“Duality, an umbrella of combining the old language with the new” An interview with Megan Curet. New York, USA.

Tell us about your plans for the Project Duality in October 2021.

It’s hard to get clarity because of the situation. I am going to be leading a workshop virtually. I am going to be leading the workshop that I do which is a part of my PhD research which is En rytmo/In rhythm. I borrow elements of the “bomba” which is a song, dance and musical form of Puerto Rico that engages with the bomba percussion, as well as sound and movement.

I borrow elements from that to then find a movement vocabulary that is translated through a contemporary vessel. It’s very physical and about understanding the body in alignment with percussion, rhythm, and sound and really about finding your own movement vocabulary and style. It is a long workshop of exploring and then comes out of the choreography that is built together. In terms of Duality, it is really in line with this umbrella of combining the old language with the new. One of the things we do is taking the elements of bomba percussion but I also do sound mixing and DJing, where I borrow a lot of rhythm patterns from Afrobeats and Jungo techno. I will mix and set up music as the workshop goes along. It is about bridging the two worlds and two forms of movement vocabulary to come up with something new.

When you think about IDI, what is the first thing that comes to your mind in terms of dance? How do you see IDI?

What comes to my mind is bridging the gap between the dance community and the international community of dancers. Our ability is to connect dots. I am mostly interested in working with people from Barcelona because, in my experience, there is a similarity in the relationship to the identity between Barcelona and Puerto Rico.

How has your process towards dance and choreography started? Tell us your professional journey?

I am from NY city, I have been dancing professionally for 14 years, but I started 23 years ago [at 9 years old]. I trained at the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance, where I started after receiving a Bachelor’s degree in Theatre and Dance performance at Queens College. Then I went on to do Master’s in Dance Studies at Roehampton University in London. Currently, I am doing a PhD with practise-based research at John Morris University in Liverpool, where my research is on decolonizing traditional dance practises through cultural syncretism of “Bomba” of Puerto Rico, where my family is from. 

I teach dance full-time, I had a dance company for 8 years which I folded just before pandemic, to be able to take on other artistic endeavours. Although, I am still working with the collective called Dancing La Botánica which is an Afro-Latin identifying of artists in the Bronx. I am still choreographing and taking on commissions and teaching full-time and dancing for other artists as well.

I would say I am still dancing and performing full-time. I think collaboration is a very big part of my current practise. Furthermore, I am also working with a collective of South African identifying non-binary and female identifying artists. It is a virtual project that I have been taking part in but hopefully when the borders open, I will be able to participate in person. 

My work is really rooted in decolonial practices, but body politics is where all of that started for me around 6-7 years ago. I have always toyed with the idea of working for the muted and looking at how different geopolitics influence dance-making. I spent time living in Tel-Aviv, Berlin, London and Paris, so this is where the root of my practice really formed. 

Now I am going into year 2 of the PhD, as well as forming a Co-op here in New York City as a new space for artists. Forging and creating space for queer, trans, BIPOC people is really the core of what I do.

What power and positive impact have dance and corporal expression in your opinion, what can dance achieve?

I often have mixed feelings about this question, I think the older I get, the more complex it becomes. Of course, I teach dance for 10-14 years olds so that is where I see dance the most possibility that dance holds in engaging with youth. I also know that it is impacted by teaching in New York City where 10-14-year-olds are more like 14-19-year-olds. That is where I see the possibility. I am also torn when I think about waking up and thinking if any of this really matters. Since the government is taking away everything that women dancers worked for. You look at the country you have grown up in and see how it impacted your journey. Some days I wake up really hopeful, and other days I feel like I am not doing enough in this line of work. I think there is a duality in that space, I often find that it is where I bounce back and forth, some days it is good to work and some days it is not enough.

I have learned to lean into that duality, I let that feed my work. I also got comfortable not settling with idealism and comfortable happy endings. It became a part of my work with de-colonialism and body politics, which is not always comfortable and satisfying. 

What do you enjoy the most about your work and the performing arts?

Honestly, it is being a disruptor as motivating others with being comfortable being disruptive. I would say that the pandemic really highlighted my ability to do that in my practice. I still had to teach virtually, and I often engaged with all bodies in my work like a doctor, a lawyer, professional dancers or whoever is interested in moving and learning about their body, the relationship of their body and with the spaces around them. The conversation is almost always the same, it is about thinking about your body and the way it moves outside the box. Being a challenger and being a chaos builder is something that I am very happy to be able to achieve in my work. That’s the part I’m most excited about with all kinds of people, whether you are 10 or 40. The motivation to challenge, to question, to undo getting this is the most exciting part for me as the choreography.

What is your biggest inspiration for your work?

My biggest inspiration for my work is my community. I spent a really long time figuring out for whom I was doing this. For me, that was very important to identify. In the year 2018, when my company had a successful sold-out tour in Ecuador, I remember giving a workshop to a group of all-girls catholic school pupils and having a performance to mixed-income families, who have troubles with finances. I remember the responses and the reactions from these young girls and the families just from the ability to be exposed to art. I remember the connection I had felt like someone who for a really long time is a part of the Latin diaspora and not really understanding where who is and what the mother tongue was. So, being in the Latin American country and then coming home and doing more shows for the urban communities here, I realized my audience and understanding who my community was is the biggest achievement. For me its really about making space for BIPOC, trans, queer people to engage with art, to be exposed to it and to feel seen within it. I feel this has been one of my greatest achievements as a practitioner.

Megan Curet IDI professor, performer, collaborator, choreographer 2021


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