Migue Gutierrez, Rudi Goblen tour Mexico and Costa Rica

October 19, 2011  •  4 minute read

by Elizabeth Doud Every year, two different curators from Latin America come to the United States to see work by U.S. artists, and select companies that can later tour to festivals and presenting organizations in the southern hemisphere through the Performing Americas Program of the National Performance Network. The curators who participate are members of our partner network, La RED (the Network of Cultural Promoters of Latina America and the Caribbean), and come from all parts of the continent. The two curators selected for 2010 were Marianella Protti from Teatro Punto Cero in Costa Rica and Cuauhtemoc Najera Ruiz from the University of Mexico’s Dance Division in Mexico City, Mexico (UNAM). Both chose work from two distinct U.S. artist companies to travel in the 2011-12 presenting season. Typically, the Latin American curators will travel to the NPN Annual Meeting, and to one other festival or artist presentation in order to see live work by U.S. artists from across the country, getting two separate opportunities to experience contemporary performance and program for their specific community and organization. The two artist companies selected were Rudi Goblen from Miami, FL, who traveled to Costa Rica, and Miguel Gutierrez from New York City who traveled to Mexico City and Guadalajara, Mexico. Both artists performed their original work for local audiences, and while they had very different performance experiences, the challenges and rewards were similar. Rudi Goblen took his piece Insanity Isn’t (check out the great trailer on his website to get a taste) to an outdoor festival, TransitArte, in San Juan, Costa Rica, which has a huge city-wide program in outdoor spaces that serves thousands of theater patrons throughout one week in March. Rudi was willing to adapt his piece to an outdoor environment, and took the risk of performing his text and dance-based piece in what can be a complicated outdoor performance setting, and to do it for a non-English speaking audience on top of it. Rudi performed three shows for large audiences who applauded the artist’s unique piece, which was probably, for most, a once-in-a-life-time experience with American hip-hop dance theater. They went on to do two more performances, and then Rudi traveled to two other smaller towns outside of San Jose to give b-boying workshops with youth. Rudi Goblen workshop  Of  the experience, Rudi said doing his show outside and “needing to adjust to the unforeseen circumstances taught us to be quick thinkers and improvise whenever necessary,” and that audience response was so overwhelmingly positive, that they were sure they had made an important impact with the workshops and performances. Rudi spent the next two weeks in Torrealba y Siquierres, giving workshops to kids, which was an amazing experience for both him and the students that got to train with him. Miguel Gutierrez traveled to Mexico in April with two pieces, and performed in Mexico City and Guadalajara in two different UNAM-sponsored theater venues. UNAM had also organized workshops with students and community members, and had planned to do some post-performance discussions. Najera, the curator who selected the tour, had seen Miguel’s work live in New York City, and was clear he wanted to present the work to audiences in Mexico. Miguel reported that he definitely felt a certain amount of risk in presenting his pieces Difficult Bodies and Retrospective Exhibitionist to the Mexican UNAM audience. The work is most definitely challenging for a NYC audience, and there is always an ‘unknown factor’ when taking your work to a new city outside of your own country. Although Mexico City is a world capital, there is not necessarily as much access to the same kind of contemporary experimental dance and performance. Since the tour, Najera said that the work was a complete success with audiences, and that there was wide interest in bring Gutierrez back to continue to work with both dance and theater students across the federal university system. Both companies emphasized how the participant response from workshops was particularly important to the overall success of the tour, and that the tour experiences helped them grow as a company. Because of the varying cultural, economic and linguistic realities across Latin America, it’s difficult to generalize or define what touring is ‘like’ south of the border, but a very large number of U.S. artists continue to want to break into this market, or build on the travel they have done to select countries. While there is a vast range of touring locales across Latin America — from well-established and soundly-funded annual international festivals to rural community theaters — there is consistently also an amazing amount of work produced and presented for very large audiences, with very few resources. Festivals in all major capitals in every Latin American and Caribbean country create accessible programs, run thousands of varied and well-attended theaters, and seem to be keeping very alive the concept of festival and theater making. On PAP’s curator trips to many of these festivals, we’ve experienced this hospitality and community buy-in first hand, and there is definitely a curiosity and desire to see work by more U.S.-based artists. Often, ideas of planning (read time sensitivity), marketing and audience development are very different from our conventions in the U.S., but there is almost always a jaw-dropping audience turnout and resourcefulness on the part of the producer that seems miraculous. PAP supports touring and long terms residencies for U.S. artists in Latin American and the Caribbean. For more information on NPN’s International Projects, please contact edoud@npnweb.org. For more information on La RED, visit www.laredlatinoamericana.com. photos are courtesy of Rudi Goblen