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Scenes of Cognition: Performance and Conquest Author(s): Diana Taylor Reviewed work(s): Source: Theatre Journal, Vol.

56, No. 3, Latin American Theatre (Oct., 2004), pp. 353-372 Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press Stable URL: . Accessed: 07/06/2012 16:01
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Scenes of Cognition: Performance and Conquest

Diana Taylor

an object of analysis (a Theatre, as a space (th??tron in Greek, a place for viewing), a with been associated and lens has recognition and ways of long play), (theatricality), on not have the value of what spectators Plato and Aristotle may agreed knowing.1 the pedagogical force of dramatic learned, but they both granted representation.2
Performance has also been considered a scene of communal, even crosscultural,

in the 1970s, asserted that populations could Victor Turner, writing understanding. these like their understand each other through their performances.3 terms, Clearly now are Few and of scholars reconfigured. analysis, constantly being rethought objects others subscribe to Utopian fantasies that we can somehow transparently understand


is Professor Studies and Spanish Taylor of Performance in Latin America of Crisis: Drama and Politics of 'Theatre in Argentina's of Gender and Nationalism Spectacles and received ATHE's

at New


Cultural the Repertoire: Memory Performing Book. She has edited and coedited 2003 Research Award for Outstanding on most A Reader of Conflict: of Latin American volumes performance, recently Stages and Terrors: Latin American Women and Performance Holy forthcoming) (Michigan,

York University. She is the author Acts: 1991), Disappearing (Kentucky and War" The (Duke 1997), "Dirty in the Americas which (Duke 2003), numerous Theatre Perform

(Duke 2004). She is the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics, founding Director of the funded by theFord and RockefellerFoundations.

I wish discussing

please. 1 an is the optic associated with theatre. Iwould of argue that it is not simply Theatricality adjective a a a way or were it if theatre but of seeing the (a "theatrical ("as delivery") metaphor stage"), nature of the real. The relationship is not straightforward. constructed between this and performance as used a specific event to denote is also an object of Performance, (a play, a ritual, a demonstration), as a lens, however, as well the constructed-ness Performance denotes of the critical apparatus analysis. as the in It the which critic frames the event is the of (for way analysis. object Argentina's example, Dirty that allows her to think of it as a mise-en-sc?ne of the national and not, War) imaginary and the positioning the more visible of power of social actors. Performance staging necessarily, or Else: From Discipline to Performance includes social (Jon McKensie's [London: imperatives Perform seem and natural rather than theatrical that (i.e., the 2001]) Routledge, normalizing practices totally performance 2 For Plato, skilled artist of gender, racial, or national identity). in Book X of The Republic Classics, (trans. H. D. P. Lee [Baltimore: 1955]), Penguin can "deceive or is a "charlatan" children (375), who (374) unable simple people" between know "knowledge one another and ignorance, and (375). better the

in "Performance and Conquest" and thank my students for reading 2004) (Spring are a to thinkers and demanding this essay with me. Rigorous readers, they tough audience I love them for it.



distinguish 3 "We will

representation" reality one another's and learning their by entering performances on Ritual and vocabularies," Victor Turner, for the World Conference grammars "Planning Meeting in By Means and Performance," Introduction Schechner and Will Appel ed. Richard of Performance, (New York: Routledge, 1980), 1.

Theatre Journal56 (2004) 353-372 ? 2004 by The JohnsHopkins University Press


Diana Taylor

1. Bernardino E. Dibble. 1950-1982. de Sahag?n, Arthur and Charles J. O. Anderson, Figure General history of the things of New Spain: Florentine codex. Santa Fe, N.M.; Salt Lake City: School of American of Utah. Book 8, fig. 64. Research; University

and other cultures, through their performance practices. Any theoretical lens, as we can occlude as much as it reveals. Much of my previous know from past experience, in work has looked at issues of representation, misrepresentation, and disappearance In this essay?part introduction contemporary Latin American theatre and performance. to sixteenth-century think about the Amerindian and part polemic?I performance ways inwhich these pre-Conquest practices trouble some basic givens about the terms and ask us, not necessarily "theatre" and "performance" rethink them again, from yet one more perspective.4 is just one of many the performances describing writes: Here to replace them, but to

descriptions by sixteenth-century European chroniclers saw New in the so-called World. Jos? de Acosta they

