“Melaza” (Molasses), the new work from the Boston-based social justice oriented dance theater company Danza Organica, addresses the United States’ colonial oppression of Puerto Rico.
“We shed light on the situation of Puerto Ricans in the diaspora,” writes Artistic Director Marsha Parrilla, who is herself from Puerto Rico. “How does the American Dream look like for us? What are some key ways in which the USA has impacted the socioeconomic and political climate in the island?”
They premiered the first incarnation of the dance on Oct. 13 and 14 at Boston’s Hibernian Hall. On Wednesday, I photographed them rehearsing in Jamaica Plain as they prepared to perform it again from 2 to 2:45 p.m. Monday, Jan. 15, followed by a 15 min talkback, during the free-admission Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service at Gardner Museum, Boston. They’ll be joined by special guest, poet Martin Espada.
“Melaza” is danced to music, poetry, an old timey news broadcast reporting a shooting in the U.S. House Chamber at the Capitol in Washington in 1954 by Puerto Rican activists seeking independence from U.S. rule. One section seems to model racism affecting people’s advancement in society.
“Oh, America. I made it. America the beautiful, land of the free, home of the brave,” a dancer says at another point. “Oh, America, where dreams come true. The land of opportunity. The land of … opportunity?”
The October performances took place just three weeks after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. They quickly added new scenes that “delved into the emotional response of families affected by Hurricane Maria, based on accounts of family members, friends, and extended family. As a group committed to social justice, we thought it was imperative to reflect theatrically on these recent events, which unveils so much about the colonial relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States of America.”