Ask Me In The Morning Light (2009) – Valentín Projects: By Joel Valentin-Martinez

Captivating and heartfelt is this segment from a work called “Ask Me in the Morning Light” choreographed by Joel Valentin – Martinez. This was performed by dancers from the dance/theatre program at Northwestern University. The music is by Samite Mulon, Samite of Uganda: ‘Abaana Bakesa’ – Album: Dance My Children.

Martinez is a Chicago based choreographer and senior lecturer at Northwestern University Theatre Program. He is originally from Mexico where he lived his first seven years in a small town near Guadalajara, where dance was part of the everyday fabric of their social and community life. He immigrated to California, San Francisco Bay area with his family, where he received his formal dance training with American Conservatory Theatre, Alonzo Lines King Ballet and later at the San Francisco State University. He went on to dance with the Garth Fagan Company and toured internationally. In 2003, he refocused career on teaching and developing his choreography.

The inspiration for “Ask Me in the Morning Light’, came from Martinez’s need to understand his father’s past that was shaped by his experience working in the Bracero Program. The program was known also as the Mexican Emergency Farm Labor Program, where in 1942 – 1964, the United States brought over four and a half million men to work in agriculture and on the railroads. Because of bad working conditions in Mexico, men were lured by the promise of better opportunity to leave their families and work in the U.S. However, they ended up doing the same kinds of work they left behind (or worse) that was physically exploitative, unskilled, poorly paid and often with appalling living conditions.

In this choreographic work, even though the theme is dark and broad, Martinez has chosen to focus primarily on the women’s experience, where they were either left behind to care for the families or followed their husbands. The choreography in this section is quite simple, with a running triplet as the main motif, which gives the feeling of the forward momentum. The feeling is one of lightness with a beautiful continuous flow that is infused with positive hope and courage the women must have felt running toward the unknown.

As dancers run onwards alone, in pairs and small groups; some race forwards others pull back to wait for others, while some, reluctantly, get pulled along. Slowly the choreography builds as dancers begin to leap forward and eventually are gathered into groups which merge into the final closing tableau of the sequence; that ends to me as a question mark, as they stand together forever looking forward.

I really like this piece, it is beautifully presented. I also enjoy the music which has a simple, soulful, flowing undercurrent that carries the ambiance of the piece and the simple, clean movement language. I think it is this combination of simplicity that makes the work effective and poignant with the sensitive and touching moments between the dancers.

A dance worth watching!

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