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Verenice Strumia

Creation of a Latin American patrimonial choreographic area.

Strumia, Verenice: "Creation of a Latin American patrimonial choreographic area",17th International Congress on Dance Research, Naxos, 22-26/10, 2003.

1. Summary

The Latin American choreographic text is a social and particular phenomenon that, observed as a whole in the field of the human history, can be understood as consequence and juxtaposition of modes of production. These modes of production integrate a synchronic-diachronic axis and understand History as a succession of modes of production which originate other modes and are superposed in geological deposits. As result, it arises a textual surface in which diverse modes of production coexist.

The choreographic text can be rebuilt as an area of forces in which the dynamism of the signs system acquire a dialogical origin, moving from the aesthetic category to the artistic one. The creation of a Latin American Patrimonial Choreographic Area implies a scientific, aesthetic and artistic study that focuses on the Cultural Anthropology, on the History, and on the history of the Universal Art so as to connect with those choreographic forms that subsist as testimony of the memory.

The dimension of the human knowledge, produced in an interdisciplinary mode, is expressed into diverse areas of the culture such as the manifestations of the art. These manifestations delineate a complex and irreplaceable system to the formation of the human knowledge, and constitute a net that sustain the culture itself.

The culture, defined as a zone of an heterogeneous and dynamic frontier possesses a polyglot mechanism of signs complexly systematised and organised, as complex as the vision of the world is, and allows to carry out a cutback of the categorical divergences and to speak of the traditional culture and of the principle of the fitica communication in which the traditional choreographic constructions are located. This principle tends to a communicative action which strengthens the social relations in the cultural common experience. This point of view allows us to think in a half-cast choreographic language in Latin America, characterised by its traditionalism, multi-meaning, and multiculturalism.

If the memory of the art is a memory that never forgets, the choreographic text, capable of condensing information, facilitates through such process of condensation the transformation of the messages, generating new senses on the notion of text as choreographic text. This notion in combination with the notion of model- the model possesses the ability of being repetitive, brings the past things to the present turning the choreographic text into a modelling system.

If we can only have access to reality from constructions, the creative attitude needs therefore, a known context in order to produce, by transposition, other material results and to interfere through specialised studies in a determined section of the culture. These material results aim at operating in more extensive observations about the already known, so as to enlarge the limits and to leave aside the theological or final aspect of what is being investigated to obtain the benefits of an intelligent relational ability, among the different type of knowledge.

The creation of a Latin American Patrimonial Choreographic Area tries to take part into the multiculturalism of Latin America, taking into account that it is located in the intersection between the dominant and dominated structures; between the emergence of the colonised cultures, the minorities and the peripheral areas. A Latin American Patrimonial Choreographic Area will be part in the multiculturalism among the internationalism and the globalisation, which fosters the resurgence of the native town cultures, bringing about a “multicultural scene” that faces up with the necessity of returning to a versatility of the culture and focusing in the ethnic.

The purpose of recovering a scientific and artistic attention since the creation of this Choreographic Area, with regards to the manifestation of the native continental dance, constitutes the intention of the hypothesis expressed in the title of this work and tries to give meaning to the sense of the traditional that needs to be observed taking into account new anthropological, historic and social- cultural points of view, bearing in mind that the new mass culture include the elaboration and flourish of an authentic “industrialised popular art”.

It is necessary to reach to a new delineation or valuation of the patrimonial dance area, in combination with the adequate data, so that the artistic and the sociological aspect remain inseparable. In order to avoid falling into a social-choreographic aestheticism it is convenient, as regards Anthropologist Clifford Geertz, to expand the symbolic dimensions of the social action in the art, in the science, and in the common sense. To facilitate an adequate approach to the purposes of the investigation, the main problem decomposes into three subprojects stated at the following:

a. Semiotic of the choreographic constructions in Pre-Hispanic America. A study about the aesthetic on dance in the main aborigine cultures: The Aztec, The Mayan, and The Andean.

b. From the European Renaissance to the American Baroque: a bridge towards the Latin American Choreographic Constructions.

c. Africa in Latin America. Naturalisations of the blacks differences in dancing as a mystical sustenance.

