Después del floreo (After the flowering Ceremony)
Aktualisiert: 20. Nov. 2022
Credits: Music: “Las huellas de mi llamita”, by Grupo Aymara Choreography/costume/concept: Diana Mora
This variation is the result of the beginning of my own spiritual and decolonial journey. I was feeling stuck in my life, having so many ideas and projects that were not becoming true, they all were only a “work in progress”. I was working on my soon to be released project “A poem for Giselle, a poem for a peasant”, and feeling like most of it would never come out to life because of all the bureaucracy it implied to only present it as a project: writing pitches, networking with other artists, but also networking with investors, writing/rehearsing elevator pitches, letters to institutions, waiting for answers, always waiting, never actually doing much.
All this waiting had me artistically frustrated because we were in the second corona lockdown and I could also not purge my creativity easily in a ballet studio. Because dance is one of the few art forms that can never be the same digitally as live. Dance is one of the most human art forms and the connection it creates between humans can only be 100% enjoyed in the present, not through a screen.
I wanted so much to start my choreographic journey but I had to do “the right thing” first: write about it, plan it, and discuss it with other “intellectuals”, plus doing all the research and the emotional rollercoaster that this implies.
In this “researching time” for my big project, I started choreographing a small piece of music that has been stuck in my head ever since I danced it in Bolivia: “las huellas de mi llamita”, which means in spanish “the footprints of my little llama”, “-ita” being an emotional, full of love diminutive. Like “-chen” in german, or “-chka” in russian. So I created most of the choreography in this lockdown, in my bedroom, in a few days, and started to think about the costume, researching about llama livestock and aymara traditions. About The Flowering Ceremony: it is a ritual practiced by indigenous Aymara and Quechua peoples in South America (in Bolivia, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Ecuador) where peasants who take charge of llamas organize their livestock not only structurally (counting them, taking care of them) but also spiritually (connecting with them and nature). The llamas are counted and checked on their gender, age and health, but also their personalities. The male llamas are decorated in a different way as the female llamas, same for the young ones. The llamas who turn out to be good leaders of the livestock get even greater flowering as a reward for their behavior. Each community has their own way of marking them. Usually with wool flower-shaped pompoms, female llamas get different flowering with the pompoms as the male and the young llamas. The peasants celebrate the lives of the llamas by offering them dances and songs that they sing with the community and then they eat in a feast (usually llama meat) together to celebrate what the Pacha gave them. Next to gratefulness comes asking and hoping for a year of abundance. In indigenous spirituality one must be thankful before asking for something to the Universe. Keep in mind that Llamas are a sacred animal to our indigenous peoples, they are hard character, difficult to tame animals.
So I watched as many videos of Flowering ceremonies as I could, I found them so cute, so loving. How peasants celebrate their llamitas inspired me so much that I decided to create this variation about this ceremony, incarnating a Llama.
But since it was lockdown, and spiritually I was blocking myself through self sabotage, I only had the costume and the choreography, I was still not able to dance it or make this new little project a reality.
That is until I met my spiritual guide, an Amawta. In Bolivia Yatiris and Amawtas are considered spiritual healers, and many people go to them to heal ancestral problems. This healing manifests in good health. Something that maybe Western medicine would consider unnecessary. I can tell you now proudly, that Western medicine is very much overrated, and it cannot trully heal. But I will not debate that in here. I will only say, that western medicine needs to learn a lot from indigenous spirituality and medicine. I met my Amawta through Facebook (you can judge as much as you want, in my youth I was also very judgemental and as I am healed, I accept the fact that many people will never understand me), he offered me to read me the coca leaves. My immediate reaction was: yes please. It had been years that I was trying to connect with the Pachamama, but failed to. And I knew this was the moment I had to take the opportunity. So a day later he read the coca leaves to me. He showed me my Ajayu. Ajayu means “soul”. But actually it is a little bit more complicated than that, because Ajayu is not the equivalent of the christian meaning of the Soul, I cannot explain this here yet, because the ajayu is only part of a whole idea of Soul in each human, each with their own importance. And the christian Soul is a lie that humans invented to impose their "superiority" over nature and animals. So everytime I translate an indigenous word, please be aware that it is not always equivalent to the Christian spiritual translation. Be sure that you acknowledge that your morals are based in a Christian monotheist religion, even if you consider yourself Atheist, Christianity is still deep rooted in each of us colonized human beings. If you are a more spiritual reader then maybe you have other ways of interpreting Ajayu acording to the culture you are decolonizing yourself through (which by the way I hope it is your own pagan culture).
