Alejandra Martorell makes dance pieces that marry choreographed material with improvisation. She was a founding member of Viveca Vázquezs dance troupe, Taller de Otra Cosa, with whom she performed here at PS122, in Pennsylvania, Argentina and Puerto Rico. She was a 1998-2000 Artist-in-Residence with Movement Research with a grant from the Eduard and Sally Van Lier Fund. In May 2003, PS122 presented her first full-evening work, m.o. (modus operandi). Other work has been presented here and at Dixon Place, Movement Research at Judson Church, Painted Bride in Philadelphia, Studio 303 in Montreal and several theaters in Puerto Rico. Alejandra is one-third of Tryst (with Clarinda Mac Low and Paul Benney), a collaborative team that conjures free outdoor performance situations for re-envisioning and re-discovering the physical landscapes of our everyday life. She currently also collaborates in Spanic Attack, a conglomeration of multidisciplinary Latin American artists based in NYC and dedicated to promoting, producing and networking alternative and emerging art in New York and abroad. She has worked with Sally Silvers since 1995 and with Jennifer Monsons Bird Brain project as part of The Pigeon Project at PS122 (2000) and two 10-week migration tours in the Spring of 2001 (the Whales tour) and the Fall of 2002 (the Osprey tour). She has also performed with choreographers Eduardo Alegría, Sigal Bergman, Clarinda Mac Low, Alison Salzinger, Karen Sherman, Merián Soto, Laura Staton, Kathy Westwater and Cydney Wilkes.
What inspired your new piece They are Not Falling and how does it fit in with your other work?
As all previous work, They are not falling comes from personal observations and questions. I started with the most intimate of relationships and its reflection, so to speak, on the body. On the other hand, I was greatly inspired by the work of an Israeli video artist named Michal Rovner who makes portraits of groups of people in space, creating a context that seems social and asocial at the same time. I was interested in the anonymity of group movement and the simple narrative and emotional structures composed with relating bodies. I think of this piece as more formal than my previous work. I want to open the process to include other media and with that other creators, rather than constructing everything from a purely personal, emotional place. In a way, to experiment more with form and content.
When did you start dancing and what inspired you to pursue it?
I danced as a kid and growing up, but really began using dance and growing within it when I was about 17. I had the best experience meeting Viveca Vázquez then, and discovering through her dancing and her mind a kind of dance that was outside of the aesthetic cannon completely. It brought up so many questions about beauty, expression and being in the world, I kept the pursuit. I think it was the most interesting and immediate way for me to follow through those issues.
You often work with the same collaborators such as Sigal Bergman. Where do you meet them and what is the advantage of working with the same people?
Ive met people along the way, seeing their work and entering relationships that in some way make the work itself. Clarinda Mac Low is someone I met pretty early on when I came to New York and we found a lot of common ground. Lately our relationship has really taken on the form of work more and more – in the Tryst project and through her role as dramaturg – which I am very happy about. Sigal is someone I admire a lot and love how she thinks about dance and her relationship to the performing part of it. I met Astrud in the Bird Brain project. She is one of the most amazing dancers I know and her improvisational skills are otherworldly. I feel lucky to be able to create in collaboration with such amazing minds and bodies. I often dont know what the final picture will be when I start, and its a gift to discover the form of the piece with the collaborators as we go along.
Is your Puerto Rican heritage an influence on your work or your Artistic background?
It couldnt be any other way, since thats who I am. But I dont know how much you can call up something about my work and name it a Puerto Rican influence. The people I grew up with, like Viveca, are Puerto Rican. They were greatly influenced though by the New York scene in the early 80s. She calls it the tail end of the Judson era, and my period in New York she refers to as the really-barely-noticeable-last-trace of that original 60s time. Puerto Rico being so near by and a colony of the States, the influences are almost imperceptible because they are so prevalent, given the constant migration process back and forth. I think the context of growing up in Puerto Rico can force you to question how/what gets named what by whom and when.
If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be and why?
Right now Im having a blast with the people involved in this project. It has been especially instructive to work with Guy and Doug and to look at work from that perspective. Not only because it is new to me, but because they know so much about the relationship between music and dance, and about elements coming together in a process, and how to work with the unknown. A fascinating and delicious lesson is that you dont necessarily have to know the people ahead of time to have a connection and an illuminating process, to go back to your other questions about long-term relationships, etc. One is happily surprised and work is often the place where you really get to know and match interests and other things with people. To go back to your question, I still cherish being in the dancer side of the equation in terms of collaborating, and I look forward to doing that more in the coming years. But at this moment I find most exhilarating and challenging to collaborate with people working in other mediums. There are plenty of them. The ones in this piece are setting a hard act to follow, Id say.