The creation of a Latin American Patrimonial Choreographic Area will be able to expand across the wide world of the Art on the basis of text and memory categories since if the art memory is a memory that never forgets, the existence of the human presence, under the freedom of its own conscience - which produces the constant creative influx among the innovation and convention of the codes, will cause the codes to acquire new meanings and to act in harmony. These results will protect the continuity of the memory in the regional particularities and in the patrimonial generalities of each country, supported by a common heading vector which articulates the polyglot multiculturalism of Latin America.

2. Introduction

The theory, elaborated on the basis of a Latin American Patrimonial Choreographic Area, can only be thought from a wide observational attitude of its criteria, when analysing the creative dance activity which is produced inside the different cultures, so that this activity, regarded as a “natural language”, can find its own legitimacy and from then on, be projected towards the Latin American origins which possesses the dimension of the variety as well as the homogeneity of the analogous.Undoubtedly, the analysis process that promotes the obtaining of the hypothetical premise is full of inter-textual connections that cover the productive nucleus of the choreographic event. Such nucleus is, precisely, the human body used as instrument but immersed in the existence of an axiomatic reference field regarded, by the empirical analysis, as valid references in a specific sector of the culture.In fact, the conditions that characterise the choreographic texts or forms of corporal communications, inserted in a Latin American Patrimonial Choreographic Area, and inside the context of the Latin American Art and of the Universal History of the Western Art, constitute a range of possibilities that goes from the scientific discourse about the “human body-patrimonial dance” object (in its verifying structure and relationship between the social phenomena and the social-psychological events), to the aesthetic thought that tends to explain the existence of an artistic-dialectic situation due to the presence of a multiplicity of signs capable of being interpreted, integrated and completed by the observer’s perception. It is obvious that a new delineation or valuation of this future Choreographic Area in the field of the traditional aesthetic will be needed, in which the aesthetic and social depend on each other.

We have mentioned before that so as not to fall into a social-choreographic aestheticism or lack of fidelity as for the history truth, it will be convenient, as regards Anthropologist Clifford Geertz, to expand the symbolic dimensions of the social action in the art, in the science, and in the common sense. The theoretical production of a Latin American Patrimonial Choreographic Area facilitates not only the opening of the field of Art but also, regarding its organic structure, the obtaining of validity according to the memory’s demands, as a conservative, creator and multiplier corpus in the multicultural society we are living in.

The geographical setting of Central America and South America, which started since the social-historical process initiated with the birth of the New World in 1492, sustains an ethnological amalgam which produces choreographic constructions in harmony with the dancing activity, taking into account the vision of a live cultural patrimony in the plurality of interactive and potential senses of Latin America.

3. Development


Every Latin American nation possesses its own subjectivity, inserted in a particular system, which responds to its traditional qualities from the ethnical patterns constructed by the capitalism in Latin America. The Latin American setting delineates the integrative nations or communities (1). Even if these nations or communities are seen as discursive constructions whose identity consists in the difference that distinguish them from the others constructions, they belong to the multicultural meaning sphere since they deal with traditions, dissimilar cultural activities associated to different ethnical components of the general social formation, that applied to this particular case, speak about Hispanic, Aboriginal, and African inheritance feasible of being raked and treated in the theoretical setting of a Latin American Patrimonial Choreographic Area. Countries from Central, Insular and Isthmian America, and from South America take part in this situation, in the everyday life of its inhabitants, owners of a sedimentary memory or collective unconsciousness, as defined by Carl Jung, who morn in this side of the Latin American world taking into account the past i function of the present. This exemplifies the posture of Fredric Jameson, (theorist of culture and critic on North America Contemporary Literature; 1934, Cleveland, United States),that states: “We frankly think that we control the past, that we are the ones who judge the past, but the past I am still living in, judges us and challenges our present ideological-symbolic crystallisations” [2].

The interdisciplinary activity produced in the choreographic text offers an abundant range of sense, inside the field of the collective communication, becomes a diversified power [3], and remits to the multiple-meaning aspect of the traditional choreographic construction in a narrow relation to the field of art, facilitating the realisation of endless interpretations. The textual surface of the traditional choreographic constructions, according to Fredric Jameson’s parameters, constitute a basement in which the social forces interact since different tendencies play on them. These forces make the text function as a totality, regarding the post-modern posture, and discover the differences or particularities that allow to carry out “local readings”. That is to say, totality and particularity can be interpreted as an interdisciplinary relation, and the aesthetic gradations needed to constitute a work of art can be determined.

