Tag Archives: Alicia Diaz

Sassy Latina? Maybe not always.


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“I am inspired by lessons from the Caribbean that underscore creativity, resilience and the capacity for both resistance and celebration in the midst of difficulty,” says Alicia Diaz, a professional dancer who grew up in Princeton. She will participate in an unusual lecture demonstration this Friday afternoon  at Princeton University. Entitled “Diasporic Body Grammar: an encounter of movements and words,” it will be December 2, 2 to 5:30 p.m. in the Wilson College Black Box Theater.

Asked, in an interview, whether she struggles with stereotypes, Diaz brought forward the stereotype of the “sassy Latina.” “Here ethnicity, gender, and sexuality come together to be consumed and dismissed at the same time. I struggle with rejecting the stereotype and its negative implications while also acknowledging and owning its potential power.” 

Diaz, assistant professor of dance at the University of Richmond, will perform with her partner, Matthew Thornton. Here is a video of her work. Also participating will be a Brazilian artist, Antonio Nobrega. For information, contact Pedro Meira Monteiro pmeira@PRINCETON.EDU



Review: Puerto Rican Soundscapes

Princeton Comment is delighted to welcome Oscar J. Montero, professor emeritus at Lehman College. He reviewed the improvisations staged by Alicia Diaz (a Princeton native) and Hector Coco Barez on May 14 at Hunter College.  

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Princeton Comment is delighted to welcome Oscar J. Montero, professor emeritus at Lehman College. He reviewed the improvisations staged by Alicia Diaz (a Princeton native) and Hector Coco Barez on May 14 at Hunter College.

During Puerto Rican Soundscapes, a music colloquium at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, Alfonso Fuentes tapped a key on the piano to launch into a compelling improvisational riff. Improvisation, he said, is at the core of his musical work.  Iranian scales led to melodic asides echoing the traditional Puerto Rican plena in recurring counterpoints.  In his performance Fuentes underscored the tensions in his work between improvisation and tradition, that is, between the individual’s creative quest and collective forms that belong to no one but are shared and reshaped from one generation to the next.  The work of dancer Alicia Díaz and musician Héctor Coco Barez brought to the “soundscape”of the colloquium its own improvisations.  The dancer and the musician centered their performance on suggestive counterpoints between body and sound, between movement and music, between the visual and the aural.  

In her comments throughout the performance, Alicia Diaz suggests identities that take shape precisely, and perhaps only, through improvisation and dialogue.   Notions about identity as a fortress to be defended have been contrasted to identities as series of ongoing personal and political negotiations. Especially for dwellers in one form or another of exile, national identity as a place of origin is at best a nostalgic narrative; at worst, the troubling memory of violence and loss.   The vibrant collaboration between Barez and Díaz maps out other places in the complex field of our identities, inviting the audience to see in them not the finality of theplace we can name as our origin but the ongoing creation of shared spaces where our own pleasures and anxieties about who we are and where we come from may be performed.

diaz 2016Díaz’s agile, remarkably precise movements are flowing at times, cut sharp at others.  During the question/answer period, a person in the audience mentioned the pioneering work of José Limón, implicit in Díaz’s highly personal choreography.  Yet while fluent in the vocabulary of modern choreography, Díaz dances bomba, steeped in the traditions of Puerto Rico, and riffs on the resonance of such a loaded quotation in her work.  Bomba’s relationship to a Puerto Rican identity may be said to be seamless.  Its roots are found not just in specific locales and well-known historical circumstances but in Puerto Rican families.  Díaz mentioned the teaching of Tata Cepeda, a member of one such family and one of the contemporary heirs of the legacy of bomba.  Yet a folk dance, performed today in various settings, may approach stereotypes that can flatten identity for easy consumption, a process evident to me, a Cuban, as I see dancers in Havana dressed in Brazilian costumes entertaining a new wave of tourists with our famous rumbas.  The physical replies danced by Díaz to Barez’s music demonstrate the possibilities and the limits of an improvisation informed both by the individual’s quest and by powerful traditions.  Their work suggest to me that when words fail us, and their destiny is to do so, the body and its music can help us reconsider other options, help us perhaps to come back around to words and new narratives that might see us through.  In a moment of political uncertainty and economic turmoil, not only for Puerto Rico but for the world we live in, the value of our traditions and their inflection through our own experiences, indeed our own bodies, informs the urgent quest of these Puerto Rican dancers, musicians and writers, a quest valid in its own right and for what it might offer to others now and down the road.

Oscar J. Montero

Professor emeritus, Lehman College, City University of New York

NY NY May 15, 2016

Alicia Diaz Performs in NYC 5-14


2016 5 aliciaPuerto Rican Soundscapes
“Watching the collaborative performance of dance artist Alicia Diaz and percussionist ‘Coco,’ is an exhilirating experience,” writes Ze’eva Cohen, professor emerita in dance at Princeton University. “Rarely do we witness two accomplished, classically trained artists delving into their cultural roots and identity by way of improvisation.”

Diaz, who grew up in Princeton, presents a performative lecture in the conference “Exploring Puerto Rican Heritage Stateside through Roots, Jazz, and Classical Music” on Saturday, May 14, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Her part, scheduled to begin at noon, is titled Improvising Identity: Bomba as a Point of Reference Between a Contemporary Dance Artist and a Percussionist  in the Colloquium: Música in the United States: Puerto Rican Roots – Jazz – Classical Music.  It will be in the Ida K. Lang Recital Hall, North Building, Hunter College. Free Registration for the ColloquiumFor updated information http://www.centropr.hunter.cuny.edu or call 212-396-6545.

“It is captivating,” writes Cohen, “to be taken along their journey as they deeply ‘listen’ to each other and connect with issues of roots and identity via physical and mental symbiosis, beyond what is familiar and known. They take their found material and develop it through the improvisation to a layered, rich, and authentic performance that seems and feels fully formed.”



Deep Listening: Alicia Diaz

Alicia Diaz_Deep Listening_Pregones_2015_Photo Credit Hiroyuki Ito
Agua Dulce Dance Theater presents “Deep Listening” at Pregones Theater in Bronx, New York on Saturday night, October 10, 2015. Credit: Hiroyuki Ito

Alicia will be improvising in a Movement Research night at the Judson Church in New York City with percussionist Hector “Coco” Barez. Enjoy this video of their previous collaboration! It’s called “Deep Listening.

Where & When

Monday February 8 at 8pm
Free, doors open at 7:45pm

Location: Judson Memorial Church
55 Washington Square South

Diaz grew up in Princeton and is assistant professor of dance at the University of Richmond.