My research addresses how embodying the border informs contemporary dance around the Tijuana-San Diego region. I explore what we can learn about choreography, collaboration, nation-states, and citizenship by using the border as both a critical lens and a frame of reference. I have been interested in how (im)migration, racism, smuggling, narcotrafficking, and identity on both sides of the border inform and interfere with binational dance collaborations and choreographies to produce a genre of dance I call danzas fronterizas (border dances). An analysis of danzas fronterizas contributes to border studies from a choreographic perspective, foregrounding the body as a site of politics and economics along the U.S.-Mexican border.
This dissertation first studies the influential artistic work of José Limón and Anna Sokolow during the 1930s and 1950s as choreographers who laid the foundation for what later became danzas fronterizas. Chapters two and three analyze today's Tijuana-San Diego dance scene, looking first at the artists´ experiences of border crossing and collaboration, and presenting movement/choreographic analyses of selected danzas fronterizas. I have applied archival, auto-ethnographic, and ethnographic work (participant observation and interviews) as well as movement and choreographic analysis to this research. My project seeks to contemplate scholarly and artistic perspectives from both sides of the border. I interviewed choreographers, dancers, and directors of binational dance festivals; I analyze writings from both Mexican and U.S. sources; and my self-reflections connect my own work as a choreographer of danzas fronterizas to those dancers and choreographers who learn about the border by experiencing it.