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Kaltoum Alibrahimi

first performed on June 29, 2018
Icebox Project Space, Philadelphia, PA
performed once in 2018


Karen Smith

Philadelphia, PA


“Romperselo/la/l@/lx,” is an ode to the old and a welcome space to the new. It honors my ancestors and allows me to honor myself and my community.

The title “Romperselo/la/l@/lx” means to break something into pieces or shatter it, since this performance is intended to “shatter” the cultural expectations of the performance modes used. The reason why the end of the word is broken down into “lo/la/l@/lx” is to represent the changing of how gender is represented in Spanish language. Traditionally, people say that a masculine ”o” ending on words like “Latino” makes the word inclusive of all genders present, but then people shifted to “@” as a written ending to represent the masculine “o” and the feminine “a” endings together, and now many people use “x” as a gender-neutral, all-inclusive ending to Spanish words that includes nonbinary people.

In the space are me, a drummer, a mirror, and an altar with handheld percussion instruments. I come out and honor my ancestors at the altar first, while the drummer is drumming, then I begin to move. The movement is a combination of Afro-Puerto Rican Bomba, Spanish Flamenco, and Senegalese/West African traditional dance. It starts slow, then speeds up in a frenzy to represent my anxiety navigating the complexity of Afro-Puerto Rican heritage. During the performance, I also take off my more traditional folkloric clothing and shoes, to reveal that I am wearing solid black dancewear to represent the mourning of binary gender within these dance forms and to show that I reject the expectations of binary gender roles and heterosexuality in cultural social dance. It also signifies my own joyous rebirth as a person who has reclaimed these dance forms for myself and made a space for myself outside of the traditional norms I was taught. I invite audience members to play an instrument with me or to dance with me to signify that I am taking time to rebuild my own community around preserving traditional dance, while also making it accessible to the LGBTQ+ community.