[A temple for theworship of Quetzalcoatl]

feast day great god's theatrical performances. in the middle adorned of the dances For and this purpose

had a courtyard of middling

were there was performed a small theater which surrounding as well about

size, where on the

as very amusing square and of thirty feet embowered arches


courtyard, thoroughly all possible for that day with care,

whitewashed, completely

they itwith


4 in the belief and performance and the differences of Mesoamericans there were systems Although in the fifteenth Andean and early sixteenth there are important similarities that centuries, populations seem to be a in Americas. allow us to speak of indigenous the Differences practice more generally matter rather than of kind. The Mexica of degree valued and Incas highly (Aztecs), Maya, song, dance, must and other performance forms. A discussion of differences be left for another occasion. festivals,


kind of flowers and every creatures between hanging


and many and other birds and hares harmless featherwork, eaten. them at intervals, where the people after having gathered The actors came out and short comic pieces, to be deaf, afflicted with pretending performed an arm, all ones to to and missing deaf ask for health. The the idol colds, halt, blind, coming answers would and foolish those with colds The halt, about, give coughed. limping described out their miseries representing and so on. When little flutes, which imitated butterflies dressed and of some in these vermin, came and made the people Others complaints, laugh heartily. some dressed as beetles, as toads, others as lizards, others their lives, and turning about they appeared they described they played for they were their listeners mightily, also very amusing. pleased They and with and costumes; shot birds of many different into they climbed at them with out of the temples colors, youths bringing a grove of trees that had been there, planted comic verses in defense and there were blowpipes, the audience. and the After this was they festival ended;

the others, with which they entertained a mitote, over or dance, with all these actors, they performed did this at the most festivals.5 usually important

the temple priests and against

This passage, one of many written by the European conquerors and missionaries during the sixteenth century, describes the importance that native peoples assigned to the description reveals not just what we know but the However, performance.6 we one it. know For writers used terms of how complexities thing, Castilian-language
from English their own as tradition "dances," such as bailes, entremeses, performances," teatro, here "theatrical "theatre," representantes?translated and "actors," into respec

if they were transparent and universally valid. Less obviously, perhaps, this description by Acosta does not in fact reflect what he saw but what he read in Juan de Tovar's C?dice Ram?rez. Although we know that Acosta copied this description word it is still far from clear who in fact saw the events forword from the earlier manuscript, tively?as described.7 believed in the nineteenth Ramirez, who transcribed the Tovar manuscript a sixteenth-century in N?huatl the work was originally written by indigenous scholar. The derivative and reiterative nature of these descriptions of the European chronicles.8 The formulaic frameworks century, secular

terizes many

charac of these scenes of

Jos? de Acosta,

University 6 Aside

trans. Doris Heyden Book of the Gods and Rites, and the Ancient Calendar, (Norman: of Oklahoma Press, 1971), 135, and his History University of the Indies ofNew Spain, trans. Doris Heyden de Benavente of Oklahoma Press, (Norman: University 1994); Fray Toribio (Motolinia)'s History of the Indians of New Andros Foster The Cort?s 1950); Hern?n Spain, trans. Elizabeth (Berkeley: Society, Diego trans. Anthony third letter in Letters from Mexico, Yale University Press, (New Haven: Pagden Historia eclesi?stica indiana (Mexico City: Ed. S. Ch?vez de Mendieta, 1986); Fray Ger?nimo Hayhoe, Historia chichimeca de Alva Ixtilx?chitl, S.L., 2000), 173. 1945); and Fernando (Madrid: Dastin, 7 now as C?dice Ram?rez who the manuscript known in 1860, Ramirez, Jos? Fernando copied in N?huatl that the lost original was written The copy he worked from speculates ("lengua mexicana"). was written one was in two columns, he notes, and the right-hand left blank (C?dice Ram?rez, 9). The was most a secular native scholar that the estimates author, Ramirez (10). Ramirez conjectures, likely Cort?s's undated irrefutable manuscript evidence adds was that written passages as a basis no later from than it were the mid-sixteenth lifted Alvarado by Fray Tezozomoc's based century, Duran in Diego in part on the 1579 (11). The

