All posts by jaldape

We, the Undocumented

We, the Undocumented
We, the undocumented who are grateful to have survived the deserts, border fences, speeding cars, freezing trucks, strangers, white border militias, rattlesnakes, trailers, and rushing waters.
We, the undocumented who feel guilty for having survived the deserts, border fences, speeding cars, freezing trucks, strangers, white border militias, rattlesnakes, trailers, and rushing waters,
Because San Antonio in 2022.
Because another semi parked outside a Walmart in 2017.
Because border enforcement and climate change are making it hotter and deadlier.
We, the undocumented, cover our skins with steak seasoning inside refrigeration trucks to deter the dogs at the crossing ports of entry. Over fifty people dead. The huddled masses.
Border patrol has been growing since 1918. FW Berkshire dreamed of a unit that was not the army. It was supposed to be a special unit that knew the conditions of border life.
Border life is deadly.
Border life is politicians who chose to be ignorant because they know that open borders do not kill people in freezers.
It was Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump, and Biden. Rinse and repeat.
Border life is spilled across every square inch of the United States.
We, the undocumented know that these presidents keep building border industries. Billions of dollars are invested in the illusion of the border that is only used for political dog-and-pony shows at midterms and general elections.
We, the undocumented who cross police cars that are really Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. The cooperation between local law enforcement and ICE keeps getting stronger.
We don’t need ICE. Migrants need ice in the hot unrefrigerated semi-trailer.
They were hot to the touch and too disoriented to get out of the trailer.
The Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection is only going to use San Antonio to bolster their support for more US imperial endeavors in Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico. They are going to buy more advertisement campaigns on the radio to entice youth to stay behind in Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico and make it better without saying the United States created the problems.
Tears that fill cups can never serve as hydration inside a red semi trailer parked on an empty road in San Antonio.
Pain and anguish run through our skins for those who died in the trailer esperando.
The scent of steak seasoning lingers in the air.
We, the undocumented.

Armadillos Immigration Performance

Armadillos Immigration Performance.  Production Addresses Colonization and Climate Change

Armadillos (Little Armored Ones) marks the second part of a three-part choreographic project responding to a 17th-century painting by Cornelius Visscher called América that glorifies colonization. The painting left me uneasy since when I first saw it years ago. Visscher depicts a giant and regal warrior woman arriving in the “New World.” In the middle of the canvas, America sits on top of an animal as if she were on a throne. Behind her is a newly developed scene full of farmers tilling the land and sheep grazing the field. Ahead of her is an indigenous land with people dancing naked and in the midst of a cannibalistic bacchanalia. Oddly, she rides into this exotic land not on a horse but on an armadillo. Regio (Royal), the first part of the projectmanifested as a 2021 bilingual dance theatre production that uses contemporary dance and puppetry to share stories about Latinx immigrant workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Armadillos immigration performance was originally supposed to be a synchronous, in-person event but was modified due to the physical gathering restrictions put in place during the pandemic.

Through Armadillos, I return to the painting. This picture is a glimpse of what we know full well to be a scenario of colonization, but why the armadillo as the vehicle for this process? What has changed since Visscher etched this painting over three hundred years ago, and what has become of the role of the armadillo in the hemispheric imaginary? The next iteration of my project, Armadillos (Little Armored Ones), is a bilingual dance theater performance with stories about undocumented migrant workers in milk dairy ranches and furry mammals popularly known as armadillos who are venturing into new northern territories because it is getting warmer in the US. These stories collide to paint a tapestry of the impacts of climate change, and the increased demand of service delivery companies by consumer demands. The performance explores the interconnections between what compels people and armadillos to seek out new places as the climate changes and in the face of a changing labor economy that continues to invisibilize migrant labor.

Armadillos is a trilingual participatory and large-scale puppetry installation performance that addresses the interconnected themes of migration, climate change, and indigeneity. Armadillos are typical of Latin America and have only recently been unpredictably traveling to northern United States because of warmer temperatures in the area. Audiences will be able to crawl inside colorful replicas of the armadillos and find a comfortable bed and pillow. They will hear a musical score that mixes sound of wind and people walking on various surfaces with stories about migrant workers who traveled to Central New York from Central America and the Mexican Yucatan peninsula. Migrants from these areas are also newly traveling to northern United States to seek out work in dairy farms. Armadillos explores the interconnections between what compels people and armadillos to seek out new places as the climate changes and in the face of a changing labor economy that continues to invisibilize indigenous migrant labor. Armadillos immigration performance confronts viewers with this reality.

This event is part of the 2022 Cornell Biennial, curated by Timothy Murray and sponsored by the Cornell Council for the Arts . The Biennial features the works of 40+ artists throughout Cornell’s Ithaca campus from July through December 2022.

