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Time: 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Location: Cabral Center
Sponsored By: Northeastern University’s Department of Cultures, Societies and Global Studis
Contact: Stefanie Rich (
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In this performative lecture, dance artist Alicia Díaz will engage in an improvised dialogue with percussionist Héctor “Coco” Barez informed by the relationship between the solo dancer and the subidor, the lead drummer in the Puerto Rican bomba. Integrating contemporary dance vocabulary with references to the traditional Puerto Rican music and dance form, Díaz and Barez explore their Puerto Rican cultural identity in contemporary society. The performative lecture will provide a window into the creative process followed by a performance by the artists.

The last 30 years have seen a resurgence of bomba in Puerto Rico and in Puerto Rican communities in the United States. At a time of extreme political, economic, and environmental crisis, young people are reclaiming this old tradition. It is significant that a form that developed within a context of oppression would reemerge when there is a need for change in economic and political structures.

The sophisticated improvisation skills at the center of bomba, have historically served as an avenue for self-expression in response to the pressures of systemic oppression. The capacity to cope with dire social and political situations creatively can be traced back to the experience and cultural memory of slavery. It is noteworthy that afro-diasporic cultural forms that underscore improvisation, like bomba, survived the institution of slavery and continue to inform contemporary society. This is one of the lessons of bomba—its determination to survive. In these improvisations, dancers and musicians must be willing to “listen” closely to each other. They are also “listening deeply” to a shared cultural knowledge that provides them common vocabulary, both physical and auditory, and that connects them to ancient traditions. Within those traditions lie lessons on how to think quickly on your feet (figuratively and literally), how to allow intuition to lead while paying attention to very specific circumstances, how to communicate non-verbally, and how to recognize when it is time to move on.

It may very well be that improvisation still serves as a tool for survival today. Every time we improvise, we put ourselves on the line. It exposes our vulnerability and in so doing it also reveals new perspectives. New possibilities, so desperately needed to face challenges ahead, can be considered. The work Díaz and Barez will present in this performative lecture is a proposal for looking for ways to integrate historical and cultural legacies in order to learn new, or re-learn old ways of how to be in the world. In their improvisation practice as performance and its methodology lies the idea of being present, of “listening”—of being able and willing to engage in conversation with others. Not as an abstract idea but as an embodied practice that is in itself a political act.

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Event Location

Latinx Student Cultural Center
104 Forsyth Street
Boston, MA 02215 United States

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