On May 1st, 2020 at 630pm MT, O1ARTS will host Episode 2 of Social Distancing & Art, a new Virtual Art Series designed to creatively engage and inspire the community despite our current state of isolation. Episode 2 features Jorge Rojas’ Dance for our Departed, a performance that brings to light the unsettling racial disparities in our country made evident by the current pandemic, while equally offering a cultural celebration with sentiments of healing and hope.
“During this very challenging time of COVID-19, people of color are getting sick and dying at disproportionate amounts,” says Rojas. “I feel like the best thing I can present at this time is a performance that celebrates the beauty of our diverse cultural roots and heritage. A performance that will inspire people to think about how beautiful our people are, how powerful we are together, dancing to the universal rhythm of the drum, the heartbeat of life.”
Based in Salt Lake City, Rojas is a multidisciplinary artist, independent curator, and museum educator as the Director of Learning and Engagement at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. Performance art has dominated his creative practice for the past twelve years as a way to engage the public around specific ideas, which are often related to political or social injustice. Rojas was born in Mexico and spent his childhood traveling back and forth between his home country and the states, which, despite its challenges, left Rojas with a prevailing appreciation for his global community and its cultural differences. This in turn motivates Rojas’ work and is often present through his subject matter. “It’s something I’m conscious of when I’m making work and when I’m teaching as a way to empower others,” he says of his heritage.
Dance for our Departed will be a virtual, multi-cultural dance performance that brings together 20-25 dancers from Native American, Pacific Islander, Indigenous Mexican, African and Asian cultures. The 10-12 minute performance honors the significant losses these communities have experienced due to the pandemic, while also offering a beacon of hope through celebratory movement. Dancers will participate from all over the country, physically apart but connected through the Internet and the universal sound of a beating drum.
Rojas’ collaborators for Dance for our Departed include Remembering our Culture (ROC), a local program that helps multicultural students attain post secondary academic excellence while showcasing and sharing their unique heritage through song and dance; and DJ Krispy on sound design.
“Think of it as sort of a virtual flashmob,” says Rojas of the performance, who is coordinating and producing from behind the scenes. This role, which he compares to a DJ of sorts, is quite familiar to Rojas as the founder of Low Lives – a festival of live performances transmitted online in multiple venues throughout the United States and around the world. An early adopter of live stream technology, Rojas founded the event while living in New York in 2009 and ultimately grew it into an international festival. “Right now it’s ubiquitous – everything is online,” says Rojas. “I’m in five to ten Zoom meetings a day. But I fell in love with the idea of using live stream as a medium for performance, for reaching beyond geographic and political borders.”
Dance for our Departed sparks questions and conversation related to technology and the art world, politics, culture, and more – tune on May 1st at 6:30 MT.