By the end of 2015, Yucatán was the state with the highest rates of new HIV cases in Mexico, according to Censida (Centro Nacional para la Prevención y el Control del VIH/Sida). The number of cases was even higher than in Mexico City, which has a population four times the size of Yucatán’s.
This shocking situation drove Roger Pech Sansores to create “Ergo Sum,” a monologue dance in which he portrays three faces of the crisis: a teenager who was infected when he was 12 years old, a couple with children who finds out that the mother is infected before realizing that the father is too, and a person who is diagnosed as HIV positive before getting married.
It’s the fourth of Roger’s choreography in five years of Odori Desu Arte Contemporaneo, the company he created not only to take his ideas about movement to a stage (he graduated from Centro Estatal de Bellas Artes) but also to help the audience be aware of social issues such as women in middle age (“Tinaja”), human relations in the 21st century (“Y tan solo”) and violence from women to women (“Feminaria”).
Roger chose “Ergo Sum” (“Therefore I Am”) to mark the fifth anniversary of Odori Desu with two performances at Casa de las Torres, Greg Casini’s grand residence nearby La Ermita. The first show was this past Saturday and included a photo and video exhibition of the company’s works and a ceremony to recognize Odori Desu’s artistic contributors.
The second and final performance will be 8 p.m. Saturday, July 16 and will be entirely in English, reaching out to the expat community in Mérida.
Roger, a fluent English speaker, has lived in North Carolina, where he danced with the Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre. He performed “Ergo Sum” at the Asheville Fringe Arts Festival last January. He decided to team up with Casini because of the temporary closure of the two major theaters in Mérida and because, as Roger says, his works fit in more places than only traditional theaters.
And for Casini, it is “really important to support the local community when you have the opportunity to do, so it makes me feel very good to be able to help causes that I believe in.”
To build up the 45-minute “Ergo Sum,” Roger used the HIV statistics of the Ministry of Health of Yucatan and the Spanish organization Cesida, among others, and he interviewed HIV-positive persons to learn their experiences.
Roger says that the reactions of the audience after “Ergo Sum” was performed at the Fringe Arts Festival were interesting, because he noticed that the way the North Carolina people think about the HIV problem is close to the way Yucatecans do.
“I was told that maybe we come from different countries, but the situation is very similar,” says the choreographer.
Although Odori Desu is a dance company, its works aren’t created only with movement, but also with other artistic resources such as multimedia projections and live music on stage. “Ergo Sum,” for instance, combines dance and narration, making the piece “almost a documentary,” according to its creator.
For the anniversary celebration, Odori Desu will continue to perform its previous works until 2017, when Roger plans to premiere his next work, a piece for children named “Lili, the Dragonfly,” in which he will focus on discrimination.
“I’ve been ‘chasing’ it for the last two years, but it hasn’t been possible yet,” he says.
Tickets for “Ergo Sum” are 100 pesos and can be purchased in advance from Roger (9991-28-81-19) or Carlos Jiménez (9992-56-54-13). Seating is limited to 60 people. Drinks available for purchase throughout the evening. Casa de las Torres is located at Calle 75 #503 between 62 and 64.
Valentina Boeta Madera is a freelance writer based in Mérida.