Flamenco dancer and choreographer Tania Leullieux (La Tania), visual artist Adrian Arias, and guitarist and composer Jose Luis de La Paz are collaborating with the Presidio Theatre to create an immersive, multimedia experience that explores displacement and cultural survival and addresses the problem of rising seas resulting from climate disruption. La Tania is very familiar with displacement, having been constantly uprooted throughout her life – including recent evictions from her San Francisco Bay Area studio and home.
At the age of 17, La Tania began her professional dance career in Spain, where she was fascinated by the Temple of Debod, located in the Parque del Oeste. The temple was rescued as Egypt flooded Nubia in the 1960s and was relocated to Madrid. While celebrated for having inspired UNESCO’s World Heritage Listings, in the temple’s excavation the seminal starting blocks of its foundation were abandoned, left in place to be submerged forever. Some believe this was a mistake and others that it was an aesthetic choice made during the installation. In any event, it suggests a rich dialogue on cultural transfer and assimilation in diaspora settings.
La Tania and the Presidio Theatre team envision bringing this story to life, using much of the entirely renovated three-acre theatre site, designing an immersive experience that moves the audience through the venue, incorporating imagery of rising water and sites of displacement in the large outdoor plaza, as well as the glass-enclosed entry lobby, and culminating with a performance on the proscenium stage that features four flamenco dancers and four musicians. Jose Luis de la Paz will be the project’s music director and Mina Girgis with help to incorporate Nubian music into the work.
La Tania’s choreography has spanned a diverse flamenco repertoire, and she has choreographed and performed hundreds of dance pieces to great critical acclaim. Appropriate to themes of this project, flamenco emerged from the confluence of people from displaced cultures which included the Roma peoples’, Jews’, Muslims’, and enslaved Africans’ traditions fused with local music and dance forms of Andalusia, Spain. An expressive artform, it depicts deep lament emanating from the extreme hardship that persecuted and displaced groups of people commonly face. As this flamenco-based collaboration develops, the artists and theatre staff will reflect upon displacement, reconstruction, and impermanence, incorporating references and poetic visual imagery of Nubia, the Temple of Debod, and present-day San Francisco in the final presentation, planned for July 2022.
Photo by RJ Muna