CUATRO VIENTOS: Middle of Nowhere by Piñata Dance Collective’s artistic director and choreographer Liz Boubion made its southern California debut June 16-17, 2023 at the Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica. The Saturday night performance began with Lindsey Red-Tail offering a prayer and blessing of the space and lands once owned by indigenous people. It was a serene moment that was not, however, an omen of what was to follow. CUATRO VIENTOS translates as four winds and Boubion transports her audience into the four corners of a not so pleasant American history of the disappearance of primarily women and the everyday harassment that men cast upon them everywhere. Boubion does so without causing harm. She does what artists are supposed to do, expose life through art. In this case, it was beautifully created dance art.
Founded in 2011 by dance artist Liz Boubion, Piñata Dance Collective is based in San Francisco. Boubion is a second generation Chicana and queer multimedia dance theater artist, mother, presenter and Registered Somatic Movement Therapist. She is also the artistic director of Festival of Latin American Contemporary Choreographer (FLACC).
Boubion used dance, spoken word, and video projections for this work. We first see her moving like a hawk or buzzard across the space against a projection of a red car that is missing its doors and tires sitting abandoned in a desert or “middle of nowhere.” Boubion moves to a ritualistic offering place downstage center, picks up an object and retreats to the side of the space. As she blows on what turns out to be a kind of whistle, with a sound similar to a small conch shell, a dancer appears until there are four performers moving slowly dressed in earthtone costumes.
When audience members received a program, they were also handed a two page list of sobering statistics. Examples: On average, more than five women or girls are killed every hour by someone in their own family. 75% Of women in prison are there for crimes of self-defense. 92% of the detected victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation are females. Only 1 in 100 women and girls are rescued from human trafficking.
Boubion has created beautiful duets, quartets, and solos that are laced with intense stillness, internalized terror, and yes, support and caring by other women. The solos are accompanied by the reading of true stories by the other cast members. Through wonderfully choreographed contemporary dance, her CUATRO VIENTOS sets up the scenario for women caught in dangerous or potentially life threatening situations such as a young woman being followed home by a man driving slowly behind her. She confronts him but once inside she realizes that “He now knows where I live.” Another wards off a man at a bus stop. She escapes but then states, “He knows my bus stop.”
The use of a single very long cord of white string is utilized to divide the space into triangles and rectangles. A single dancer finds herself cut off, entrapped or faced with unspoken rules that prevent her from moving forward and the films projected behind them speak to desolation, abandoned places and perhaps people, and loneliness.
CUATRO VIENTOS is a work in progress, but it already packs a wallop when viewed. The ending appeared the most unfinished and/or out of place. Serious situations that had previously been taken on with great symbolism and reverence, were somehow dropped and replaced with straight on dancing. Was this meant as predicting hope for change, for finding the lost? It was unclear.
What was certain, was I hope that Piñata Dance Collective returns to the Los Angeles area again soon and when they do, go see them. Liz Boubion is a wonderful dance artist and her work deserves attention.
The very strong dancers and performers included Clairey Evangelho, Rosie Dater-Merton, Catalina O’Conor, Abigail Hinson and Liz Boubion. The Music design was by Michael Daddona with additional compositions by Sovoso Singing Choir, Laura Inserra, and sound recording by Boubion. Dramaturgy was provided by Cristina Lopéz Suárez and the women of Una Luz en el Camino. Lighting Designer was Zoë Klein; Costumes by Jamielyn Duggan; and Videography by Boubion, Eva Soltes, Matt Romain, and Justin Hetrick.
For more information on Piñata Dance Collective, please visit their website.
For more information about Highways Performance Space, please visit their website.
Written by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: Piñata Dance Collective – (L-R) Clairey Evangelho, Abigail Hinson, Rosie Dater-Merton, Catalina O’Conor in Liz Boubion’s Cuatro Vientos – Photo by Lex Ryan