Patricia Huerta’s Masters of Fine Arts performance, “You Are Somewhere Eye Depart,” at the University of California, Riverside (UCR) challenged the traditional definition of choreography and engaged with the audience in order to create an “in the now” performance. Inspired by Huerta’s Mexican-American background, the 12-person performance portrays how familial space is continually in a fluid relationship with social space along with illustrating the daily negotiations and choices made in life.
“I wanted to put those two elements together and see how even materials such as clothing, hangers, purses, trash bags and [other] things that we see on a daily basis that we use for only a particular thing can be transformed into something else that is domestic but also in the social space,” Huerta said.
Taken place outside and around the UCR Arts building, the public performance brought about supporters and shocked bystanders alike.
“I didn’t expect it, but the uncomfortable feeling that I felt [in the beginning] lured me into staying and watching the rest of the performance,” bystander Jeffrey Huang commented.
Huerta’s project was intended to make some people uncomfortable. As noted on the program, “side effects may include: discomfort, refusal, intimacy, awkwardness, pleasure, discoveries and more… How do you experience?”
The performance was set in motion near the entrance to the UCR Arts building in a close environment with the audience, invading their personal space from the outset. The performers were equipped with large purses on their heads and they immediately began to garner attention. The performance transitioned around the building, ending with a finale on the large steps of the Arts building.
Bringing to light the objectification of people by infusing everyday objects within the performance—most notably, trash bags—the choreography made a statement.
“If you dig a little bit deeper, you see how we become a thing, we aren’t human and the value that people give to the task not the body or vice versa,” Huerta said.
Although the performance only lasted a couple hours, it was an accumulation of around 25 weeks’ worth of consistent hard work. Huerta began her project in the fall of 2014. She picked her first four dancers, which included herself, and commenced practice at least twice a week for hours at a time. She would then have to constantly show snippets of her performance to her committee of professors.
Huerta was supported by her family and many of her peers but she still met resistance. This isn’t surprising; whenever someone introduces an idea different from the norm, there is bound to be opposition.
“This university encourages experimental choreography but then once you begin to question experimental choreography, there are always boundaries. Once you keep pushing the boundaries, there’s a stopping point. I kept pushing and pushing. No, this work wasn’t easy; no, I wasn’t always supported, but yes, I was supported, so it was a negotiation in my process of cultivating it and I showed that in the final product,” Huerta said.
On April 28, policemen and helicopters arrived at the performance because they “thought that the performers were suffocating themselves.” They never attempted to stop the show but their presence made a statement in itself.
“I’m a bit of an activist, I like to break boundaries, so when people tell me no, I want to do it more,” Huerta said.
Huerta’s captivating performance is over but she intends to keep revolutionizing choreography through her work and teaching. The choreographer and student have taught K-12 education for 13 years and hopes to teach on the university level after earning her Master’s degree.
“My work expands more than just the dance space, to me teaching and educating goes on into the social life, [my work asks] how do you inspire the kids, how do you inspire people that surround you, your colleagues? So I definitely want to continue teaching,” Huerta said.
Huerta’s company, Primera Generacion Dance Collective, ignites the conversation within first-generation Mexican Americans about the negotiations they have to make on a daily basis. The company will be performing at Highways in Santa Monica on May 20 and 21.