Dancing Quebradita: Transnational Belonging and Mexicanidades Across the U.S.-Mexico Border
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Dancing Quebradita: Transnational Belonging and Mexicanidades Across the U.S.-Mexico Border

  • Author(s): Gonzalez, Irvin Manuel
  • Advisor(s): Reynoso, Jose L
  • et al.

This dissertation examines quebradita dancing, a Mexican/Mexican American social dance form that first began in the 1990s, as a performance of cultural identity and as the formation of a transnational network of kinship amongst participants across the U.S.-Mexico Border. Specifically, I consider the ways in which brown, working-class dancers have imagined new ways of being and feeling in order to cope with and navigate an increasingly neoliberal landscape after the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement in the 1993. In examining the dance form between 1990-2021, I contend that amidst the turmoil of relocation, displacement, and volatile economic situations, quebradita dancers enact transborder creativity and brown joy to define their own transnational transmissions. While quebradita dancing has been studied as a site for hybridization practices amongst Mexican American youth, I look at the various social, political, and economic situations that have impacted Mexicans, Mexican Americans, and Mexican immigrant dancers who share connections across the U.S.-Mexico border. In doing so, I argue that the commonality of engaging transnational exchanges and techniques amongst participants is an embodied practice used to affectively define a sense of pleasure, identity, and belonging. The various routes, desires, and sociopolitical situations that quebradores/as/xs experience, however, prompt the construction of multifaceted identities in dance, what I explore as multiple forms of mexicanidad (that which has affiliations to Mexican heritage, culture, and identity), or mexicanidades. These mexicanidades reveal the unique forms of belonging that dancers generate through corporeal praxis, politicizing their dance form to cultivate various forms of agency amidst neoliberal climates, xenophobia, and homophobia. My project begins by tracing the period of increased migration from Mexico to the U.S. in the 1990s to analyze the formation of quebradita dancing between brown, working-class dancers in interconnected localities across the border. I then trace this network of dancers to situate how transborder dance techniques are cultivated to develop a sense of identity that is located transnationally in the world and in a third space, like the community that quebradores/as/xs build across borders. This community is an ongoing form of kinship that continues through the new millennium where another generation of dancers took over. In the 2000s, I explore how this nueva escuela (“new school”) incorporated aerial acrobatics into their dancing in ways that reflected dancers’ desires to modernize quebradita and their sense of mexicanidades. The re-aestheticization of quebradita dancing points to new sociopolitical environments that dancers grapple with as they devise new identities that could compete with within a global context. I end with an examination of the recent emergence of same-sex quebradita dancing in 2018 to highlight recent shifts in the dance form and to analyze how LGTBQIA+ dancers compete within a social dance form that has traditionally been heterosexual. Informed by the framework of Dance Studies, this doctoral thesis situates the power of bodies who use dancing to construct pleasure, desire, and identity. I aim to elucidate the creative agency that brown, working-class peoples claim while investigating the deeply intricate inner workings of social dance forms that rely on transnational exchanges to persist. As I navigate quebradita dancing’s history, kinship network, and dynamics, I shed light on the agency, conflicts, and possibilities found in dancing brown joy.

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