Tezozomoc, Dur?n's

and Moral History Natural (Durham: Duke of the Indies, trans. Frances L?pez-Morillas Press, 2002), 5:326-27. from Juan de Tovar's C?dice Ram?rez this passage, Alvarado from (Hernando copied Cr?nica Mexicana and C?dice Ram?rez Porrua, [Mexico City: Editorial 1987], 9), see Fray

also manuscript Chavero Alfredo

Cr?nica mexicana. In 1876, to the debate, that "the author of this beautiful seems work to have claiming in his mother been a pure blooded Mexican who wrote (Cr?nica mexicana, 161). tongue" 8 acerca de las 1498 Relaci?n de los indios (Mexico Pane's Fray Ram?n antig?edades City: Siglo in the Americas in a European chronicle written the Veintiuno, 2001), the first known language, begins that much of formulaic I characterizes this literature: friar write what have of "I, Ram?n, [...] opening been able to know and understand of the beliefs and idolatries of the Indians" (3).


for Hernando


Diana Taylor

us question embodied based on supposedly claims to knowledge from Instead of evidence first-hand participation. witnessing (part of the garnered and transmit that that of embodied social store, memory generate, repertoire practices I have discussed in a recent book), archival sources provide the basis for this cognition
description.9 Archival memory, I argue, maintains a lasting core: records, documents,

that are supposedly resistant to remains, and bones literary texts, archaeological or over remains of the The relevance, time, as do value, meaning change. might change are even in which the ways and of the embodied. tricks they interpreted, Through
archive, the scene-as-seen gets reproduced and inserted, unabridged and unacknowl

edged, unidentified

into written witnesses


The how-we-know, then, seems based on assertions and the highly suspect reworking of lost originals.


that we should not try to understand what Does this mean these performances about the religious, looked like, or speculate functions social, and political they and interpret present served? Not at all. Most, perhaps all, of our efforts to understand and past events are based on unidentified sources, insufficient information, nonexist ent originals, and limited perspectives. Iwould suggest, furthermore, that the age-old claims that we cannot know much about pre-Conquest cultures (and therefore should as not try) are fueled as much by a willful politics of forgetfulness and disappearance an mean we as But it caution of the that exercise difficulties. does by acknowledgment we analyze what we know and how we know it. Terminology?words such as theatre and performance?comprises the how and the what constructs the of how) object analysis (the what). simultaneously. The lens (the

Here, then, I will argue that terms such as theatre and systems of incorporated practice signal sixteenth-century social memory. Yet, I feel I need to continue to use them. instead of looking for new ones? Why not, for example, in N?huatl), "movement" which the (meaning signifies
movement of the sun, stars, earth, and elements? Or areito

performance imperfectly that create and transmit Why retain these words, use a word such as olin force that generates
which refers


(in Arawak)

a term that effectively blurs the Aristotelian art boundaries between "sung-dance," a a one as at in I word For forms? argue developed thing, length elsewhere, taking to fit our current context to signal a profoundly different different worldview reflects a history analytical needs simply does violence to that term.10All terminology
of practice. We cannot unproblematically create or adopt words to examine more

in the revenge of the referent, the what complex objects of analysis. Nonetheless, on that the that is, the objects of analysis will demand how; ultimately puts pressure
we scholars reexamine our own meaning-making systems, our critical lenses, our

terminology. Words such as olin and areito remind us that any analysis that does not or blurred boundaries will fail. So, ideally, this essay should be account for movement as much about examining our own epistemic grids as about pre-Conquest theatre and

Some events, such as the one described by Acosta, resembled what the chroniclers recitation, dialogues, singing, dancing, thought of as theatre. They included music,


(Durham: 10 Ibid.,

chapter Duke 12-15.

