Monday, July 27, 2009

About Dancemakers: Who cares! Just another..

From the program for Dancemakers, July 24-25:

Location: UWM Mainstage Theatre, 2400 E. Kenwood Blvd.
Performances: Each night will feature a different program.
Friday, July 24 at 7:30 pm (an informal reception follows this performance)
Saturday, July 25 at 7:30 pm

Dancemakers showcases work by the professional dancers and choreographers who travel to Milwaukee each summer to participate in the graduate program.

Who cares! Just another...
Choreography: Joel Valentin-Martinez
Performance: Javier Marchán
Costume design: Joel Valentin-Martinez
Music: Tacvba:12/12, by Kronos Quartet and Cafe Tacvba

This piece is a work in progress and it is a reflection of the times we live in. It is about the Mexican and Mexican-American experience. This is about one man's struggle to exist in a society that continue to reject and at times dehumanize him. In this piece we find our character in an imaginary Caribbean town, in Mexico, where time, space and history are compressed for the pleasure of the modern tourist.

On the evening of Friday, July 24th I witnessed a wonderful solo dance performance by Javier Marchán. I'm not just saying this as a proud older sibling: it was a mesmerizing show. It was clear that our family history and Mexican-American heritage gave him a unique perspective for his interpretation.

But first, here is a bit of our family history. Our paternal grandfather arrives in this country as an immigrant and migrant worker in 1927. Eventually his family emigrates to the United States in the 1950's and settles in Palmyra, WI. Our father is the youngest in his family, and our mother is among the youngest in hers.

Soon after our parents married in December 1972, our mom left Mexico to be with her husband. She was the only one from her immediate family to leave the country. Both our parents worked to provide for their family of four. They instilled in us a sense of family, service and individuality. Our family began to experience being torn between two cultures when the oldest three kids we were very young. Spanish was the first language the three of us spoke, and I have memories of our family dealing with my first grade teacher who nearly succeeded in getting me to change the spelling of my given name.

Now, on to the performance: Javier starts out with a simple representation of a campesino going about his life in Mexico. Later on, you see the campesino make his way to the north. During a poignant, pivotal moment he raises his hand to point to El Norte. While pointing he immediately looks back contemplating what he is about to leave behind as if to say, "but I have to go." What follows is calm determination as he journeys towards and crosses the border which is immersed by the Rio Grande. This transition is but the eye of the coming storm, a representation of the tumultuous, chaotic emotions and struggles that some Latinos of today face.

I witnessed images of the sensationalism behind the H1N1 variant of the common flu when Javier performed with a medical mask on his face. The unusual Republican rhetoric surrounding Judge Sonia Sotomayor's Supreme Court nomination and the scales of justice were very evident as he gracefully carried out moves that required focused balance. And the music: a simple flute melody at first which transitioned to a faster contemporary Latin beat, then became interspersed with the original theme and somewhat frantic sounds of a beating drum.

The audience showed their love of the performance with shouts and thunderous applause. An excited person said it best during the reception after the show, when I heard him proclaim to Javier something like, "you were so present in your performance!" I couldn't agree more with this assessment of the effortless grace embodied by his movements. Regrettably I was unable to chat with Mr. Valentin-Martinez about the work but the huge-ass smile, stretching from ear to ear on both of our brown faces, simply required no words.

What a show.

About the Artist (from the program)
Joel Valentin-Martinez is a Sr. Lecturer in the Department of Theatre at Northwestern University where he teaches courses in contemporary dance and world dance genres. Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, he grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area where he initiated his studies in dance. From 1990-2003 he performed nationally and internationally as a member of Garth Fagan Dance (Tony and Bessie award winner). His dance piece Tlatelolco Revisited (2008) was commissioned by Luna Negra Dance Theater and performed at the Harris Theatre, Chicago. As a choreographer he has collaborated with the visual artist, John Jota Leaños, with his multi-media opera Imperial Silence: Una Ópera Muerta/A Dead Opera in Four Acts (2008), which premiered at the World Theater in Monterey Bay and continues to tour throughout California. He has been a guest artist around the country, including S.F. State University where he mounted his piece, Brasos y Abrazos (2009). Mr. Valentin-Martinez has also served as rehearsal director for residencies by Delfos Danza Contemporánea, Nora Chipaumire and Robert Moses. At Northwestern University he mounted his work, Ask me in the morning light (2009), which was selected by the Joyce Foundation in New York City for The A.W.A.R.D. Show! 2009. He also reconstructed Nora Chipaumire’s Groundswell for the 2008 Danceworks concert and choreographed the musical SPUNK as part of the mainstage season. Prior to arriving at Northwestern University, he taught at Arizona State University and the University of Rochester.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Hello.. my name is Leonel.. and I'm a minion..

