Have you ever wanted to try walking on stilts? How about wearing stilts while performing acrobatics and dancing in the street? That’s what 20 San Antonians are learning to do from a troupe of experimental street performers in town this week. The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center is hosting Nemcatacoa Teatro, a dance troupe from Bogotá, Colombia.
The troupe performs on stilts and presents a unique blend of theater, acrobatics, and dance to engage the public in a non-traditional environment – the street. During its stay in San Antonio the troupe is leading free workshops. Novice students will join the Colombians for a free performance this Sunday, 4 p.m., at the Plaza Avenida.
Nemcatacoa Teatro formed in 2000 with an interest in doing something different. They wanted to utilize stilts in their performance and integrate a blend of circus, dance, and theater techniques to form a unique means of artistic expression.
The stilt dancers took their performance to the street, as seen in the video below. The result is a fascinating and surreal mix of theater and acrobatics on stilts.
“Nemcatacoa’s repertory theatrical production is an acrobatic language on stilts, including interventions, parades and street theater style,” said Yvonne Montoya, director of programming at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. “Their work has served not only to develop as a group, but also as a way to connect to the surrounding community; we are proud to host them at the Guadalupe.”
For 33 years the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, a Westside nonprofit, has aimed to cultivate, promote and preserve traditional and contemporary Latino arts and culture through multidisciplinary programming.
[Read More: “Guadalupe Cultural Arts Lighting up the Westside“]
The performers are disguised in unusual costumes and body paint. Some play instruments such as the flute while balancing on stilts in choreographed motion, showcasing impressive acrobatic skills. There is a hint of improvisation as the performers engage random passersby in the street. The troupe’s look is distinct and movements are dynamic, the performance style a twist on traditional artistic disciplines with an avant-garde edge.
“Every single community member that’s participating has never walked on stilts before,” Montoya said of the troupe’s local students. “Not only are they learning how to walk on stilts, but they’re also learning the movement that is indicative of Nemcatacoa and the style in which they do their performance.”
The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center put out an open call for participation beginning last summer and 20 San Antonio community members signed up. The group is inter-generational – the youngest around 10 years old and the oldest in their 60s. Participants have the special opportunity to collaborate with the international artists one-on-one to create the performance, making it a unique expression of the San Antonio community.
This will not be a traditional performance. The audience will not just sit and watch a stage. Nemcatacoa Teatro will unfold as a sort of procession or parade, immediately engaging the public with dramatic costumes and mysterious and intense makeup. The performance will begin at Plaza Avenida but will move around the area, the audience invited to follow along.
Nemcatacoa Teatro has performed in Cuba, Ecuador, and Mexico and is currently on tour in the United States, with stops planned in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Louisiana and New York. Be sure to catch them Sunday, their only scheduled performance in Texas.
Taylor Browning is an artist and art educator passionate about building community through the arts. She has recently returned to her hometown San Antonio and is thrilled to be working at Artpace as assistant curator of education for teen and university programs. Follow her work at taylorbrowning.com.