1 of my University

The Archive Press,


the Repertoire:




in the Americas




acrobatic feats, critique, and humorous mimetic routines.11 This de impersonation, we sources: to that know from other the performers scription points something multiple were highly skilled. They used elaborate and highly colorful costumes, masks, body and stilts.12 The sets were and, at times, puppets makeup, lavishly adorned with sorts and all of natural and elements.13 arches, flowers, animals, artfully designed

Figure maya

2. "Danza

de zancos"

from C?dice



y evangelizador.

Troano, reproduced Merida: Capital

in Fernando Americana

Mu?oz de

Castillo's 2000,

Teatro pg. 33.

la Cultura,

11 The

us... What 'Please entertain do you want us to give you the and then all the Xibalbans arrived, songs and dances, the Weasel, the crowded the floor, and they danced spectators everything: they danced they danced Vuh: The Edition the the Dawn danced the Armadillo." Book Poorwill, Mayan they Popul Definitive of of of Tedlock (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1985), 151 Life and the Glories of Gods and Kings, trans. Dennis 52. 12 Vol 1: Festejos, ritos propiciatorios Patrick ed., Teatro mexicano, lohansson, y rituales pr?hisp?nicos : seen "a gigantic to have personally Indian who claims CONACULTA, (Mexico City 1992), 26. Duran in payment Ijoys'?Hunahpu [.. .]' So then and Xbalanque. their they began in a procession in fact, a man on stilts (History, 9). See Cristi" who was, of the feast of Corpus Mar?a Garibay, Historia de la literatura n?huatl (Mexico City: Porr?a, 1987), 333; Mar?a Sten, en laNueva Espa?a (Mexico El teatro franciscano 2000), and Vida y muerte del teatro City: CONACULTA, and Kato, Dioses y n?huatl (Xalapa: Editorial Universidad Veracruzana, Millones, 1982); and Tomoeda, appeared too Angel demonios del Cuzco 13 See Motolin?a's "there was made like a meadow, (Lima: Fondo description a mountain with clumps Editorial of the natural del Congreso del Per?, 2001). environment for a Corpus created Christi play in 1538: there rose a high cliff. The lower part was and from each mountain of herbs and flowers and everything else that there is in a fresh field;

they'd two sacred

as entertainment: "'If only refers to dances Popol Vuh, the sacred book of the Maya Quiche, a show for us we'd wonder come make to the at them and marvel,' the Xibalba said, referring



Diana Taylor

While we cannot know exactly what these enactments signified for their partici pants, there are certain things that we can know. The vast majority of the population that are the learned and transmitted knowledge practices through the embodied rather than formal and informal techniques of incorporation, repertoire. Through and rehearsed fundamental social memorized inscription, people precepts.14 Although the passage refers to "actors," the population was rigorously trained in the telpochcalli in key social behaviors such as sweeping, (local schools) or caimecac (temple-schools) and dancers, having warfare, cultivation, and weaving. All were accomplished singers attended special schools, cuicacalli (house of song). Without exception, boys and girls to into and the twelve fifteen "danced eyes sang long aged night, under the watchful of the instructors."15 Training was obligatory, and students spent many hours (from in the cuicacalli perfecting in large, their techniques before sunset to midnight) in warriors and also trained Caballeros beautifully spaces.16 regularly appointed recitation and dance. Even the ruler executed a "princely dance" on special occasions, as did the priests who embodied god-figures.17 Males and females danced in public, in straight lines, turning around, in two parallel rows of dancers moving commonly or in concentric in the opposite and dancing direction circles. The dances were at times involving thousands of people. Diego de Landa, the Franciscan friar massive, who became Bishop of Yucat?n in 1571, describes a war dance "in which 800 Indians, or more or less, dance with small flags in a great war measure, among all of them not one being out of time."18Men, moreover, often dressed as women and mimed weaving on Musicians and other gender-associated drums practices. played (including dual toned drums and turtle-shell drums), trumpets, gourds, notched bone, shells, flutes,
and rattle-boards.19