I'm proud to be among them! The law-abiding, decent ones that is. After all, I have a good paying job, a great family, the best friends anyone could ever have, a nice home, and a partner of 11 years.

Yes, I cannot help but draw attention to Yankee transplant Julaine Appling. During her quest to eliminate and eradicate equal access to particular rights for people of different sexual orientations, she has referred to us as minions of a certain demonic figure. Hey -- these are her words, paraphrased of course, not mine! She'll do anything to prevent same-sex couples from obtaining equal access to basic rights and protections.

I'm catholic and I find it embarrassing and humorous to hear someone use Christ's name to use language like "Satan and his minions" to describe decent people. Wouldn't any reasonable person?

(8/12 Supplemental - Julaine Appling has updated her Twitter profile and removed the Yankee reference. Forgive me folks for not giving credit where due. See for yourself what her profile once read here: That is where I first heard about her use of the Yankee reference. I believe within a week after the article appeared, she changed her profile.)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Wisconsin's Domestic Partner Status Is Not Substantially Similar To Marriage. Period.

It is done. Wisconsin has redeemed itself and its progressive history. It is the first state in these United States which bans marriage for same-sex couples and also grants them basic legal protection. Opponents of basic rights for all couples are going to have a field day and have been working to eradicate basic rights for same-sex couples ever since the conception of Wisconsin's domestic partner status.

It should be an interesting situation to watch. When considering the constitutionality of domestic partners there is something else these.. challengers.. will need to push beyond: their own words. Why? In Wisconsin, legal process includes a test for legislative intent.

The state already recognizes that State Representative Mark Gundrum, R-New Berlin and amendment author, intended to prohibit look-alike marriages and not prohibit domestic partner benefits. The leaders of the campaign to pass the disgusting ban via constitutional amendment have expressed that the ban would not affect domestic partner benefits.

From the state summary itself:

There is evidence of intent ... to support the position that it is reasonable to conclude that the provision does not prohibit the domestic partner proposal included in (the state budget). The intent of the second sentence ... was discussed in a 2006 memorandum prepared by (Gundrum's) office.

Further down in the state summary is Gundrum's own explanation that the proposal:

.. does not prohibit the state, local governments or private entities from setting up their own legal construct to provide particular privileges of benefits, such as health insurance benefits, pension benefits, joint tax return filing, hospital visitation, etc. as those bodies are able and deem appropriate. As long as the legal construct designed by the state does not rise to the level of creating a legal status 'identical or substantially similar' to that of marriage (i.e., marriage, but by a different name), no particular privileges or benefits would be prohibited.

Then there is the recorded media account, again accounted for in the state summary:

Note, too, that media accounts of statements from supporters of the constitutional amendment that created (the same sex marriage ban) would be relevant in determining intent. In order to determine not only the legislative intent behind a constitutional amendment but also to determine the intent of the electorate in approving a constitutional amendment, a court will review expressions made in the media.

I wonder if that review of media would include..

Journal Sentinel
Appling said she has "no plans to be involved in litigation." She added "the government is free to give benefits to unmarried individuals on a basis that does not approximate marriage."

Wisconsin State Journal
State Attorney General Van Hollen "..agreed with Lautenschlager's recent opinion that a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage would not prevent local governments or private employers from providing health benefits to the same-sex partners of employees."

Marriage Equality New York
"If the state Legislature wants to take up adoption and inheritance rights, it can do that" if the amendment becomes law, Appling said. "Nothing in the second sentence prohibits that. Nor does it in any way affect existing benefits given by local governments or the private sector."

Capital Times
When critics of Wisconsin's proposed ban on gay marriage and civil unions warned it would threaten domestic partner benefits, supporters of the measure said they were crying wolf.

"That's just an absurd argument," Julaine Appling of the Family Research Council told The Capital Times in February 2006.

Need I say more? Not really, except to end with stating what the new legal status does not include:

  • The mutual obligation of support that spouses have in marriage.
  • The comprehensive property system that applies to spouses under the marital property law.
  • The requirements of divorce law for terminating a marriage.

The new legal status grants a limited set of 43 benefits, rights, and protections to same-sex couples.

Would someone PLEASE explain to me how, exactly, is the legal status of domestic partner identical or substantially similar to that of marriage? At least the intent of the amendment is pretty clear to me with regards to basic legal protection for same-sex couples. Thank you, Wisconsin!

Tornado Rainbow Triangle