Dancing with the Ancestors: Exótica by Amanda Piña/nadaproductions

Words by Giulia Casalini.

In this creative writing text, I review the performance of Chilean/Mexican/Austrian artist Amanda Piña, which premiered in June 2023 at Kunstenfestivaldesarts in Brussels.

My review is based on experiencing the performance as a member of the public on one day, and helping from the backstage the following one – including attending the post-show’s Q&A.

In Exótica, dancers Ángela Muñoz Martínez, André Bared Kabangu Bakambay, Venuri Perera, iSaAc Espinoza Hidrobo and Amanda Piña work through various sources and archival materials to invoke and resurface four early 20th century ‘exotic’ dancers: Clemencia Piña ‘La Sarabia’ (1894–1970), Nyota Inyoka (1896–1971), François ‘Féral’ Benga (1906–1957) and Leila Bederkhan (1903-1986).

Exótica is an immersive ritual performance made for the theatre that tackles the problem of the persistence of the colonial gaze onto the racialised dancing bodies and the concurrent exoticisation of non-Western dances. Through a transfeminist, border-crossing perspective, the piece reclaims and reconnects the contemporary dancers to the lives and work of their forgotten ancestors.

Finally, I observe that my proximity to Exótica has offered me ways to engage with the work and the people who are part of it in ways that welcome affective co-creation and deeper understanding by entering the complexity of the piece’s worldview. This embodied engagement, I believe, is able to produce an anti-colonial art writing through the method of critical generosity.

Read Giulia’s review in full here:

Images by Tammo Walter.

About Giulia:

Giulia Casalini’s practice spans across curating, performance, writing and research. Her (eco)transfeminist and queer activism has the scope of building and bridging communities across the globe through the arts and (nature)cultures. Based in London, Giulia has been the co-founder of the non-profit arts organisation Arts Feminism Queer (aka CUNTemporary, 2012-2020). She now sits on the advisory board of Mimosa House gallery and she is a Techn?-funded PhD candidate, researching queer-feminist performance art from transnational and anti-colonial perspectives. IG/TW: @queer___femme Web: https://linktr.ee/queer_femme