Welcome to “Indigenous Stories of Uncertain Times,” an ongoing open call series to share perspectives and reflections on the pandemic from Indigenous people and communities. For each post I’m donating to a cause supporting COVID relief in Indian Country. For more information on the series, submission instructions, or if you would like to contribute to author honorariums and donations, please see this post.
By P. Don’Té Cuauhtémoc, M.F.A.
Cuauhtémoc (Mescalero Apache, Mexika-Chichimeca/Cano, Cihuaiyolo Butch Queen) is a Critical Dance Studies Ph.D. student at the University of California, Riverside (UCR). Their research and writing focuses on how queer, trans* and two-spirit black, and blackened indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere have deployed the dance form of vogue (voguing/Performance) as a praxis of decolonization, resisting capitalism, transformational resilience, and radical indigenous knowledge reclamation. You can follow their work on Instagram @donte_omelauren and Facebook.
1) When dancing becomes easy, I get bored and unmotivated, but ‘ease in grace’ is a necessary aspect of dance performance.
2) I enjoy the rigor of dance class, training and practice, because of the growth I experience and see in myself, but always pushing limits can become unsustainable.
3) I was taught to dance in service of the people around me, and to the spirits and the Creator of this world. All of my dancing has become sacred because of this.
4) I want my dancing to be delicious. I want to be delicious. And that takes a lot of work. Every day, one moment at a time. I had wished there was some sort of end, or achievement, so that I could relish in all that I am and have created– but that’s only possible through privilege, which is an exploitation of labor through generational insidious means.
5) So long as we stand on stolen land that is “America,” our dancing is imperfect, and like everything we make, it is made with theft. I had once wanted to be a strong and balanced dancer, but the Queens taught me that’s an illusion made and sold, entrapping us to the reservations of our mind. They taught me to focus on acceptance, refusal, resistance, survival, and reciprocity. They taught me to enjoy the adventure, because my birth was prayed for, and I am a gift from the ancestors to do the warriors’ work.
6) I was born into a body that colonization had tried to destroy through genocide. The biopolitical warfare continues today on my black and brown, and blackened families. Because of this, the joy of dance, and my freedom to express anything I feel, is a blessing, a gift, that was fought for, through deadly wars and battles. My grandfather’s dream was for us to have our sacred freedom to dance.
7) What makes an incredible dancer, is not their technique, or their passion, but the fortification of their Spirit. Anyone can be beautiful when they are young, but to be beautiful and delicious in old age, is earned, and deserved.
8) Dancers lie. Hips lie. Eyes lie. Hearts lie… Like everything else, imperfection of truth, is the only real lived experience we will ever have. So, I’m not too interested in the illusion of moral consistency, or greatness in integrity… I am much more interested in how we recover when we fall: …how our completion of a dip always includes recovery…
9) Failure is our greatest teacher. She’s a hard-ass, but she knows how to get you to where you need to go.
10) I have seen, felt, heard, tasted, experienced my full truth only once in my life. But, I know the formula now, and I know how to recreate it. But recitationality is never enough, innovations through inclusivity is required for sustainability.
11) Elitism, ownership, and exclusivity are colonial terms, illusions for commodifications of materials, services, and experiences into commodities. With this, because of the meta logics of colonialism, those with power always benefit. Statements of truth, such as “dance is for everyone,” are strange and terrifying, because with simplicity, it disrupts colonial order.
12) We all want to predict the future, avoid mistakes, and say “aha!” Or “I told you so!” — but how we dance in the present moment is honestly much more important.
13) Why we dance comes before what we dance, always.
The donation for Cuauhtémoc’s post will go to the First Peoples Fund Resilience Fund, which “provides emergency relief to grassroots artists and culture bearers within our network so that they can cover urgent personal needs: food, housing, caretaking, and/or healthcare expenses.”