Semiotic and theoretical Iuri Lotman’s thought, (Russia 1922-1993), states that “the more beauty of an art’s work, the more information”; by this way Lotman confirms that the dimension of the human knowledge is produced in an interdisciplinary manner. In this situation, the art, as a complex and unpredictable system, is of fundamental presence in the process of the culture construction where the artistic messages are gestated, starting from the memory’s action to the concrete cultural production. The Theologian and Platonic-Christian Philosopher San Agustin (354-430) refers also to the concept of memory as “ the force of the mind” which works in the human ability to turn the past into present. It is pertinent to bring out this concept since when we think about the past things, we detect the existence of a previous knowledge installed in the human spirit to the service of the man’s creation.

“Creation”, in this particular case and in the literal sense of the art, is the perfect symbiosis originated in the memory’s particular ability and in the creation act. In the intellectual sensibility of Iuri Lotman, where this irreplaceable idea was coined: “the memory of the art is a memory that never forgets", it has been found an appropriate meaning that corresponds to the memory’s ability existing in a choreographic text, in which the concept of knowledge constitutes a sedimentary field that functions as a topologic location and underlies in an extensive dialogism among memory, culture, science and art, as if it were an impressive nucleus of information whose entropia speaks quantitatively of trans-coded intersections. These intersections are able of being detected by means of an aesthetic, historic, and social-cultural production which possesses a wide group of codes and deals with them with an exacerbated capacity of transformation.

The genealogical character of the traditional choreographic constructions situates in a privileged position according to the influences the sign has when it is transferred into the notion of the text, and whose presence depends on the pattern of the world in which they are reflected. This type of world, in its plastic expression, qualifies them as condensing objects, governed by the value of the memory and of the artistic testimony. Maurice Holbwachs was the first man in studying the significance of the collective memory, highlighting essential differences among memory and history. He wrote: “ the collective memory is a stream of continuous thought, that only retains from the past what remains vivid, or what is able to live in the conscience of the group which sustains it”. The collective memory possesses the dimension of what such group wish to remember and it remains there as long as the own group. Memory and group belong each other. In the case the will to sustain or transfer disappears, that multiple and collective memory disappears too [4] .

Surprisingly, in almost every choreographic construction, the memory consolidated things that have never been stated by History, not for an inadequacy of History but because there are things that the historical speech can not report due to the lack of words. For example, in most of the treaties and bibliographical works on pre-hispanic cultures, the common blank in the historical documentation is the detailed description of the aboriginal morphology of the dance, if it is present in the artistic objects, because it is possible to be taken into account in the same level as other descriptions and studies about any of its aesthetic demonstrations. As time goes by, the language of dance is psychophysical memory and icon and aesthetic register that surpasses the configured form by means of the manifestation of the human conscience. The reason for this lack of documentation is, until present, due to a non-existing appropriate methodology for registration. The group that shares a memory rarely embraces the group of a nation; but the collective memory appears after the first experience of a first group and includes, by this way, the consequences of previous demonstrations of the memory and the presence of more durable beliefs.

The memory in function of a Latin American Patrimonial Choreographic Area is formed by a system of signs, governed by conventional rules ( explicit or implicit ) among the members of a consumers culture. In a more detailed way, the codes of representation participate in the Latin American Patrimonial construction that use the human body as transmitter. They tend to be evidence as they indicate aspects of the transmitter internal and social state and they are called codes of non-verbal communication. The principal codes are the corporal contact, the signs of the head, the facial expression, the hands gestures, the corporal posture, the eyes movement, and every aspect of the non-verbal speech.

In a second type of significance, it appears the classification of the Philosopher Richard Bernstein,(New York, United States, 1932), which deals with the elaborated and restricted codes used in different social situations [5]. The restricted code installed in the traditional choreographic constructions depends on a shared context of knowledge, on an ordinary social experience and on similar social expectations. The codes of the non verbal communication play a vital role inside this restricted code. On the contrary, those that head for the artistic tend to use elaborated codes when dealing with works of literature, theatre, music, dance, painting or sculpture. The aesthetic art works in the culture of masses or in the traditional culture tend to use restricted codes because they operate through shared likes and common social bonds that do not express, as in the works of higher cultures, the unique character and the originality of the artist.