as if as natural and the cliff were there. Itwas a marvellous thing to see" they had grown of Inti describes the Andean festival Spain, 103). Polo de Ondegardo of the Indians of New "In this festival, flowers on the roads and the Indians came very embixados Raymi: they threw many to their beards, all of them singing. It should and the lords with bits of gold attached be (adorned), noted that this festival falls almost at the same time as when we Christians celebrate of the solemnities the mountain (History and in some cases there are similarities Christi, (as in the dances, representations, Corpus and for this reason it's been said that nowadays there are Indians that seem to celebrate and our songs) festival of

in Christi when there is much that they are celebrating their Intiraymi" suspicion (quoted Corpus de Estudios La extirpaci?n de la idolatr?a en el Per? Pablo [Cuzco: Centro los? de Arriaga, Regionales ftn. 181). "Bartolom? Andinos de las Casas," 1999], 58-59, 14 in How Societies and inscribing Paul Connerton between practices distinguishes incorporating Remember Press, 1989), 72-73. Cambridge University (Cambridge: 15 of F. Berdan and Patricia Rieff Anawalt, The Essential Codex Mendoza Frances (Berkeley: University essential write: "Not only were the songs and dances taught in the cuicacalli to the proper performance but a vast amount of information of most rituals and ceremonies, religious was also contained in the songs themselves. in content, these songs praised the Predominantly religious and the gods" between and told of creation, life and death, and the relationship mortals deities (167). La educaci?n de los antiguos nahuas, vols. 1 and 2 (Mexico City: SEP, 1985). See also Alfredo L?pez Austin, 17 E. and Charles Florentine trans, and ed. Arthur Bernardino de Sahag?n, Codex, J. O. Anderson and University of Utah, vols. 1-12 (Santa Fe: School of American Research Dibble, 1982), 1:30. See also Francisco work, Historia (Mexico City: Porr?a, Javier Clavijero's antigua de M?xico eighteenth-century 1945), 2:43:300. 18 trans. William Yucatan Before and After the Conquest, Gates Friar Diego de Landa, (Mexico City: Editorial San Fernando, 1993), 58-59. 19 in the following inNatural and Moral History Florentine Codex. Acosta, of the Indies, describes Sahag?n, relation to Peru: others like drums, "They play different like conch shells; instruments the usual for these dances. is for them Some are like flutes thing to use their voices, or pipes, others all singing" (375). California Press, 1997), 16 and Anawalt Berdan 166.




3. Bernardino

de Sahag?n,




4, fig. 91.

in very public spaces sometimes took place outdoors, the performances Usually, as in sometimes the semisecluded such space of a private temples and courtyards,

The aim of these performances varied, though they always involved a religious and asked for in The the comics above praised Quetzalcoatl component. description as a mechanism and commemorations for served simultaneously health. Celebrations and for othering by ridiculing ethnic social integration and as a vehicle regional
20 See Mendieta, Historia eclesi?stica, 31:153-57, in Sten, Vida y muerte, 22.


Diana Taylor

for battle or celebrated victory. At differences.21 Certain dances prepared warriors or as the mitote in N?huatl, and taqui in Quechua) the times, areitos, (such sung-dance and past glories. The sung-dances were recounted group and individual histories common throughout the Aztec, Maya, and Incan territories, as the indigenous terms,
images, and chronicles make clear.



