Fronteriza de El Paso, TX/Cd. Juárez, Chihuahua, México, Kiri Avelar (she/ella) is an interdisciplinary artist, educator, and scholar based in New York City. The movement between her cultures in the borderlands, and time lived away from the area, has shaped her interest in accessible, inclusive dance practices anchored in Chicana/Latina feminist epistemology and border theory. Her teaching philosophy employs an intersection of teaching practices through a Latinx inquiry of translanguaging, sentipensante (sensing/thinking), and critical dance pedagogies, centering Chicana/Latina feminist methodologies and pedagogies of testimonio, plática, and convivencia.
An NYU Teaching Fellow for the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, her decolonial curriculum praxis asserts transnational, interdisciplinary, and Chicana/Latina feminist interventions that both disrupt and reimagine dance histories of the Americas, engaging students through an in-between space of embodied research and creative practice, challenging the notion of transborder Latinidades in historical and contemporary contexts. The curriculum builds on her scholarly research Descubriendo Latinx: The Hidden Texts in American Modern Dance, developed through a 2020 Jerome Robbins Dance Division Research Fellowship for the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Her correlating artistic practice provokes thought around the experiential borderlessness of Latinx artists in the United States in artistic, physical, and cultural terms, immersed in themes of ruido, mestiza consciousness, intersectionality, migration, and Latinidades through film, embodied oral history performances, interactive screendance, and soundscapes.
She is the Founding Director of La Academia de Ballet Emmanuel, a dance program she established for the Hogar de Niños Emmanuel orphanage in Cd. Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico, where she has worked with her family since 1999. Her advocacy continues through her current projects: co-curating the exhibition, The Mestizo as Ambassador: José Limón and the Transculturation of American Modern Dance for the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts; scholarly research in collaboration with the José Limón Dance Foundation; co-founding the Latinx Dance Educators Alliance, a resource site for dance educators centering Latinx/e/Hispanic contributions; and serving on the Research Committee for the National Dance Education Organization. Holding an MFA in Dance from Rutgers University, and a BA in Dance with honors from New Mexico State University, she has spent the last decade honing her craft as an educator, cultural community organizer, social justice advocate, and arts administrator at Ballet Hispánico, where she currently serves as Deputy School Director and teaching faculty.
"Art is about identity, among other things, and her creativity is political. Remember again the Nahuatl concept: the soul speaks, the body acts. ... Creative acts are forms of political activism employing definite aesthetic strategies for resisting dominant cultural norms and are not merely aesthetic exercises."
- Gloria Anzaldúa
Photography Credits: Kiri Avelar, John Evans, Paula Lobo, Rebecca Wilson