If the art is an internal, semiotic and dynamic phenomenon in a specific culture, the text inside this culture is an active and polysemic mechanism that includes a compact memory system. Everything in the aesthetic text is dialectical, able to recompose, generate and transform. Before defining the text in a wider aspect, it is necessary to declare what the term culture means. The culture is an area of a heterogeneous and dynamic frontier; it is a polyglot mechanism of systematised and complexly organised signs, the more complex the world is, the functions as a big transformer and thinking device. Iuri Lotman, in the decade of 1980, elaborated a typology of the culture. On one hand, he defined the textual cultures as systemic and conservative of the information; and as producer of closed text (6). We can locate, in these cultures, the Latin American and the traditional choreographic constructions which were born and developed inside the popular culture. In this case the word ‘ popular ‘ is used in combination with the concept of hegemony regarding the national-popular, that, since 1971, is being used in order to stop the attendance to the classes and complex relation that exist among them and in the distinction of ethnic and gender.

When dealing with culture it is necessary to refer to the communication as an exchange process, in combination with the meaning of the traditional culture and of the fatica* communication principle, which aims at a communicative action that tends to reinforce the social relations and to produce original and creative texts in the culture itself. This is a type of communication formed by social and textual conventions that has the social and cultural experience as basis. The fatica communication contributes to maintain the communities and cultures as a unity, because such communication allows them to express their set of likes, expectations and experiences that contribute to the identification and reaffirmation of their cultural condition.


In order to continue constructing the ideology in this unit of analysis, it is valid to present another level of data that take part in the canon of the inductive particularities, so as to act as a bridge among the non facts and new or future potential knowledge, after this process of selection and reconstruction. The Philosopher Wilhem Dilthey (1833-1911), supported by psychological studies, defined the human life as starting point or durable context when constructing the first basic structural range of the humanistic studies, because they are also based in the understanding, and the knowledge of life. The life that travels through the human behaviour, as regards the Anthropologist Clifford Geertz, is seen as a symbolic action as well as the phonation in the speech, the colour in the painting, the lines in the written word or the sound in the music. The symbolic anthropology that works on the plots of symbolic significance, determines that only what is relevant for a cultural group is significant, for which each culture is constituted in a semiotic system. The man, who is semiotic as well as symbolic, as regards Ernest Cassirer, learnt to organise the corporal gesture regarding to the collective work that is monopolised in a single feeling, and is interpreted as organic discourse of a social group with the meaning of trunk body and of personal body as places of truth and knowledge for the construction of culture. We have to admit that there exist communities where the dancing activity joins the contingent polarities among the subject and its body, according to Julia Cristeva who formulates the idea of inter-textuality(7) which considers the human body as a social instrument submitted to regulation and rationality, called symbolic because it installs the subjects into their position and facilitates the formation of a common identity and culture.

This precedent transferred to a universal panoramic and analysed on the integration of an axis diachronic and synchronic, it arrives to a historical point in which the semiotic plot of the dance, influenced by subordination or supremacy cultures, is separated from its magical-religious in a chronological period that embraces approximately from 1375 to 1425, in which the medieval unit of recognition and perception of knowing and feeling are destroyed. This is when in the Western Europe the sensorial thing prevails on the imaginary one, and the East continues by the routs of the progressive abstraction [8].

The European dance on these parameters inferred in the new atmosphere of the American Continent, and other history of the different dance begun since 1492, starting from the social-cultural miscegenation originated in an impressive cultures encounter. The forms of the Reinassanse dance and, particularly, of Spanish origin, survived to the structures of the pre Colombus dance and dances imported by the black slavery; from that on, they continue developing in the American Baroque and approximately from the post-colonialism in hispanic America due to the state of imposition, fusion, and interchange, the results of the sincretic action of the interaction of cultures were materialised.

We have not only to develop an ordered and chronological classification of the Latin American choreographic constructions, or to elaborate constant structural patterns and to transform them into indestructible forms. On the contrary, what we pretend is a semiotic cutting in these constructions to make focus in a given culture, the necessary supplies and instruments to board the relation existing among them and their cultural context, looking for an intersection point, which allow the appearance of singularities that can be connected to the Universal History of Western Art, in relation to the historicity of the Latin American Art and to the patrimonial dance as artistic creation.

