Yeni Lucero featured in “DanArtes” film as 1st International Artist in Residence @ Dans’Artes

“DansArtes,” the J Rêve International documentary film currently in production in Mozambique,  features dancer/choreographer Yeni Lucero as the first artist in residence in the multidisciplinary art center, Dans’Artes.  Her residency of one month, May 2013, was sponsored by the African Consortium.

Click this text to visit Yeni’s website

the making of “Battleground Zombie”
My experience and my work done in Mozambique

“The other side project”

STEPPING OUTSIDE THE AIRPLANE AND SPEAKING TO MOZAMBICANS AT THE AIRPORT, I IMMEDIATELY FELT THE CULTURE PIERCING THROUGH MY SKIN.  THE AIR WAS THIN AND MOIST, THE SCENT WAS DIFFERENT, I IMMEDIATELY FELT OUTSIDE OF HOME. OUTSIDE OF THE AIRPORT, STOOD A SHORT PERSON WITH A GRAND PRESENCE, MARIA HELENA PINTO. MARIA JUMPED LIKE A HAPPY JELLY BEAN AND WAS SO FULL OF JOY, JUST INCREDIBLE!
MEETING MARIA WAS LIKE MEETING A LONG LOST FAMILY MEMBER.  WE BOTH TEARED AND HUGGED.

MEET MARIA HELENA PINTO, A WOMAN THAT AT FIRST SIGHT ROBS YOUR HEART AND WELCOMES YOU AS HER FAMILY MEMBER.  AN ARTIST WITH GRAND DREAMS AND GREAT ARTISTIC VISIONS.  ONE IN WHICH HER DREAM IS IN THE MAKING, DAN’S ARTES, AN ARTISTIC VILLA RESIDING IN MOTOLA MOZAMBIQUE, AN IMPORTANT EDUCATIONAL STRUCTURE THAT NEEDS YOUR ATTENTION.  THE PURPOSE OF THIS VILLA, IS TO CREATE AN ARENA FOR LOCAL, AND ALL INTERNATIONAL ARTISTS FROM DANCERS AND CHOREOGRAPHERS TO COME EXCHANGE ARTISTIC VISIONS, PERSPECTIVES, & WORKSHOPS. I WAS THE FIRST ARTIST COMING FROM OAKLAND TO DAN’S ARTES TO SHARE AND EXCHANGE THE ARTISTIC VISION “THE OTHER SIDE”.

MY NAME IS YENI LUCERO I’M 5’3, HAVE THE SPIRIT OF A CHILD, I’M PLAYFUL HAPPY AND LIKE TO LAUGH.  THE IMPRESSION OF ME AT FIRST SIGHT MAY NOT BE THE STEREOTYPICAL IMAGE OF A CHOREOGRAPHER AND ARTIST, BUT A HUMAN BEING THAT LIKE TO EXPRESS AND OBSERVE LIFE AT ITS HIGHEST POTENTIAL.  WHEN HELENA INTRODUCED ME AS A GREAT CHOREOGRAPHER AND DANCER FROM AMERICA, IT WAS AS IF PEOPLE HAD A HARD TIME TO BELIEVE, AND EVEN I DID TOO LOL!  WAS IT BECAUSE I WAS A WOMAN? OR WAS IT SIMPLY A MENTALITY? I SMILED AND BRUSHED IT OFF.

MY MISSION AS AN ARTIST AND PURPOSE OF THIS EXPERIENCE WAS TO FIND A FORM OF AN ARTISTIC EXCHANGE FROM MINES TO THEIRS.  BUILDING WITH MARIA HELENA AT DAN’S ARTES AS MY ARTISTIC MENTOR AND FRIEND, ALLOWED ME TO WITNESS MOZAMBICAN INTERPRETATION OF THEIR ARTISTRY AND WHAT IT MENT TO THEM, HOW THEY INTERPRET THE WORLD.  IN RETURN, I SHOWCASED HOW I INTERPRET MINES.  DREAMS AND VISIONS WERE EXCHANGED AND WE ALL BECAME INSPIRED BY THE LOVE OF DANCE.

