Moving Reflections

A Brief Personal History of Dance: Cultural Writer Jose Luis Benavides Offers Pre-Reflections for Moving Dialogs Body As Source

Jose Luis Benavides, cultural writer, shares pre-reflections on the Body As Source. He relates his poetic & cultural  writing style to that of the dancer & body-based work.

As he shares: “I really did try to just channel the ideas of what my own experiences with movement, identity and knowledge (inherent to the body) might evoke in me, what my body recalls, and what is knotted in space. Looking over the [dance] work of Dr. Ananya ChatterjeaAwilda Rodriguez Lora  and Darrell Jones, I [explore] an intimate narrative and poetic portrayal of fragmented narratives that might relate to  each of these amazing person’s work.”

Tomorrow, Tuesday, October 29th, 6:30pm at The Dance Center of Columbia College,  Ananya, Awilda and Darrell will share their insights inside this potentially controversial and provocative Moving Dialog: Body As Source. Jose Luis will be present to take notes to be shared in a future Moving Reflections entry. For now, he shares A personal history of dance.


In her collection of essays, Borderlands/La Frontera, Gloria Anzaldua fearlessly used poetry and lyric accounts with all the weight and strength of her analytic texts. So too we might consider the body as uncharted and unaccounted-for terrain, sites of wealth, information and investigation, wrought with pain and pleasure. They are all one, and so there can and must exist in academic, cultural analysis and the lived reality of every person a knowing movement between texts. Like those acts of a play, or the pauses between different choreographies, the word, like memory, skips and fumbles into itself. Memory, which places itself in our reflex, our senses, our being is also locked in particular spaces, sites of inquiry that hold us to locale as much as flesh does the soul. Thus, I offer these reflections as my own dance between memory, identity and my entire being. As much as a gesture can convey, the word, for me, works as the joint or tendon could, assisting in the flow of information in lieu, or perhaps as true, as my own essence, or thought. Is it not the artist’s intention to dance an idea, a feeling, a moment into the other?

 A brief, personal history of dance.

Dance has always been something I did, reserved, alone, in communion with my own impulse to flit and spin about as a result of an utterly sheltered and devastatingly isolated youth. I did nothing for almost all of my childhood but play, alone in a basement with only the clock and television to mimic eyes. The radio, a few tapes and the melodies inside guided a bowl-cut and heavy brim-spectacled version of myself to kick and fumble across the 70’s shag carpet of my aunt’s home. My body knows that thing I pray not to be. My young body remembers things I yearn to hold.

A vez en cuando

me vestía con una sabana roja. 

Me imaginé como un esclavo

de Ramesses. Me exitaba

imaginar, que un principe

talvez me ordenaba

levantar la sabana,

doblandome sobre su cama.

Almost 10 years ago, as a freshman in college at Urbana-Champaign, a longhaired and thinner version of myself experienced the powerful effects and spiritual importance of movement in a Bhangra put on by an Indian student cultural group. The hippy dorm took several of us odd characters on an excursion to Illini Union Hall. The physical transformation began with a long flowing skirt fashioned from a friend’s wardrobe, which seemed appropriate at the time, to highlight the cultural cross dressing or cultural tourism I was about to embark. I was lost in my own world, the clacking of sticks, and the gusts of wind between my legs. As I left, exhausted, a small group of Indian guys complimented me on my dancing. I felt honored, surprised, confused, even curious about their queerness and utterly embarrassed, to say the least. I was too shy to say much more than thank you, but to this day I wonder if any of them might have noticed me moving, with my eyes closed the entire time, and longed for me as I might have him.

Me quite los calzones

¿Alguna vez hás bailado


con una multitude de gente

élegre y libre?

I left work and went to Boystown. At Spin I run into one of the students that I was helping my mentor work with after-hours at Young Chicago Authors. I would stay in the office for almost 10 hours a day, sometimes coming in 6 or 7 days a week. No one warned me full-time employment post-college would take such a tole. Excessive drinking and excessive dancing become the only medicine. The young man was a voguer in the House of Ninja and they were choreographing a performance for the teen poetry festival, Louder Than a Bomb. He told me, amidst the drunken blur of people, that one of the people in the group was stabbed in a bar fight last week.


como niños peliando


a gladiadores

pero nadie 


con honor.

Jose Luis Benavides

Jose Luis Benavides

Jose Luis Benavides

*Tomorrow, Moving Dialogs next event – Body As Source – convenes at The Dance Center of Columbia College. Doors open at 6:15pm. Event begins at 6:30pm. With Dr. Ananya ChatterjeaAwilda Rodriguez Lora  and Darrell Jones. Moving Reflections Blog contributor:  Jose Luis Benavides. Moderated by Baraka de Soleil. A co-presentation of Audience Architects and The Dance Center of Columbia College.