MK Abadoo is an unapologetic activist. The dances she creates speak her truth to power. Her choreography offers a socially conscious take on torn-from-the-headlines issues of racial, social and gender equity. Drawn to community-based work, Abadoo fuses postmodernist aesthetics with fleet-footed and full-bodied West African forms—she spent a Fulbright year in Ghana—and the nonchalant swagger of funk. Her 2015 work Octavia's Brood: Riding the Ox Home is inspired by science-fiction writer Octavia Butler's work and vignettes from the Underground Railroad, toggling between an Afro-futurist view of the U.S. and the searing history of Harriet Tubman. When Abadoo and her dancers stop short, caught by swaths of brown fabric tugging them ceaselessly back, they're trapped in an extension of their skin as Akua Allrich croons "My skin is black." Abadoo's message: The struggle against racism remains real, visceral and unvarnished, and she's ready to confront the issue head-on.
In just two years, dancer and choreographer Cristina Aguilera has performed her solo works at the two most important flamenco festivals in the world: the Seville Flamenco Biennial and the Jerez Festival. In De Agua, Plata y Tierra in Jerez, Aguilera brought drama and lyricism, but also the raw energy and precision that preserve traditional flamenco within a contemporary context. Unlike many of her colleagues who are taking an avant-garde approach, Aguilera maintains the classical line that comes from conservatory training, often trading fury and lightning speed for elegance and moments of thoughtful calm.
Cristina Aguilera in her De Agua, Plata y Tierra
Javier Fergo, Courtesy Jerez Festival<p><strong></strong><strong>Cracking the code: </strong>Aguilera's first professional gig was at age 8, dancing at a <em>tablao</em>, a venue where flamenco is performed predominantly for tourists. When she returned to dancing professionally at about 17, she already understood how to perform with a rotating cast of musicians and dancers. Aguilera says, "It didn't make me nervous like other dancers who are not yet familiar with the codes of the <em>tablao</em>."</p><p><strong>Naming her latest show: </strong>While she was developing <em>De Agua, Plata y Tierra</em>, an audience member at a <em>tablao</em> told Aguilera in a Facebook message that her dancing had inspired him to write a poem. "The final line said that I was a dancer 'of water, silver and earth,' " she says, and the phrase became the name of her new show. "The choreographies work with and against the textures and properties of these elements."</p>
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