4. Fiesta


guacones 21 See Clendinnen's through 22 "I also shepherds, dance

los Condesuyos. described

Guarnan by

246?note the masked Poma, Jos? de Acosta (1539-1600).22



Press, 1991), 34. Interpretation University (Cambridge: Cambridge saw any number in which of dances different such as those of they imitated occupations, a very and hunters; all these were with slow and danced farmers, fishermen, usually

description in The Aztecs: An


the Mexica's



of Huaxtecan





theatrical performances were staged within the context of a larger perform that festivals took many religious place routinely in the expansive cityscapes. in These observances social kept rhythms synch with the highly ritualized movement of time, made visible through the elaborate choreography of the calendars. Celebra tions required and conventions of participation. their own design Spaces were transformed as they were cleansed and adorned. Human bodies became purified sites sacrifice, ritual feasting, and drinking.23 through fasting, sexual abstinence, piercings, were in festivities that "attended by the entire city," these Everyone participated ance?the according to Dominican friar Diego Dur?n's History of the Indies ofNew Spain of 1581.24 as the descriptions acts of debt The ceremonies, suggest, often involved multiple (also known as Aztecs), payment and sacrifice; the latter, especially among the Mexica contact point between included human sacrifice. At the apex of the pyramid, the heavens and the earth, the high priests reenacted the ur-scene of the giving and taking of human life. Victims?often illustrious war captives but also women and children? were the sacrifice appeared on bathed and prepared. The six priests who performed their bodies and faces painted. They the pyramid dressed in large, colorful vestments, adorned themselves like the god, "whom they represented on that day" (91). At the the of ceremony, the priests "humbled themselves before the idol" (91). The beginning victims ascended the temple stairs "totally nude." A specially assigned priest came in his arms, which down from the temple, holding an ixiptlatl (god-image/delegate) "he showed those who were about to die" (92). The ritual sacrifice was formulaic: four priests held the victim's arms and legs, another held the head, and the high priest (or Topiltzin) quickly cut out the heart, held it to the sun, threw it to the image of and rolled the body down the steps of the temple (92). The bodies were


collected and taken back to their appropriate capulli (neighbor were eaten "to celebrate the feast" (92). In certain festivals, the hoods), where they head and skin of the victims were removed and performed as part of the celebration.25 forms of human sacrifice were carried out in the Americas with regional Multiple variations.26 While the practice sounds cruel, it reflected the belief that there was no firm division between life and death. Being was not considered ontologically stable a in but transitive condition between here and there. The sacrificial victims would flux, be joining the gods, at times taking messages the victims' from those on earth, while on to and would be earth the others force transferred energy donning of the through

There were others danced deliberate men, whom sound, steps, and rhythms. by masked they called were on and their movements and both the masks diabolical. Some men danced huacones, absolutely the shoulders Natural and Moral History, of other men/' 374-75. Acosta, 23 in huacas to involve 56-62. Arriaga described that continued fiestas ritual Arriaga, ongoing all to and tell stories sexual for five days abstinence, dance, sing, purification: fasting, staying up night or more. 24 are all from Dur?n's otherwise Note: unless noted, page citations following, History. 25 See Sahagun, Florentine Codex, 2:31, for one of many examples. 26 of the chest and extracting the forms of sacrifice were the opening the heart Among (preferred by the Aztecs), the victim to death with arrows, stoning, decapitation (preferred shooting by the Maya), in Arqueolog?a Mexicana and others states: issue on sacrifice 11, no. 63 [2003]). Acosta (see the special the Mexicans in killing and sacrificing Peruvians children their sons (for I have "Although surpassed not read or learned in which (293). that the Mexicans they did horrible way in the world" did this), yet in the number that they sacrificed of men and the it the Mexicans the Peruvians and even every other nation surpassed


Diana Taylor


5. From

Fray Diego Dur?n's "A victim sacrificed

Book of the Gods to Huitzilopochtli."

and Rites,



skin. Notions of continuity and constantly recycling life forces, rather than cruelty or sustained these practices.27 The Mayas, for example, referred to certain forms revenge, of sacrifice as ahil (acts of creation).28 These performances served not only to honor the gods, but also to reinforce the network of belief systems and practices the Mesoamerican and Incan throughout In the Andean worlds. Luis Millones situation, as Peruvian anthropologist notes, the was Because scattered. farmed and contact raised their with animals, population people each other was minimal except during the designated fiestas that brought them together. While these were local affairs before the rise of the Incan empire, they increasingly became part of the imperial network created by the Incas for territorial control.29

