Juan Aldape is a graduate student pursuing his PhD in Performance Studies at UC Berkeley. As practitioner and researcher, his work focuses on movement, migration and mapping discourses related to undocumented spaces and choreographic processes. Aldape holds a MA in International Performance Research from the University of Warwick (UK), as well as a BFA in Modern Dance and BA in Anthropology from the University of Utah (USA).
In October 2014, Performance Studies graduate student Juan Aldape travelled to Morelia, Mexico for a performance collaboration at the Mexican Centre for Music and Sonic Arts (CMMAS) with performance artist Carol Borja. The collaboration was an adaptation of British playwright Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis to a Mexican context. Composed of two dozen sections, all without any specified characters, dialogue or stage directions, the play explicitly, rawly addresses clinical depression and suicide. Borja adapted the text and produced an accompanying sound score, while Aldape developed and performed original choreography.
The performance was designed to advocate the visibility of the mentally ill minority in Mexico and intentionally coincided with International Mental Health Day. Additionally, Aldape facilitated a three-day movement and dance workshop at the Alfredo Zalce Museum of Contemporary Art, guiding participants through the choreographic process he used for 4.48 Psychosis.
Juan Aldape: Carol and I are linked based on our mutual education at the University of Warwick; while not part of the same cohort, we both received an MA in International Performance Research. Additionally, we are united by country of origin: we are both from Mexico. Two years ago, Carol graciously joined me in Guanajuato, Mexico to photograph my site-specific performance Los Tres Peligros (2012). Subsequently, she received a fellowship at the Mexican Center for Music and Sound Art to develop a unique sound score that originated from Sarah Kane’s theatrical play, which evolved into an adaption of 4.48 Psychosis to a Mexican context that was the centerpiece of her Master’s thesis. Having enjoyed the way in which I worked and performed, she invited me to choreograph and perform the movement for the production.
TDPS: How does this piece fit into your research and the work you will be doing at UC Berkeley?
Aldape: I was attracted to this project for two reasons. First, I had never performed a solo that was an hour long! Methodologically, I was interested in such an endeavor. Two, the issues of visibility and undocumentedness are at the center of my research. Carol’s emphasis on claiming and giving visibility to the social maltreatment and expulsions of those considered “ill” is important. At UC Berkeley, I aim to continue investigating the subtle and performative manner in which immigrants claim their and others’ rights of representation and membership into the public sphere.
TDPS: Can you talk about the choreographic process used to develop your movement for Borja’s adaption?
Aldape: Exhaustion is critical to developing the choreography for such a challenging adaption as Borja’s take on Kane’s tumultuous work. The text deals with somber and weighted issues, ranging from suicide to rape to mania. Approaching the text required extreme sensitivity and intentional warding off of anything resembling artifice or representation.
The choreographic movement developed from my reenactment of personal and family challenges with issues of suicide and panic attacks. During certain rehearsals, I would inexplicably break into tears and begin to convulse. Other times, I felt compelled to waltz across stage or to develop movement more akin to postmodern dance and contemporary lyrical gestures with sweeping arms and legs. On certain occasions I felt it appropriate to use the street style of popping to convey specific feelings or textures of the sound-score. Much like the themes in the text, the movement acquired a schizophrenic quality.
Since the text referenced particular feelings of immobility after an attempted suicide, it was crucial to get my body to the point of absolute exhaustion, vertigo and sedation. It was extremely difficult to perform such a wide range of movement styles and textures for the hour-long performance.
TDPS: The Museum of Contemporary Art invited you to give a 3-day dance and choreography workshop during the same week of the performance. What was that process like? How did the participants respond?
Aldape: I enjoy the workshop experience. It is an opportunity for the facilitator and the participants to learn from each other. In this particular instance, I learned a lot about Morelia and the manner in which choreographers are working to establish a strong dance community. Two of the workshop participants were Laura Martínez Ayala and Abdiel Villaseñor Talavera, co-directors of Morelia-based Proyecto Serpiente ( Serpent Project). They enjoyed, and were inspired by, the way in which the workshop connects curation and choreography. I hope I can return to Morelia soon.