Anyway, in Bolivia there is a very well known expression: “has perdido tu ajayu”. “you lost your Ajayu, you lost your soul”. And this applies to people who became cold, and full of fear or people who feel lost. So I was not sure if I had lost my ajayu. My Amawta saw it in the coca leaves, it was there: and the most funny coincidence, my ajayu had the shape of a llama. In the expression of Native Americans, I could say that my Spirit Animal is a llama. And yes my grandmothers all spoke Quechua and I have indigenous descendance. I am not sure if there is some Spanish heritage in me, maybe yes, because colonisation was very violent, a lot of indigenous women were violated, many of them came up with traditional methods for aborting the sons of their rapists. Yes, that possibility has to be in our present, we need to acknowledge all of this, especially indigenous women. So, coming bak to my story, I never lost my Ajayu, it was there and I was glad it was there. But it was injured. The legs of my llamita Ajayu were broken. Front legs and back. Despite all of this, there were signs that my ancestors have guided me as far as they could. When he said that I knew it was true. I felt like my whole truth was being read. For so long I wanted to try to put a name to my faith, but I never could. I could never find God, the more I read the bible the more distance I took with it, but still I had natural faith so for a long time I considered myself an Agnostic. Until I started to decolonize myself and then met my Amawta. Now it makes sense to be spiritual. “Your ancestors guided you until here, but they cannot push you anymore because your Ajayu is out of energy, it is injured. The front legs symbolize your commitment to the Pacha, and the back legs are an emotional fracture (trauma). So you are not spiritually active, you are shutting yourself down from the world, you are cutting everything from your life, including family. This is a sign that you need to activate your spirituality and heal/connect with your feminine energy. From the side of your emotional fracture, you need to heal the trauma you got from childhood. Usually this trauma passes through your father or mother. You have to forgive them and yourself, they only want the best for you, you have to make peace with it and detach from your Christian Guilt.”
So yes it felt like he knew what he was saying. Because I was hurt, I was shutting down from everybody, including myself. And rationally I understood many things, but emotionally I could not help but feel like I could not accept the world the way it was (because if we want to change the world, first we need to accept it the way it is, otherwise gaslighting can never substantially transform anything).
My Amawta also told me I probably had Bad Eye. So I initiated all my purifying process. As a payment for his coca leaves reading, he asked me to give him what I considered an Energy trade, something made with love. Something created with my energy. Because of the distance he did not ask for money. Just an energetic exchange. So my first thought was to finish my llamita variation, film it, and send it to him. Because it made so much sense, it was like waiting for the right moment to be created. Two days later I rented a studio to do the shooting. Everything happened that day so that my llamita variation would not be shot. But I made it happen. And this was the end result.
The response I got from the audience was very surprising. So many people loved the dance. I felt really humbled and I can say that it was one of my most heartwarming experiences. Because people who did not like ballet loved it. People who saw ballet as something so classist, boring and overrated, came to me thanking me for doing that. That it was beautiful to see someone dance ballet to our andean music, as a cute animal we all andean people love: a llama. Some of them saw more a vicuña or an alpaca than a llama. This reminded me of how important it is to make ballet accessible to the people who need representation, people who struggle in dehumanization and invisibility. And this does not mean that I give myself the permission to save people. As a Marxist I have understood my position in the revolution: my position is an artistic one, to tell stories and share the beauty of Andean Culture through my dance. (Although I am a quite gobal citizen and I will never stop doing Dying swan or classical repertoire just to prove the haters wrong). Eight months after this, (but today as I add some words to this article it's been more than a year) I feel like that spiritual journey was incredibly necessary, because I am still getting rid of my Christian guilt, I am finally free. Christian Guilt is something that is in each of us. We call it sometimes pitty, I call it false empathy. White savior complex is part of that Christian Guilt, giving leftovers to the poor instead of fighting to abolish poverty: chirstian guilt. Filming yourself giving presents to poor people: christian guilt. Feeling guilty because you as a woman feel attracted to other men than your husband: Christian Guilt. Feeling sorry for the handicaped without actually getting to know them: Christian Guilt.
This Guilt has made me self-sabotage in so many ways. And finally I feel ready to not ask for apologies nor approval whenever I create something. I will dance this variation on other occasions, hoping to find ways of putting it on stage. And since we are opening decolonial debates in the arts, I am preparing a pandora box in the ballet field. After all, ballerinas incarnate as swans on stage, so I want to dance both as a swan and a llama. And I mean both because I am capable of dancing like a swan. There is so much more to be created with our andean mythology, traditions, and spirituality, that it can be done in the Ballet language.
But that is a task with many difficulties, a task that I am not scared to take, because I am lucky my ancestors are with me, and I have a lot of stories to tell, share and dedicate to the people that inspire me. Most of them peasants, artists of low income and just random citizens that need representation in the arts.