Sorojchi, a Quechua word for "Altitude Sickness" refers to the phenomenon that occurs with some people when they reside at high levels of altitude. In 2015, I choreographed the piece Sorojchi in La Paz, Bolivia, sitting at 14,000 feet above sea level, resonating with how my body (accustomed to living at sea level) negotiated and reacted to the extreme altitude.
During the COVID-19 quarantine, I had a conversation with Natalia on Instagram, one of the dancers in the piece, proposing that we revisit Sorojchi for the camera, to create a remixed version, within the context of being in quarantine. My intention was not to simply "recreate" Sorojchi, as it is physically and theoretically impossible. Richard Schechner, a performance studies scholar defines this performative phenomenon as "twice-behaved behavior," or "restored behavior," which can be rehearsed and recreated. Joesph Roach, a performance studies scholar who has written about the connection between memory and performance, expands upon Schechner's theory. Roach contents that "the paradox of the restoration of behavior resides in the phenomenon of repetition itself: no action or sequence of actions may be performed exactly the same way twice; they must be reinvented or recreated at each appearance. In this improvisatory behavioral space, memory reveals itself as imagination" (Roach 46, 1993). As such, the remix of Sorojchi utilized the camera lens to tell another story, one that relies on memory and performance, glancing back to the past as a means to make sense of what it means to recreate a dance piece while socially and physically isolated from one another.
As an example, one of the most common bodily symptoms of Sorojchi is shortness of breath, due to the lower levels of oxygen in the atmosphere. Further, dancing at higher levels of altitude pose challenges to dancers in the studio and on the stage. However, when reimagining Sorojchi through the lens of COVID-19 and all that entails, the sensation of not being able to breathe takes on a different connotation. As an example, here is an instagram post made by Carla, one of the dancers in Sorojchi, explaining her interpretation of how this piece resonates with the original iteration of the dance performance, but also has a meta-function.
Carla's words reveal how the bodily effects of Sorojchi are similar to the psychological and physical effects COVID-19 has had on everyone, across the world. As such, comparing the original version of Sorojchi to the quarantine remix, the idea of not being able to breathe due to scientifically proven theories on altitude sickness takes on a completely different meaning when not being able to breathe is predicated on a totally unprecedented global event where we have little "science" to ground ourselves to. Everyday the global media is sending different messages that often conflict with they proclaimed the day before. In the beginning of the quarantine, the media proclaimed "wearing masks does little to nothing to prevent the spread of COVID-19," and a month later people around the world are not allowed to enter public places without a mask. Human beings are not only a danger to others, but a hazard to themselves.
Even though we restored and repeated the original choreography, Sorojchi became something else not only due to it being transposed for the camera lens, but reimagined through the liminal consciousness that COVID-19 has placed upon the bodily and psychological sensations of all humans.
Roach, Joseph R. 1996.Cities of the Dead: Circum-Atlantic Performance. New York: Columbia University Press.
Sorojchi: The Quarantine Remix (2020)
Choreography and Video Editing:
Melanie Anastacia Van Allen
Carla Paola Flores - Medellin, Colombia
Nadine Iberkleid - New York, New York, USA
Lucia Antonio Kaune - La Paz, Bolivia
Natalia Salvatierra - La Paz, Bolivia
Sara López-Videla - La Paz, Bolivia/ Toronto, Canada
Music: "Breaking The Girl" - The Red Hot Chili Peppers