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Meet Aurora Lagattuta

Today we’d like to introduce you to Aurora Lagattuta.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
I was raised in a tiny apartment in inner-city Chicago with a large Italian-Irish family. From a young age, I struggled with taking up space- both within my own body with eating disorders and depression. As a woman with a history of abuse and assault, I also struggled with feeling safe in groups. As a result, my dances question the assumption that our environment and communities are somehow separate from self.

My grandfather, Michael Lagattuta, was my first audience. He would ever so patiently watch me dance for hours and hours. He taught me what it means to give another space and permission to be truly be. As a result, I aim to create this kind of care and generosity as an artist with communities and environments.

I received my B.A. in Theater at Fordham University Lincoln Center in New York City and I began making dances post 9/11 in 2000’s America. My dance practice was inspired mostly by Yoga and Butoh because both modalities emphasized the inner experience over the outward expression during such an anxious time in New York City and in my body as well. Riddled with stress, sexual assault, depression and eating disorders, learning embodied practices that grounded me in the present experience of my body truly saved my life. These practices also deepened my relationships with my environment. They continue to be the foundation of my teaching as well. I became a Yoga teacher in 2007 and began teaching Yoga and Contemporary Dance basically anywhere that I could. I ended up running a dance program for mentally and physically disabled young adults at Phame Academy in Portland Oregon. My students were unique, open and loving. They broke open my heart with their courage and willingness to express themselves regardless of their challenges. They taught that anyone with a willingness to be in their body is a dancer.

Alongside of teaching, I kept dancing in companies. I began working with Danish dancer and installation artist, Pipaluk Supernova, in Hawaii and later Copenhagen. Through her encourage and support I moved to Europe, where I ended up living for a few years mostly in Berlin and Santander, in northern Spain. There I toured Inside the Whale, my solo about my own journey with eating disorders fantastically told through a woman swallowed by a whale. Inside the Whale, toured throughout Europe, Chicago, Los Angeles and at the United Solo Festival on Broadway in New York City, where it was awarded, The Best Multi-Media Solo Award and the United Solo Award. The United Solo Award hosted my solo performance at the United Solo Europe Festival in Warsaw, Poland.

While living in Europe, I had the unique pleasure of teaching at Espacio Espiral, a Laboratory for Arts created by Christina Samaniego, who is passionate about providing dance and theatre to her local community. Teaching workshops at Espacio Espiral assisted me in integrating my work with dancers of various backgrounds and abilities. I began creating performances with the community that created spaces of permission and settings of acceptance like my grandfather showed me.

I took this passion for creating inclusive dance communities with me upon my arrival to San Diego in 2014. My first work in San Diego was Stand Tall at Art Produce Gallery and Garden in North Park, San Diego. I made Stand Tall with 20 amazing dancers from ages 7 to 77 over the course of six months. It was certainly more challenging to find financial support in San Diego than in Spain for community work. Yet, the performance and work was deeply valued by the dance participants. The dancers and myself all worked to find connections in spite of and through our differences of ages, abilities and life experiences. As one dancer, Manuel Gonzalez said, “I found the whole experience transformational and at 65, I don’t say that often.”

Since this initial performance in San Diego, I have continued to create various performances throughout San Diego. One noteworthy work was The People’s Opera House at part of Malashock’s Engagement Ring Series in collaboration with video artist, Tony Allard. This performance was included in Kris Eitland’s ‘Top Ten List of Best Dances in San Diego in 2016.’ This large-scale work guided audience through several rooms each with unique interactive activities apart of the opera house. It was playful and gave the audience a lot of wiggle room to co-create song, digital drawings and ‘diva dances.’

As an artist in San Diego, I continue to aspire to create environments that provide one space and permission to be. My stage manager, Bryan Runion wrote me after my last work, Human Body Time Machine– “Thank you for valuing the beauty of the individual over the judgement of others.” I really appreciate his choice of words. I think that if I can do that even for one person, that would be pretty great.

Please tell us about your art.
My work creates performances that intersect internal and external spaces, albeit in an abstract, beautiful and playful manner. I create performance settings that provide spaces to be both with and within- within oneself but also with others and with the environments surrounding us. I see dance as a way to be with my body, with communities and with the earth.

My work creates performance ecologies that involve diverse and intergenerational dancers, energetic and delicate movement, and sculptural textures. My movement scores involve internal as well as external cues for dancers. Since, I work with dancers of all ages and movement backgrounds, I enjoy creating accessible and simple dance vocabularies or scores. These scores often emphasize giving one’s attention to the subtleties in the dance as well as a more yin or feminine approach to dance making. For example, I often focus on receiving the dance as opposed to constructing the dance. Most recently I have been researching resting shapes and embracing.

