"Queer Rican/Structions: The Dance-Theater Performances of Arthur Avilés and Elizabeth Marrero"

Prof. Lawrence H. La Fountain-Stokes

Rutgers University

In their long-standing collaborations, Nuyorican performance artists Arthur Avilés and Elizabeth Marrero have created a remarkable partnership, in which the experience of Diasporic gay and lesbian Puerto Rican subjects is explored and reinterpreted through the lens of American popular culture and Puerto Rican tradition. In Arturella and Maeva de Oz, classic Hollywood films (Disney’s Cinderella and MGM’s The Wizard of Oz) are rewritten and adapted to the reality of working-class queer Puerto Ricans in the Bronx; their performances, which integrate dance, theater, and visual projection, play with stereotypes and invent new, utopian spaces of expression for a doubly marginalized population.

Avilés and Marrero’s commitment to their community of origin has also led them to perform extensively in the Bronx, integrating their work to neighborhood-based organizations in Hunt’s Point and to community colleges such as Hostos. In this sense they execute a particular form of political/artistic activism, which sees art as a means for the integration and development of a ostracized cultural group.

In my paper, I discuss Avilés and Marrero’s reinterpretation of American popular culture as a strategy of resistance to mainstream incorporation and an affirmation of "subaltern" or "marginal" creativity; it is also a rebuttal of the fears of theorists from the nation of origin (Puerto Rico) who see the Diasporic experience as an inevitable loss of culture, as opposed to a source of hybrid production. I pay particularly close attention to the use of the naked body in these performances as a site for the production of meaning and to the references to schizophrenia as a (re)structuring device of individual subjectivity and community experience, as manifested through postmodern performance.