Context Notes: luciana achugar


Since her childhood days in South America, the Brooklyn-based, Uruguay-born performance-maker luciana achugar developed an intimate understanding of the profound impact of politics on people’s personal lives, having witnessed first hand the vicissitudes of life under tyrannical governmental regimes but also the empowering sense of togetherness in the face of adversity. achugar’s formative years are tinged with memories of people organizing demonstrations in her parents’ home, of silent marches for the disappeared, and the feeling of connectedness originated by large masses of people coming together, ensuing in her keen awareness of injustice, violence, power structures and military oppression. 

Artistically, during those formative years achugar was first exposed to modern dance in her native Montevideo by training with a protégé of Jose Limon’s from New York. Ultimately keen on discovering other approaches, achugar pursued her university training at CalArts in Los Angeles, where she discovered post-modern dance and release techniques which greatly informed the future development of her own choreographic vocabulary in the ensuing years.

Originally dedicating herself to dancing, achugar came to choreography as a result of a desire for deeper participation in the creative process she had been a part of, which resulted in first collaborative projects with Levi Gonzalez, whom she found a common artistic ground. Countering the traditional hierarchical model, which endows the choreographer with all the decision-making power, achugar pursued a creative process based on dialogue. Interested in unlocking dance’s potential to engage in existential and philosophical discourses, and fascinated with the phenomenology of pleasure in movement, she embarked on an ongoing investigation of connections between the experience of living within one’s body and one’s life within a society. While discovering her choreographic voice in the United States as a foreigner, achugar also developed a prominent sense of awareness of her adoptive culture, afforded by her vantage point as an “other.” 

Both within her own practice and within the larger context in which her work is presented, OTRO TEATRO (literally translated, “another/other theatre”) is a call for a new paradigm. achugar believes that theatre is a forum for offering possibilities, a space for utopia, an incubator for the notion that another world is possible. For her, this work became an opportunity to question the very fabric of her practice, to investigate what performance is and why she makes it. Concerned with the capitalist model, where each work is ultimately viewed as a product that is served to the consumer in a supply-and demand chain, achugar was very keen on subverting that dynamic, instead approaching this work as a ritual involving a shared transformation of the performer’s body as well as the audience’s. This work evolves as a continuation of an approach she began to develop with her previous evening-length work, PURO DESEO, based on the premise of putting a spell on the audience through ritual, singing and repetition. This path is rooted in her philosophical principle of embodying pleasure, as a resistance to producing dances as material for consumption. Although achugar challenges herself by unapologetically pushing the boundaries of exposure and vulnerability to the fullest, she also manages to conjure a powerful act: being objectified by the audience’s gaze transforms into a true act of sharing and experiencing a sense of togetherness.

–Ivan Talijancic