My performances invite audience to engage with the dance in non-traditional and experiential modalities. Most of my performances have audience and dancers traversing through indoor and outdoor spaces. Often working site-specifically with maps and guides, audience members have permission to roam and experiment in simple and self-selected ways. My performances provide one space to witness oneself within a group and within a space. In this way, I see performance as a means to transform and enrich our relationships through the practices of inclusivity and reflection. When time and space are taken to be with things, they positively respond and reinforce the connectivity within people and places. The thing that keeps sustaining my dance is a kindness and a care for nurturing the relationships and environments that I am woven within.

In my most recent work, The Human Body Time Machine, I created an immersive dance performance that served as a “meditative playtime” for audience to experience the movement of time. This work featured 22 dancers ages 18 to 76. The audience was free to walk, pause and saunter through the Mandell Weiss Forum Theatre and the surrounding eucalyptus grove in order to conceive different temporal encounters. Some audience laid down, some drank tea, some took notes and many audience members began dancing. In fact, many people confused audience members as dancers in the performance. I loved how the lines between performer and audience became blurred and that people felt permission to play. I am an introvert and although I make interactive performance installations, I myself don’t like overly aggressive audience participation. Please don’t make me talk in public or stand on stage! Instead, I like to give people space to choose how big or small they’d like to play, because I think all wisdom is best found within oneself. And yet, this is a tricky thing to say because we don’t exist in vacuums. Contrary to what I learned in school, my body is not somehow separate from the earth or the people around me. We influence each other. It is naturally happening all the time.

In our digital age, where we are mostly connecting via devices, I believe in the importance of dance not only to bring us back into our bodies and face to face interactions, but also to help us connect with people our social media apps wouldn’t link us to. I love seeing dancers of different ages and backgrounds bonding. For instance, two young Chinese students fostered a deep friendship with the 76-year-old, eccentric Irish dancer in my last work. One audience member of the Human Body Time Machine, Sophia de Silva Hopson said, “You provided space for the multiplicity of many people and moments to happen at once.” I think art is needed to widen the web of multiplicity within ourselves so that we can uplift and expand into our greater human and planetary potential.

What do you think about conditions for artists today? Has life become easier or harder for artists in recent years? What can cities like ours do to encourage and help art and artists thrive?
I think it is always challenging to understand the conditions of the arts while you are in the moment. No doubt, the arts, like many professions, is competitive and most artists maintain several other jobs to sustain themselves. I certainly have. Yet, I do think that art is needed now more than ever. Art provides a safe space place for one to get uncomfortable, expand their perspectives and connect more deeply with oneself and others. However, dance and live performance in particular, has become a lost art in many ways today. It is easier to watch something on YouTube or go to see a movie than go see experimental dance at some odd venue in town. And how often to people who don’t identify as dancers go to see live dance or live theater? Let’s dance it, live dance or performance (not including music) t isn’t on the radar of most in San Diego and understandably so- it’s expensive and hard to find. I think that best thing that San Diego can do help artists is assist in making more pathways that make art more accessible. We need to bring the arts to places that people are. Bringing dance outside, to local parks and local restaurants and cafes. Provide stipends for artists to create and then offer their work at a low cost or for free. In a perfect world, I think art would be free, easy to find and participate in, happening more in everyday life. Everyone could join it. It’s no big deal, because we are all inherently creative, we just need a little opening of space- easy to find in the middle of our daily life- were we can do something creative, connect to ourselves and each other in a new way. It is a way our bodies remembers but our mind sometimes forget.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
My upcoming performance, MIKO: a space between, will occur at Scripps Institute of Oceanography the first weekend of February. This work is part of an interdisciplinary grant: Waves Internal created with double bassist, Kathryn Schulmeister, oceanographer, Noel Gutiérrez Brizuela and myself. Waves Internal will also be hosting a free workshop under the overarching question of ‘how do humans sense the temporality of water?’ This workshop will include sound, dance, sculpture with scientific research on waves patterns. The workshop is scheduled to occur the beginning of December at La Jolla Shores. To attend and participate in the workshop and performances, please refer to my website at for specific dates closer to scheduled events.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Personal Photo- Sandy Simone; Publicity 1- Manuel Rotenberg; Publicity 2- Julia Turnbull; Publicity 3- Manuel Rotenberg; Publicity 4- Alison Langone; Publicity 5- Alison Langone; Publicity 6- Manuel Rotenberg; Publicity 7- Julia Turnbull.

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