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Miguel De Leon

first performed on October 22, 2020
Floorspace Studio
performed three times in 2020


Cipriano Ortega

Boulder & Denver, Colorado


“The Girl Box” is an evening-length, contemporary dance work that demonstrates the embodied (im)possibilities of boxing-in one’s identity. Inspired by experiences of indicating my gender on administrative documents, or selecting gender options through online drop-down menus, I work to physicalize the experience of trans invisibilization and dissonance whence called to identify. Through movement, spoken word, and lip-sync performance, I consider what liberatory somatic frameworks might become possible through a commitment towards monolithic identity.

I employ interaction with three boxes (two large cardboard boxes, one wooden platform on wheels) to augment/segment my moving body, positing modifying one’s body with materials as a destabilization of gender legibility. The piece opens with a mannequin, fashioned after my own body, posing on a wooden platform for the duration of a muffled version of Britney Spears’ single, “Work Bitch.” Once the track ends, I emerge from one of the large cardboard boxes, replace the mannequin, and assume the same pose for a now unmuffled version of “Work Bitch.” Both instances of mannequin-posing are stationed in front of a large window where the audience views the piece from the outside and must witness these spectacularized girl-objects.

Following this section is a longer improvisational score where I emerge from, un-emerge from, re-emerge with, and submerge myself within the boxes. I pretend one of the boxes is my family dinner table, a coffin, a stage, the house that killed the Wicked Witch of the West. I pretend other boxes are bathtubs, black holes, wombs, closets, a proxy for my own body. I keep various materials hidden inside these boxes: industrial plastic sheeting, bubble wrap, clothing. I lean into gender dysphoria and utilize these materials to shift how my gendered body is being read throughout the performance.

The piece’s majority score of silence is interrupted when I begin reflecting on the violent nature of gender-reveal parties. Speaking with my head peeking out from the top of one of the boxes, I quickly duck inside the box to draw a hidden knife and perform a gender-reveal on one of the boxes, physicalizing the violence performed by this particular gender ritual. Spears appears again during the piece’s finale, where I conclude with a lip-sync to a remix of Spears’s “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman,” revealing to the audience my continued struggle with coming to terms with my trans identity.