FIRST DAY I WOKE UP AT DAN’S ARTES, I WAS NERVOUS KNOWING THAT DANCERS WERE ABOUT TO ARRIVE WITHIN MINUTES. I GRABBED MY I-POD WENT THROUGH MUSIC AND TOOK DEEP BREATHS. I HAD NO EXPECTATIONS OF WHAT WAS TO COME.  I LOOK OUTSIDE, I SAW MANY MEN…. HMMM MAYBE THAT’S THE ADDITION OF THE FILM MAKERS, I THOUGHT.  I STEPPED OUTSIDE STILL NO DANCERS, LOTS OF MEN HELPING TO PUT TOGETHER THE SOUND SYSTEM.  I ASKED HELENA “WHERE ARE THE DANCERS?” SHE SAID THEY ARE RIGHT I FRONT OF YOU, I STARTED HYPERVENTILATING, ALL MEN, A LOT OF THEM.  I WAS EXPECTING ALL WOMEN….  MY JOURNEY BEGAN.

CRYSTALIZING THE EXPERIENCE, TEACHING TWO WEEKS OF DANCE TECHNIQUE AND CHOREOGRAPHY, GAVE ME THE OPPORTUNITY TO EXPLORE A WORK IN PROGRESS “BATTLEGROUND ZOMBIE”, AND ADDRESS ISSUES THAT LURE BETWEEN MAN AND WOMAN, MASCULINITY, POLITICS, COMRADESHIP AND THE SENSITIVITY OPPRESSION TO MAN, ALL DERIVING FROM ONE SOURCE, COLONIAL MENTALITY.

THE FIRST DRAFT OF “BATTLEGROUND ZOMBIE” WAS INSPIRED BY THE SONG “ZOMBIE” BY FELA KUTI.  THIS DANCE PIECE STARTED A YEAR AGO AS A ONE-TIME PERFORMANCE THAT I MADE UP THE SAME DAY AND IMPROVED. THIS PIECE TRICKLED DOWN FROM ONE EVENT TO THE OTHER, VIEWED BY A STRONG BAY AREA FEMALE ARTIST, DELINA PATRICE BROOKS.  AFTER DELINA VIEWED THAT ONE SOLO, DELINA  AND MARC BAMUTHI  INVITED ME TO BE REPRESENTED AS ONE OF THE BAY’S AFRICAN-ROOTS ECOLOGY FEMALE ARTIST OCT 2012 FOR A PRIVATE SALON “VOICES OF STRENGTH”.  IN THIS SALON WERE FIVE OTHER FEMALE ARTISTS REPRESENTING AFRICA, ONE WHO WAS MARIA HELENA PINTO. INITIALLY THIS SONG “ZOMBIE” REMINDED ME OF MY OWN HOME COUNTRY EL SALVADOR AND THE CIVIL WAR OF 1988, AND THE REASON ME AND MY FAMILY HAD TO LEAVE. A LOT OF EMOTIONS WOKE UP.  I TOLD MY STORY AS AN ARTIST, A SINGLE MOTHER AND PRESENTED AN EXCERPT OF “BATTLEGROUND ZOMBIE”.  MARIA HELENA APPROACHED ME, WE TALKED AND BONDED IMMEDIATELY.  I SAW HER PERFORMANCE THE NXT DAY “SOMBRA” IN SAN FRANCISCO AT YBCA FORUM, WE CHATTED FOR 5MIN, THE FIRST THING SHE SAID WAS “YOU ARE COMING TO MOZAMBIQUE!” I LAUGHED…..DIDN’T SEEM REAL… THEN ONE THING LED TO ANOTHER.  MAY 5TH 2013 I TRAVELED TO MOZAMBIQUE.

“BATTLEGROUND ZOMBIE” HAD A PURPOSE.  BATTLEGROUND ZOMBIE SPOKE TO ME IN MANY WAYS IN MOZAMBIQUE, FROM MY OWN STORY, HELENA’S STORY AND THE ONES I WITNESSED AROUND ME. IT WAS THAT ONE PIECE THAT BROUGHT ME ACROSS TO ANOTHER CONTINENT, AFRICA.  I HAD RULED OUT THE IDEA OF GOING BACK TO “BATTLEGROUND ZOMBIE” …UNTIL A DANCER FROM MOZAMBIQUE SAW MY VIDEO ON YOUTUBE (ON PRIVATE) FROM THAT ONE NIGHTS PERFORMANCE IN SAN FRANCISCO AND SAID “I WANT THIS!” I LOOKED SURPRISED…CHUCKLED AND SAID OKEY….I’LL WAKE UP THE PIECE FOR YOU.  THE EXPERIENCE AS A WHOLE GAVE ME THE STRENGTH AND VISION TO SOMEWHAT CONDENSE THE IDEA.  AS I MYSELF HAD NOT UNDERSTOOD IT YET.