In this case, it is feasible to apply an anthropological profile with the purpose of facing the necessity of the actualisation of the sense of this field, so as to facilitate the access to a deep study through the thematic of an art in action or of the performance, as dance is, that from the core of the traditionalism and through the limits of its own morphology, surpasses towards the multiplicity of the creating signs, becoming into objects of art.

The dance, that is a social-symbolic universe on its own and that depends totally on the human body that is a social body and is also the essential support for the representation of the choreographic language, inside the aspect of the traditional and popular thing, takes the place of the multi-meaning and multi-referential .


The harmonic and rhythmic organisation of the corporal expression is an immanent condition of every choreographic construction, and can be regarded as universe of communication, avoiding the spoken word when using the variety of the corporal language, that is also a different manner to communicate.Taking into account the statement that presides this work, it makes reference to the Latin American choreographic forms as texts and memory process that respond to the stated idea: “The memory of the art is a memory that never forgets”, conceives to the choreographic text the ability to condense information, that is why it possesses memory and properties as those of an intellectual device, that not only transmit the stored information but also transform new messages and generates new senses.

It is of capital importance for Iuri Lotman the notion of model in the imaginary of all cultures, because it contributes to their construction. The pattern, as it is repeated, brings to the present things of the past, becoming a substitute of what no longer exits or existed in the past or another place. This pattern notion is perfectly applicable to the functional characteristics of the Latin American choreographic constructions, since as they are part of the culture, they are also creators of modelling systems and they can consequently adapt to the text and conform only one text, becoming into units inside the system of culture. By this way the choreographic text is recovered as integrity, that is to say, it is recovered as a semiotic and sign construction that keeps the communication.

The application of an analogism between text, memory and Latin American choreographic construction, gives us the possibility to read and analyse the empiric and descriptive postulate, that reveals the characteristics of its origins and its presence in the social action.

4. References

[1] Geertz, Clifford: The interpretation of the cultures, Barcelona, page 31, 1987.

[2] Jameson, Fredric: The marxism in the textual maelstron?, in Linguistic Turn and Intellectual History by PALTI, Elias Jose, Buenos Aires, pages 89 to 117, 1997.

[3] Camnitzer, Luis: The restricted definition of art. Presentation in the “First International Congress on The Theory of Visual Arts”, Caracas, 1992.

[4] Holbwachs, Maurice: Les cadres sociaux de la memoire, Paris, Alcan, 1925, compendium published in 1950 as La Memoire Colective.

[5] O’sullivan, Tim & Fiske, Jhon and others: Key concepts in the communication and cultural studies,Buenos Aires.

[6] Lotman, Iuri M.: The semiosphere. 1. Semiotic of culture and text, Madrid, 1996.

[7] Luizaga, Patricio: Dictionary of contemporary thinkers, Barcelona, page 206, 1996.

[8] Sachs, Curt: Universal history of dance, Buenos Aires, page 247, 1944.

The term “fitica” refers to what a community produces spontaneously either at a material or spiritual level.

5. The author

Bachelor of Art. University of Philosophy and Humanities. NationalUniversity of C?rdoba, Argentina.Professor of Piano, Theory and Solfeggio. Professor of Classic Dance, Scholastic Dance and Hispanic-Regional Dance; Argentine Dance and Latin American Dance.National and International Lecturer on works of investigation about the Argentine and Latin American dance origin.Teacher of training courses in the interdisciplinary area of dance, in Argentina, countries from Central America and South Africa and European countries.International Jury in Folk Dance Festivals of Palma de Mallorca (Spain), Agrigento (Italy) and Llangollen (England).Teacher of History of Classic, Medieval and Renaissance Art. National University of Cordoba, Argentina. Investigator in the InvestigationCenter of the University of Philosofy and humanities in the area of the Art.National University of C?rdoba, Argentina.Candidate for a Doctor Degree of The Doctorate in Art. NationalUniversity of C?rdoba, Argentina.Candidate for a Master Degree of the Master in Anthropology. NationalUniversity of Cordoba.

6. Note

This piece of work, according to its statement, constitutes the final presentation of the Doctorate thesis so as to obtain the Doctorate in Art in the University of Philosophy and Humanities, Argentina. The author declares that the topic of this work applies to the thematic axis of dance in the education process since the methodology used appropriately to the academic and scientific level of Anthropology, History and History of the Universal Art, allows the articulation, with different educational levels and fields, according to the teaching models needed in each particular case.

Ms. Verenice Strumia


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