Graduate Teaching Fellow hopes to debunk stereotypes through dance

Carolina Caballero Segura uses her body to solve problems.@@[email protected]@

Segura, a Graduate Teaching Fellow studying dance at the University of Oregon as a Fulbright Scholar from South America, developed an interest in social issues when studying for a degree in psychology at Javeriana University in Bogota, Colombia. Although she attributes much of her knowledge of social issues to the theoretical study of psychology, it’s through their physical interpretation as dance that she believes she can make a real impact.

“I started realizing that a lot of my questions and my research interests could be articulated through dance,” Segura said. “If I’m dancing and I’m really having an experience in my body then I can really change myself and the world.”

Through dance, Segura hopes to physically explore and bring attention to the three topics she found most interesting in the field of psychology: gender studies, identity and the body.

In her first dance project, a collaboration called ConCuerpos, Segura aimed to understand the body from both a psychological and physical standpoint. As a partner in the project, Segura danced with people suffering from physical impairments ranging from hearing disabilities to missing limbs. For her, the project began to transcend it’s research purposes, becoming a social statement.

“We realized that in Colombia the project had a lot of relevance … We are still very behind in terms of civil rights and cultural rights,” Segura said. “(By) doing these cultural projects and having venues where we could perform … we were making visible a problem that was really invisible.”

Her work with ConCuerpos allowed Segura to secure a Fulbright Scholarship to pursue her passion for dance at the University of Oregon, where she hoped to continue exploring the body by working with disabled dancers in the Eugene community through a program called DanceAbility International.

Upon migrating to the U.S. to continue working with disabled dancers, Segura discovered another social injustice that triggered her interest in gender studies and identity. She refers to this injustice as the “Latina Myth.”

Segura says that before coming to America, she had never encountered racial stereotyping in the field of dance. However, in America, she quickly realized that there was an unspoken assumption that as a Latina she would have an elegant, sultry dancing style, much like Jennifer Lopez or Christina Aguilera.

“There is a very fixed idea of what a Latina is in general,” Segura said of the United States. “The myth is that we are exotic, promiscuous and voluptuous, just to summarize.”

In her Masters of Fine Arts thesis project, Segura decided to combat this assumption. On March 1, in a self-choreographed dance entitled “Not About Me,” Segura drew attention to the Latina stereotypes of North America by exploiting her own dancing style to match four stereotypical Latina personas: an indigenous “Chiquita Banana” dancer, a seductive temptress, a prostitute and a maid. As the performance ended, she stood in her underwear, symbolically stripped of her stereotypical attire and exposed as Carolina Segura, her own unique brand of Latina.

“I showed how uncomfortable you could feel dressed in that stereotype,” Segura said. “I think that people were able to see me in my Latina-ness, in my Latina body, but I think also in my particular way of being Latina.”

Segura will graduate from the UO with a MFA this spring. Through her work with ConCuerpos, DanceAbility and her exploration of the Latina identity, she hopes to have made a change in the perspective surrounding the abilities of the disabled and the stereotypical Latina. If nothing else, she hopes to have inspired faith in the power of dance.

“I hope that (my audience) takes that dance is a hard discipline as any other and that the body is a really great source of knowledge,” she said.

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Sami Edge

Sami Edge

Sami is the Editor In Chief of The Emerald. Former intern at Willamette Week and aspiring international investigative reporter. Swimmer, writer, dreamer, reader, thinker, explorer and drinker of strong coffee.