[Featured Image armadillo illustrated by collaborator Lily Gershon 2022]


Capped off my first semester of teaching with a virtual dance party for our seminar The Politics of Movement: Bodies, Space, and Motion. DJ haMEEN was live spinning music. Cele-Break we did indeed! We had dance, zoom, cats, and dogs!


Congrats to all my teacher and professor colleagues who finished another semester too! Here’s to you!

Regio (Royal)

Regio (Royal) employs contemporary dance, storytelling, and mojigangas, 12-foot tall Mexican puppets, to uncover the experience of Latinx immigrant workers in meat factories impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The performance is a collaboration between me as choreographer/artistic director, two members of Lilypad Puppet Theatre, and three Latinx dancers from the community.

Notes and Images from its development:

I am incorporating two mojigangas into the performance because of the puppets’ cultural relevance to the themes addressed in the performance. Mojigangas are large, 8 to 12 feet tall, figurines constructed from papier-mâché and cardboard. They are popular in Guanajuato, Mexico, a region with a high percentage of out-migration to the United States, and the applicant’s birth state. These puppets originated in Spain to represent nobles and royalty. They were introduced to the Americas during the colonization period. The mojigangas for this performance are going to represent workers from the factories. The design and garb will be fashioned after workers’ uniforms. The puppets will depict the factory workers as royalty, appropriating their original meaning of regality, and re-signifying it to working class immigrant.

The puppets will dance alongside three performers who will be dancing to accompanying narrations about the conditions of working in factories without the proper equipment. The stories emphasize stories about hardship, resilience, and hope. The dancers will express the physical labor that is required of these workers, as well as the precarity of their bodies in these factory plants and how they find inspiration for better conditions.


I was invited to show a work-in-progress version of this performance at the Festival of Latin American Contemporary Choreographers on November 11, 2020. I will use the feedback that I receive from this performance to develop it for its premier in Ithaca on May 21 and 23, 2021.



Cinco Palmas

Cinco Palmas Description:

Cinco Palmas is a bilingual dance-theater performance that addresses child migration from Honduras to Los Angeles, written from the perspective of a circumstantial trafficker.  The movement and text move across a range of emotions, from laughter to child-like curiosity to anger with corrupt governments. The script for this performance is based on actual accounts and is written in Spanish (the language of the original testimony), accompanied by an experiment of mistranslation in the form of English supertitles. The project is a collaboration between TDPS Ph.D. students Juan Manuel Aldape and Martha Herrera-Lasso. Read the review by Kumars Salehi> 

FLACC 2015 Yvonne Portra Photos

FLACC 2015 Yvonne Portra Photos

Juntos: QTPOC Dancemakers Gathering

I feel so much joy, honor, and privilege to have co-lead the inaugural session Juntos with Liz Duran Boubion at LINES Dance Center. We attempted to create a space and time for Latino/a/x contemporary choreographers, uncovering what it means today to make art under/through/against the banner of “latinidad.” Thanks Miguel Gutiérrez, Adrian AriasIrvin GonzalezAlfonso CerveraKarla Quintero, Jocelyn Reyes, José Navarrete, Javier Stell-Fresquez, Debby KajiyamaRosa Rodriguez-Frazier, Gabriel Mata, and David Herrera for trusting us with your time, bodies, and work. What a treat to be in one room with so many fabulous, inspiring, funny, insightful, caring, nurturing, and relentless dance makers/poets/artists/singers/visionaries. 

Borderlines Methods


Borderlines Body Mapping Exercise, Feb 2018
Participants generated these images during a Borderlines Body Mapping Exercise that focused on the kidney.


Borderlines Methods

On Friday, three of us met in Oakland to resume the ideas that we started to develop during the FRESH Festival. I facilitated a movement and writing workshop focused on the kidney.


Participants developed these images as part of an exercise where they map their body based on their relationship to their kidney.
Participants developed these images as part of an exercise where they map their body based on their relationship to their kidney.


We explored movement initiation from the kidney. Then, we used this movement to investigate the images and mapping that arises when we focus on the kidney.

Participants developed these images as part of an exercise where they map their body based on their relationship to their kidney.
Participants developed these images as part of an exercise where they map their body based on their relationship to their kidney.

During the workshop, we drove to the East Side Arts Alliance in east Okaland to participate in a community screening of films that explain the rights that people can exercise when they interact with immigration and customs agents.

The participants took a community field trip to the East Side Arts Alliance for a film screening of "Know Your Rights."
The participants took an impromptu community field trip to the East Side Arts Alliance for a film screening of “Know Your Rights.”

We will resume these workshops in March during a day-long retreat at the Djerassi Artist Ranch.





