Closeup Image of polished vintage wood flooring at CFPA - Center for Performing Arts in Minneapolis, Minnesota

What is a workshop with La Pocha Nostra like?

Saúl García-López, co-artistic director of La Pocha Nostra, will be conducting a workshop at CFPA Mpls this weekend, culminating in a public presentation, Saturday, March 24th, at 7:30 pm.

In advance of this workshop, García-López shared some thoughts with CFPA Mpls Executive Director Jackie Hayes.

What are the methods of inquiry Pocha Nostra offers in its workshops that promote an artist’s exploration of identity?

Since 1993, Guillermo Gómez-Pena and members of the Pocha Nostra performance troupe have conducted cross-cultural/cross-disciplinary/cross-generational workshops involving performance artists, actors, dancers and students from diverse ethnic communities, generations and artistic backgrounds. In these workshops the body is the primary site for artistic exploration and creation and understanding how our body informs our identity help us to understand how our identities can expand and get transformed creating new way to relating to others.

We aim to achieve this by . . . 

  • Creating temporary communities of rebel artists from different disciplines, ages, ethnic backgrounds, gender persuasions, and nationalities, in which difference and experimentation are not only accepted but encouraged.
  • Discovering new ways of relating to our own bodies by decolonizing and then re-politicizing our bodies. Our bodies can become sites for activism and embodied theory; for memory and reinvention; for pleasure and penance.
  • Developing new models for relationships between artists and communities, mentor and apprentice, which are neither colonial nor condescending.’
  • Finding new modes of relating laterally to the ‘other’ in a less-mediated way, bypassing the myriad borders imposed by our professional institutions, our religious and political beliefs, and pop-cultural affiliations. To experience this, even if only for the duration of the workshop, can have a profound impact in the participant’s future practice.
  • Raising crucial questions: Why do we do what we do? Which borders do we wish to cross and why? Which are the hardest borders to cross both in the workshop and in our personal lives? How do we define our multiple communities, and why do we belong to them? What is the relationship between performance, activism, pedagogy and our everyday lives? What about the relationship between the physical body and the social body?
  • Empowering participants as individuals to become civic-minded artists.
  • Making performance art pertinent to a new generation of potential activist-artists.


What can the participants of the workshop expect? Having led this workshop before, what have you found to be the most exciting revelation/learning/ transformation among participants?  

We hope that the artist sees him/herself as an active citizen, a public citizen immersed in the great debates of our times. That our place as artists is located not only in the “Art World,” but in the world at large, in the patterns and corners of everyday life. The so-called “Art World” is just a safe place to gather, an irreplaceable rehearsal space where alternative cultural models are developed – and later on, tested in other realms: community, activism, politics, radical pedagogy, new technologies, and media. For us, the capital-“Art World” is merely a space to learn new experimental languages, to talk back to power, and to decolonize ourselves. It is a training field for resistance, reinvention, and “imaginary activism.” To practice radical tenderness and radical compassion as a daily existential and professional ethos to relate to others. To treat others the way we wish to be treated (on a case-by-case basis, of course) – from janitors, cooks and security guards, up to museum curators and festival directors. To realize that is possible to create a common territory where radical differences can become a community and create together.  And, of course . . . to sharpen our performance tools and skills.