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Composed: 2023

Length: c. 40 minutes

Orchestration: 2 flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, alto saxophone, timpani, percussion (agogos, almglocken, anvil bean, bamboo chimes, bass drum, bongos, cabasa, cans, chimes, claves, cowbells, crash cymbals, crotales, flexatone, frame drum, glockenspiel, gongs, guiro, hi-hat, marimba, metal blocks, metal rattles, metal shakers, pipes, rattles, river stones, sand blocks, shakers, snare drums, suspended cymbals, tambourine, tam-tams, teponaztli [low log drum], temple blocks, Thai gongs, triangles, vibraphone, vibraslap, whip, wind gong, wood blocks, xylophone, Zurdo [floor tom]), harp, piano, celesta, women’s chorus, and strings

About this Piece

I have always wanted to compose a ballet. So when the Los Angeles Philharmonic enthusiastically embraced the idea a little over a year ago, it was like a dream come true. In order to make that dream a reality, I threw myself into the task of exploring thematic connections that had to do with earthly matters—with humanity in all its complexity, but from a subversive, feminine point of view. The world we live in suffers from a broad array of issues, such as mass migration, economic inequality, joblessness, social decay, racism, climate change, and violence, to name just a few. Self-reflection as a form of creative feedback amid this milieu has constituted one of my most powerful obsessions. And of course, somewhere amid all this lies the subject of feminism.

Previous works of mine, such as Río Bravo and Liquid Borders, dealt with the subject of femicide in Ciudad Juárez. However, I had not yet had the opportunity to analyze the feminist movements that started to emerge in the 1990s. These movements have tackled issues including sexual harassment, condescension, the wage gap, forced maternity, romantic love, sexual education, and the recognition and legal classification of different crimes related to gender; specifically, those crimes related to different forms of violence. All of this, driven by a need to eradicate the patriarchal system in order to attain true gender equality.

The increase in femicide has been, without a doubt, a fundamental reference point for this mobilization, but the protests have also marched hand in hand with many other grievances and modalities of gender violence that women increasingly find unacceptable and intolerable, especially the new generations of young people who feel constantly threatened in their day-to-day lives. This is how three recent events related to feminism caught my attention and became my main concern as I started to approach this ballet.

  • In August 2019 the Glitter March was held in Mexico City: such is the popular name bestowed on an incident in which protesters threw pink glitter at the Chief of Police to denounce the lack of response and impunity that ensued following the rape of a woman by local officers. This mobilization unleashed an intense reaction and polemic among members of society due to the amount of graffiti left behind in public spaces, particularly at the so-called Angel of Independence, as well as the damage caused to infrastructure at the Insurgentes Metrobus station and political actions that included damaging and setting fire to the police station on Florencia Street.

  • On March 8, 2022, also in the capital, a contingent of female police officers from the Secretaría de Seguridad Ciudadana led by chief “Andrómeda” marched together with other feminist groups on International Women’s Day, raising their right fists and shouting out the slogan: “Policía consciente se une al contingente,”or “Woke police will join the contingent.” The empathetic gesture of protesters toward these women in uniform was accompanied by shouts and applause in recognition of their hard work. In an unprecedented event, police officers and protesters came together in a single cry for justice and respect for women’s rights: “Mujer escucha, esta es tu lucha,” or “Listen up, women, this is your struggle.”

  • Starting in 2019, it intrigued me to see this crowd of young women with green bandanas and eyes covered with black kerchiefs, dancing and chanting to what has become today a worldwide anthem and symbol of performative struggle against all gender violence. This song of protest was created by the Chilean feminist collective Las Tesis based on the texts of Argentinean writer Rita Segato. Their objective was to provide visibility to women’s marches by taking to the streets with the idea that their message would continue to be sung around the world.

Hoping to conceptualize and delve deeper into these issues within the context of a ballet, Cristina Rivera Garza’s name was recommended to me by my friend the Mexican writer Juan Villoro. Fortunately, Cristina accepted. That was how we started an exchange of ideas that would work both musically and in terms of the project’s dramatic structure.

To that end, with enormous sensitivity, Cristina developed a poetic dramaturgy that touches on the utmost essential fibers of feminism, passing through various transformative contexts and tracing a dramatic line to be conveyed from both a corporal and sonorous perspective. It was up to me to imagine the music by not only using aesthetic languages already known to me, but also by taking risks, learning and experimenting with new tools. In this ballet, it has been my hope that the audience will explore different pathways that radically alter how they listen, feel, and perceive.

The ballet is divided into six acts that traverse various scenarios related to feminism: harassment and a lack of security in public spaces, the confusion between the language of romantic love and practices of manipulation and control that, all too often, can lead to lethal forms of violence against women; solitude and a lack of sense of belonging; the voices of the disappeared; a blind march that makes its appearance on the horizon of a nonsensical place; the intimate terrorism that goes on between couples, as well as its stages and consequences; street protests and their cries for justice; and finally, the aspiration that only by walking together will we be able to find a way out, because even though we may have only indirectly experienced much of what has been described here, their cause is also our own: that of all of us, women and men and people.

—Gabriela Ortiz