? What does it hold for you? I think this work that you are going to be showing has garter belts and the naked body. Right? Where did the garter belts come from in your brain? I know that some of your work is based on these videos that you take…
AR: Nudity became part of my dance about probably 10 years ago… As a part of a research I was getting in the studio and trying to found what, where, how do I work with my sensuality and vulnerability in my dance…Things that I wasn’t comfortable with in front of an audience- desires, sensitive subjects about accepting myself during the performance.
I also notice the beauty of the skin in motion- a different material that I have work all my life and is gorgeous to my eyes, like a new discovery, like a scientist discovering a new species…The how on stage with lights and shadows has become a fascination…Is captivating. I never thought I like it this much but here we are. It also became a signature maybe of my work. Naked after a while become the costume. It was a question. I have in 2010 we make a piece (dancers and myself) with a theme about a queer homeless teenager in NYC and her experience with the gay community (very related to mine in NY with the dance community). So after looking for a designer and not finding enough money and after so much consultation with the dancers we decided to do it. It was a process not only for myself and my gang. We have to accepted ourselves all the different bodies together so it was this process of creating the piece and rehearsing without clothing. Thanks to the generosity for Stephanie Spar and El Museo del Barrio the piece was done in this amazing residency between the black box theater and the theater. Just think about it- we were rehearsing in the theater for around 8 weeks naked talking to director receiving visitors, even the cleaning staff got a view. It was fantastic in a sense that we accepted each other’s nakedness as part of ourselves the way we should be kind of naive and natural about it. It also go with my rebellious nature of being who I am. Accepting my place in society. Things that are being a bother to me. When I see it like breastfeeding in public- why we don’t accept this as a natural course of life…Yes we are sensual beings and what’s so wrong about it… My only concern will always be the health and sanity of my dancers. God forbid this endanger their lives, with so many perverts out there. And there is always the thought if we (society) in the first place accepted nudity as a natural thing, perhaps there will be less perverse people. Or maybe they will always be there like good and bad. Yes, we have garter belts in this new piece (Mira …El) = look at him. Being AIR from Movement Research we have to present work at Judson Church so the culmination of this year production will be the two Judson done in this past year. One was Mira Mira on the wall, and the other was El a research or study at myself in other dancers. One the costumes are just see through raincoat and the other the garter belts. One deals with the sickness of my mother and the other with the acceptance of the life course. But wait a second she hasn’t passed away so knock on wood… Any way the thought of the garter belt- I wanted something sexy and after seeing my dancers naked and receiving commentaries from audience members about their nakedness and how after a while their nakedness became the costume and somehow lost the sensuality. So I wanted to accentuate their body parts and not necessarily their genitals but their feet hands and other part…