IMPRESSIONS: Christopher “Unpezverde” Núñez's “The Square: Displacement with no end” at Abrons Arts Center

IMPRESSIONS: Christopher “Unpezverde” Núñez's “The Square: Displacement with no end” at Abrons Arts Center
Sarah Cecilia Bukowski

By Sarah Cecilia Bukowski
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Published on April 3, 2023
"The Square: Displacement with no end"; photo by Maria Baranova

Choreographer: Christopher "Unpezverde" Núñez

Dancers: Rafael V. Cañals Pérez, Mãr Galeano

Sound Composer and Live Sound Performer: Alfonso "Poncho" Castro

Audio Describer and Dramaturg: Marielys Burgos Meléndez

Scenic, Costume and Prop Designer: Branden Charles Wallace

Creative Assistant to Scenic, Costume and Prop Designer: ​Cupid Ojala

Lighting Designer: John Juba Alexander

Video Designer: Alex Romania

Stage Manager: Tré Wheeler

Creative Producer: Candace l Feldman

In “The Square: Displacement with no end” at Abrons Arts Center’s intimate Experimental Theater, Christopher “Unpezverde” Núñez continues his exploration of embodied ancestral-anthropological research through collective codes and rituals. As in his recent “The Circle or Prophetic Dream” at Danspace Project, “The Square” draws on elements of Núñez’s core movement language, graphic symbology, and poetic audio description to create a world that invites vulnerability and open witnessing. While “The Circle” held an introspective focus through shifting states of trance, “The Square” reaches beyond the individual to explore blood as a primal social and communal force.

Branden Charles Wallace’s stage design situates the dancers on a bright field of white floor, their sacred cave and dream space. Painted black petroglyphs line the perimeter, bordering the central square that will become a vessel for memory and site of transformation. Núñez, along with dancers Rafael V. Cañals Pérez and Mãr Galeano, slowly warm their energetic channels through meditative breathing and gentle stretching. Small flat icons rest in each corner, to which the “cosmic travelers” gently press their palms in quiet moments of contemplation. Marielys Burgos Meléndez stands to one side to offer audio description while sound artist Alfonso “Poncho” Castro shapes a delicately responsive score on an array of indigenous musical instruments.

three male bodies in a ritual, in the center a shirtless bearded man in a blue skirt  pours a black liquid from a ceramic cup onto a stone. To his left and right are men wearing only dance belts and various colors of string about them. Each is immersed in their aspect of the ritual
(L,R) Rafael V. Cañals Pérez , Christopher “Unpezverde” Núñez, and Mãr Galeano; photo by Maria Baranova

The ritual begins with the dancers bathed in a rosy dawn glow and vibrating at a low hum. As the “collector of worlds,” Núñez offers spatial and sensory cues to guide Cañals Pérez and Galeano through their journeys, actively sharing in their experience throughout. Using principles of Núñez’s somatic movement practice, Vortex, they trace circles with, through, and around their bodies in three planes: sagittal, frontal, and transversal. They begin by channeling paired energy centers—crown and third eye, heart and solar plexus, navel and pelvic ground—as the circles expand to reach their extremities.

While improvised, the shape and direction of their movements are clearly defined, and their blood warms to sensitively modulate the amplitude, volume, and momentum of their increasingly trance-like explorations. Swooping curves, gentle ripples, voluptuous gyrations, and delicate spirals reveal their elemental essences: the fire, earth, water, air, and ether living within each body’s flesh, bones, muscles, and vital fluids. Body, mind, and spirit open portals to ancestral memory, landscapes of home, and pathways to survival. As the movement ritual reaches its peak amid bright golden sunlight and intricately textured percussion, the ancestors’ journeying spirits live in the channels and spaces conjured and reclaimed by their embodied descendants.

on a stage with a black square drawn in its center and surrounded by designs of petroglyphs , three men shirtless in skirts dance, each performing their own moves. We sense they are on the same journey but not moving in unison.
(L,R) Mãr Galeano, Rafael V. Cañals Pérez, and  Christopher “Unpezverde” Núñez; photo by Maria Baranova

The dancers slow to float in a sea of cool, dappled light, echoing vestiges of their trance, shedding their serpentine skins, healing to remember and revealing to dream. Núñez places an eye-shaped stone in the center of the square, into which he pours ceremonial blood. He retreats to the perimeter to guide the dancers as they dip their fingers and fill the square with sacred elemental symbols. Just as the blood pulses through their vibrant bodies, so too it speaks of deep roots of time and memory and courses through routes of migration and displacement. Their dreams restored, the dancers enfold themselves in canvas sacks to close their eyes in repose.

The ritual closes with a short film projected on diaphanous squares of white fabric that descend from above. The film echoes the ritual’s physical and thematic elements: bodies undulate through the frame in quiet slow motion, fragments of limbs, torsos, and heads layering and intertwining in a timeless, dreamlike suspension. Blood trickles over skin, tracing rivers and deltas, mapping the primordial consonance of earth and body, of place and spirit. Blood is reaffirmed as essence of life, vessel of memory, and conduit of liberation.

a dancer lies as if sleeping on the border of the stage that consists of petroglyph designs, his legs are covered by a white blanket, but his torso and head rests on the stage. Behind him, a fabric hangs. Projected on this almost see through fabric is the picture of a thin, naked, hairless male torso with with a rivulet of blood moving down  from his shoulder to his waist.
The Square: Displacement with no end at Abrons Art Center; photo by Maria Baranova

As I exited the sacred cave into the mild evening air, I felt moved to walk, to feel the pulse of the city in harmony with my own, to remember my ancestors and the ancestors of this place with honor and reverence, with the very blood that enlivens my own small yet infinite being.

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