The Return of La Argentina
Voguing is a dance style that mimics the angular arm movements, poses, and strut of runway models. This form entered the mainstream in 1990 when it was featured in the video for Madonna’s “Vogue,” but it was initially established during underground competitions in the Harlem ballroom scene. Meanwhile, in downtown NYC, a group of young artists were developing other postmodern dance styles at the radical art venue Judson Church. Trajal Harrell has developed a series of dances that address the question: What would have happened if someone from the voguing scene in Harlem had gone downtown to perform alongside Judson Church choreographers and performers? The result is a distinctive dancing style that highlights the very different race and gender characteristics of two parallel worlds.
In The Return of La Argentina, Harrell mixes postmodern/voguing styles with the Japanese dance/theater form “butoh,” co-founded by Kazuo Ohno and Tatsumi Hijikata. Harrell identifies the key sensibilities of voguing in Ohno and Hijikata’s signature work, Admiring La Argentina (1977). Where Harlem voguing is inspired by the movements of models, Admiring La Argentina was inspired by La Argentina, the stage name of the famous Spanish dancer Antonia Merce. In his interpretation, Harrell identifies Ohno as voguing La Argentina and director Hijikata as voguing Antonia Merce. Producing his own take on the classic, Harrell adds another layer of complexity: Harrell vogues Ohno and Hijikata voguing La Argentina and Merce. This web of danced relationships brings Harrell’s audience on a journey of remembering, forgetting, memorializing, and ritualizing Admiring La Argentina.
Originally designed to inhabit museum spaces, Harrell brings The Return of La Argentina to EMPAC in a mezzanine performance that is free and open to the public.
Trajal Harrell is a choreographer who shows his work in a range of settings including performance venues such as The Kitchen, New York Live Arts, and Festival d’Avignon, and museums including MoMA, ICA Boston, and Centre Pompidou—Paris and Metz. Harrell is the recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship, The Doris Duke Impact Award, and a Bessie Award. He developed The Return of La Argentina in a two-year Annenberg Residency at MoMA.