Bodily Memories

Bodily memories, teachings, feelings, movements passed on from one person to another. I have ingrained in my dancing body memories of my fabulous aunt, Sanjuanita Martinez-Hunter Ph.D., who was also my Dance Teacher.  Yes, I inherited her knick-knacks and collectibles but these are all just trivial pieces of material items in comparison to what I have truly inherited. I inherited her bodily knowledge. She was a dynamic personality who commanded attention upon entering every room. She connected on a personal level with every single student she taught. Most importantly, she imparted her Dance wisdom as taught from her own dance teachers to her students as a faculty at the University of Texas at Austin (UT).

Martinez-Hunter was a Dance faculty at the University of Texas at Austin (UT) from the 1970s to the 1990s. She along with UT students Michael Carmona, Roy Lozano, Patsy Haynes and others began the El Grupo de Danza y Arte Folklorico (UT Ballet Folklorico) in the 1970s. I remember her telling me the difficulties she encountered trying to get this group recognized by the University. She would tell me of the prejudices and racism that she experienced at that time. It must not have been easy teaching as a Chicana woman at the University in the 1970s. As a trailblazer, the UT Folklorico thrived under her tutelage. She was the faculty advisor to a dance group that was directed by undergraduate students. Later, two of her students (Roy Lozano and Michael Carmona) would become my own dance teachers. She also taught me Folkorico Dance when I was a student at UT in the early 1990s. I took her class to fulfill a Fine Arts requirement, yet I learned so much more.  I remember her enthusiastic teaching style, footwork exercises, and connections made to history. Upon her encouragement I joined the UT Ballet Folklorico with Michael Carmona as the teacher. Then, I remember her introducing me to Roy Lozano and telling him that I should join his Dance Company. I did just that just a few years later learning from another one of her students. Thus, I became part this transmission of bodily knowledge.

Bodily memories are transmitted from teacher to student. I have within me her lifelong dance legacy as she taught me. Some of these bodily memories were passed on from her students (Carmona and Lozano) to me. Others were passed on directly from her. I feel that I have this bodily knowledge deep within my soul. I pass on these dance movements to my own students with every single lesson.

Rare footage of Sanjuanita Martinez-Hunter Ph.D. and her student Roy Lozano dancing the Jarabe Tapatio, the national dance of Mexico, is provided courtesy of Michael Carmona.


Me and my Aunt

Photo of myself and Sanjuanita Martinez-Hunter

All photos courtesy of the author.

Copyright, 7/19/2017, Mendoza-Garcia

Gabriela Mendoza-García Ph.D. is an Artist and Scholar. She has her own dance school and company called the Gabriela Mendoza-García Ballet Folklórico in Laredo, Texas.  Dr. Mendoza-Garcia founded this group in 2013 and teaches children and adults of all ages. Her company consists of seasoned folklórico dancers with years of experience performing this art form. She teaches traditional Mexican folklórico dance pieces, as well as, works that are inspired by her scholarly research. Her scholarship includes: Dancing throughout Mexican History (1325-1910), History & Folklore booklet with an accompanying documentary sponsored by the Webb County Heritage Foundation, The Jarabe Tapatío: Imagining Race, Nation, Class and Gender in 1920s Mexico published by Oxford University Press, an on-line blog, writings for Asociación Nacional de Grupos Folklóricos, and others.

7 thoughts on “Bodily Memories

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