MANY NIGHTS WITH MARIA HELENA PINTO.  ALL MY TIME IN MOZAMBIQUE WAS CONSUMED IN THE GROWTH OF ENRICHING MY KNOWLEDGE OF OTHERS LIFESTYLE AND STORY.  MANY NIGHTS ME AND MARIA USED TO STAY UP AND TALK. WE TALKED ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS, SINGLE-MOTHERHOOD AND THE URGE OF NEEDING MEN, YET THE ABUSE THAT ARISE WITH THE POWER STRUGGLES THAT MAKES IT IMPOSSIBLE TO LOVE.  MY CONCLUSION AT THE END WAS THAT WE ALL LOOK FOR THE SAME THING, LOVE IN WHATEVER WAY IT LOOKS.  CULTURE AND SOCIETY PLAYS A BIG PART IN ALL OF THIS AND HOW WE RELATE TO ONE ANOTHER, ULTIMATELY THE WORLD IS COMPOSED AND TIED UP THROUGH RELATIONSHIPS WHETHER THEY ARE ROMANTIC, BUSINESS RELATED OR FRIENDSHIP.  RELATIONSHIPS ARE INEVITABLE.  THOUGH I STARTED TO EXPLORE THIS IDEA AND HOW THIS RELATED TO BATTLEGROUND ZOMBIE I BECAME INTERESTED IN HOW MASCULINITY IS EXPLOITED IN MEN POLITICALLY AND EMOTIONALLY THROUGH THE CONDITIONING OF COLONIAL MENTALITY.  EVERY SOCIETY DOES IT IN ITS OWN WAY, AS A PRODUCT THE WOMAN FALLS BEHIND IN OPPRESSION AND THE MAN INTO A POSSESSIVE MALE FIGURE, AS A RESULT WE ALL FALL INTO A ZOMBIE STATE A MIND NOT OF OUR OWN MAKING.  ALL OF THIS HAS A ROOT OF COURSE, YET WE DECIDE TO LOOK AT THE VICTIMIZATION OF BOTH GENDERS, WE MAKE THE MAN THE EVIL GUY, AND THE WOMAN THE HELPLESS VICTIM.  AND WE FOCUS TOO MUCH INTO THIS EMOTIONAL STATE OF MIND THAT WE FORGET TO LOOK AT THE SOURCE AND WHY WE ARE SENT TO BECOME ZOMBIES…”SO WHY DO THEY DO IT?” LIKE FELA PROCLAIMED IN HIS SONG ZOMBIE.

ONE OF MY ARTISTIC GOALS HAVE ALWAYS BEEN TO EMPOWER THE WOMAN, WHICH I DID, BUT I UNDERSTOOD I HAD TO DO THIS BY EMPOWERING THE MAN AS WELL, MEN HURT TOO, AND THOUGH THEY MAY HAVE BEEN RAISED TO BE THIS DOMINANT MALE FIGURE IN MOZAMBIQUE, EL SALVADOR, SOUTH AFRICA OR IN OTHER COLONIAL CONQUERED COUNTRIES INCLUDING THE U.S, THEY SUFFER IN WAYS THAT WE MAY NOT UNDERSTAND.  SOME MOTIFS FROM “BATTLEGROUND ZOMBIE” CAME ABOUT GESTURES GENERATED BY THE MEN AND MYSELF ON THE TIME BEING.  ZOMBIE IS A DANCE STORY THAT I WISH TO DEVELOP FURTHER, IT IS MY PRAYER THAT THIS WILL BECOME A FULL PRODUCTION AND DOCUMENTARY ONE DAY.  HOWEVER IN THESE TWO WEEKS, THIS IS WHAT WAS INSTILLED WITHIN ME.

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