FRESH Festival Workshop

FRESH Festival Practices
FRESH Festival 2018 Practices

From January 22-26, 2018, I’m co-facilitating a workshop with Jose Navarrete at the Joe Goode Annex as part of a FRESH Festival workshop series.

“This workshop is an exploration of documented and undocumented bodies in motion across borders. We will center our time together on the complexities and residualities of the foreign body, considering exodus, memory, culture, and belonging. We will take a disembodied approach to foreground the felt conditions that force the body to immigrate and experience the multi dimensionalities of shapeshifting in new environments. We will consider the following concerns: How do the political, social, and economic conditions of immigrant bodies impact feelings of moving and dying across imaginary and real borders? What is the physical capacity of the body when it is blocked, obstructed, removed or impeded? How are these border-realities manifested through relationships, architecture, and public spaces? An inquiry of motion, memory, and borders facilitated by Juan Manuel Aldape and Jose Navarrete.”

January 21, 2018, we met at the cafe on Alcatraz and San Pablo to finalize our preparation for the workshop. My goal for this week to scaffold up the workshop from self to social justice, using performance to help us challenge the current anti-immigrant sentiments. The first day will be about preparing our bodies and our minds to treat other people’s stories and testimonies about immigration. The second day we will focus on other people’s stories. The subsequent days we will spend time preparing for direct action or to prepare a kit for dealing with anti-immigrant sentiments.

Here are a few images and reflections from the workshop:


I facilitated a warmup exercise that focused on the first chakra or energy center, the root chakra. This energy center is where we hold our connection to our roots and our ancestors, but it is also an energy center that can be unbalanced. When it is unbalanced it leads to fear of one’s safety. After I facilitated this part, Jose asked the participants to find a place of pain in their body and to explore the pain that can arise from that center. He wanted the examine how pain can be a source of movement and performance. He laid out images about the body that he collected from Mexico. We did this exercise for 25 minutes. The participants were able to use these for their inspiration. Then, we debriefed for 15 minutes.

On Tuesday, January 23, 2018, I wanted to focus on the second energy chakra and give attention to what can happen when this energy center is off-balance. l asked the participants to begin standing if they are able to. They held their right hand just below their belly button and their left hand on their back, asking them to explore this energy center for ten minutes, giving it different forms of attention, gentle, sped up, and pulsating. Our desire was to receive this energy center and to allow it to drive our movement as we moved through the studio and as we interact with the physical space.

FRESH Festival 2018
FRESH Festival 2018 Workshop. Borderlines, Exodus, Corporealities: Feelings and Concepts of the Foreigner

On Wednesday and Thursday, I thought a lot about the aesthetics of cultural memory in performance and embodied dance practices related to social justice. I was thinking about these elements because I was captured by a couple of striking images that occurred during the structured score. At one point in time, I was looking around the room and I looked over and saw three bodies standing in front of the projection that featured the three armadillos. José was one of the people and he was trying to feed the armadillo. I knew that he could not feed the armadillo because it was just the screen projection. Also, I knew that the moment would pass when he would step away from the video. Likewise, in another moment as the score ended, a couple of the participants were on the floor and they had created different shrines or different installations that curated their experience that they had just developed. Several people had put lemons on one of the participant’s head with the lemon peel. These two moments stood out to me because they challenged me to think about how healing happens and what is the role of the aesthetics in helping us frame that trauma that we feel needs healing. Also, I was thinking about how those specific instances made me question what was part of cultural memory. Those specific instances were developed using contemporary modern dance and performance practices and they were drawing upon knowledge about energy flow and ancestral knowledge about the armadillo, as well as drawing upon information about the voice.

FRESH Festival 2018 Workshop. Borderlines, Exodus, Corporealities: Feelings and Concepts of the Foreigner. Juan Manuel Aldape Munoz and Jose Navarrete
FRESH Festival 2018 Workshop. Borderlines, Exodus, Corporealities: Feelings and Concepts of the Foreigner

Live Arts in Resistance

Live Arts in Resistance
Live Arts in Resistance Showcase #5 Eastside Arts Alliance

I was invited to participate in the Live Arts in Resistance showcase and had the honor of sharing the space with an amazing group of artists from the East Bay.

LAIR Showcase #5: Building a United Front

March 17, 2017

Friday & Saturday, March 17th & 18th    8pm

Panel Discussion March 18th @5pm

EastSide Cultural Center

2277 International Blvd, Oakland

$20 (no one turned away)


Afia Thompson/Bahiya Movement

Keisha Turner

Stephanie Bastos

Juan Aldape

NAKA Dance Theater

Shavon Moore/Singer

M’Kala Payton/Poet

Jaime Cortez/Poet

The theme for this LAIR production is “Building a United Front”. LAIR fosters risk-taking, rigor, and a radical critique on the role of political activism, cultural work and art in society. “