27 to Aztec belief, all those who died in battle went Ross Hassig to ilhuicac, the points out, "According as did those who were in battle and later sacrificed. four years in After place of the sun, captured were into birds and butterflies and returned to earth." Aztec Warfare: Imperial ilhuicac transformed they and Political Control of Oklahoma Press, (Norman: University 1988), 118-19. Expansion 28 David Stuart, "La ideolog?a del sacrificio entre los Mayas," 11, no. 63 (2003): 28. Arqueolog?a Mexicana 29 in this way, as lords from Millones writes: the fiestas "Organized acquired political significance Cuzco multitudes. to participate. in a space occupied festival the temporal Every signified conformity by new Ceremonies invested the space with Adores de altura: Ensayos values." ideological sobre el teatro popular andino (Lima: Editorial translation. Horizonte, 1992), 22. My started



the The same applies to an even greater degree with the Aztecs, who celebrated A same festivals, on the same day, in the same way, throughout Mesoamerica.30 cer to Duran, could be sacrificed during a particular thousand people, according dances, sacrifices, farces, and games had emony (93). "After all these ceremonies, for the ended?all actors, priests, and dignitaries of the temple gods?the performed ate the took the image of dough and stripped it of its ornaments" (95). Participants an in act out of amaranth resembled of the that (ixiptlatl) dough god shaped body to Duran, who asked his "reader [to] note how cleverly this communion according rite imitates that of our Holy Church, which orders us to receive the True diabolical and of our Lord Jesus Christ" (95). The friars could not visualize a script Blood Body other than the biblical one they knew. Their way of fending off radical into the familiar otherness was by trying to fit the performances they witnessed framework of Christian doctrine.31 or scenario the context of yet a larger took place within extraordinary performances For Amerindians, and realms. the of the sacred the choreography earthly performance, and cosmic world functioned each and together, mutually sustaining reflecting earthly tell of how the gods sacrificed for example, other. Mesoamerican creation myths, for human beings, quite literally spilling their blood, doing penance, and themselves into the fire in order to create people and their world. The gods, throwing themselves in turn, required similar sacrifices on behalf of their creatures.32 These myths describe how four of the previous five suns ended abruptly, bringing a catastrophic end to life These on earth. In order to keep the sun rising, the rain falling, and the earth free of fires, and draughts, people had to carry out a annihilating earthquakes, windstorms, as forms of debt payment strict series of ritual observances (tlaxtlaua) to the gods.

reenacted Amerindian the embodied groups perpetually performance, Through was in this and sacrifice. broadest conflict the of sense, Performance, primal story act the of iterative act of existence fundamental itself, endlessly recreating original were master of the architects creation.33 The Mesoamericans builders, particularly

in front of their god, just "The same feast, the same rites, were performed Itwas a universal the provinces of the land practiced the same ceremonies. town sacrificed the prisoners taken by their own captains and soldiers" [...] Every (92-93). ceremony 31 on the evidence Duran writes: by these people, whose strange ways, "basing ourselves provided a great error if I are so like those of the Hebrews, not commit and Iwould and lowly actions conduct, were to state this as fact, considering their way of life, their ceremonies, their rites and superstitions, notes: All so akin to and characteristic and hypocrisies, of those of the Jews; in no way do they seem to this, and from them we draw proofs and reasons bear witness The Holy for Scriptures to be true." Fray Diego Duran, in his 1698 treatise, this opinion 3. Fr. Agustin de Vetancurt, holding Teatro mexicano: Descripci?n breve de los svcessos exemplars, hist?ricos, y religiosfos del pol?ticos, militares, to this claim, Nuevo mundo occidental de las Indias (Mexico City: Porr?a, several chapters 1982), dedicates their omens to differ. and 25 (Peru). Book V, chaps. 24 (Mexico) Tercero, part 2, Tratado chaps. 8-10. See too Acosta, 32 see creation myth, For an excellent of the Amerindian "The Nahua Florescano, summary Enrique in Time in Mexico Time and Texas of of and Press, (Austin: Memory, Myth, University Concept Space/' see Popul Vuh and Chilam Balam. For Andean see the creation myths, creation myths, 1994). For Mayan Huarochiri Manuscript: A Testament L. Urioste (Austin: University George 33 writes of the Mexica: Florescano just as everything (Memory, Myth, that is thus created and Time inMexico, trans. Frank and Colonial Andean Religion, of Ancient of Texas Press, 1991). is thus a repetition of the creation "Every creation is converted 17). Also into a sacred see Clendinnen's space, governed The Aztecs. Salomon and

30 in History, Duran, as was done inMexico.

by primordial

of the world, forces'7


Diana Taylor
Temples, the human-made equivalent of nature's mountains, reached toward

forming a living link that conjoined the heavens above, the earth, and the below. The Mexica thought of these temples as the navel of the world, the umbilical cord that kept the blood and life flowing between mutually sustaining as in Platonic worlds. There was no concept of the original and its representation, the natural, and thought. They were all aspects of one thing?the body, the man-made, the heavens, underworlds the cosmic order. They moved in the together: the light passed through the opening a a came at into and human certain child the and sacrifices world, time, temple living held them in synch expenditure were offered back. The dance?or choreography?that was vital for the existence The city, then, was a site of sacred of the universe. space inwhich everything was created, designed, and reenacted with performance?a in a choreographed Nature was ritualized and ritual was naturalized assure not act. in to could be trusted the Nature, itself, balancing safety and continuity of life on earth. Only relentless human exertion could do so, and at staggering human

a purpose.

to add, perhaps, these performances Needless also had evident political as well as sacred power. The performance-as-skit/ farce /dance served as an occasion to critique and make fun of others as performers praised the gods. The massive performance festivals, moreover, made visible the very real economic and military power of a state victims. Additionally, that could afford to sacrifice hundreds?even thousands?of these performances territorial and control permitted through a shared belief expansion and Incan political systems were based on "persua system. Both the Mesoamerican sive and dominating influence" rather than simple force?that and is, ideological were acts to main These control.34 fundamental spectacular synchronized hegemonic and so Ideology?normalized through religion, social hierarchies, taining power. became visible in embodied practice. Beliefs were rendered visible as acts. forth?only And, finally, the sacred choreography aligning the earthly to the cosmic had obvious The and placement architectural of the temples? political applications. design or to at throw catch of the off shadows of rays precise moments light positioned to to and the which used position degree priests equinox?indicate kings stagecraft as living conduits trained in themselves of the sacred.35 These leaders, highly and mathematics, dramatized their power by organizing astronomy huge public that they alone could predict. events around eclipses and other natural phenomena They, as delegates of the divine, could also threaten underlings with the death of the

term performance, It proves then, suggests both a praxis and an episteme. as in it to view events that such those described here as allows scholars generative as as (i.e., object of analysis, repertoire, as spectacle, as layered and interconnected The

standing saw his ruler at the pivot of this symbolic the movement occasion, program standing as rose and set [...] By his at bodies the of the of heavenly apex program, they taking place symbolic to be the causal force that perpetuated this order." Linda Schele and Mary himself the king declared Ellen Miller, 106. The Blood of Kings: Dynasty and Ritual in Maya Art (New York: George Braziller,

34 17. See Ross Hassig, Aztec Warfare, 35 ruler could stand on top of a temple built A Mayan "A Maya him. the sun rose and set behind farmer,

up against

the Caribbean below

sea in such for

this building that represented

a way that some ritual

Inc., 1986),




as a prismatic methodology and as analytical lens). Insofar as performance our see to it and systems of equivalencies, meanings capacity multiple expands us us to to and make the task of be flexible connections, encourages sparing impossible These enactments are not static or transparent, and fixing definitions and perspectives. to codify them in any straightforward to writers claiming way?either according more about their own mindset Biblical paradigms or classical Greek aesthetics?reveal the practices extends our they analyze. The how-we-know necessarily onto the of the whats? cognitive maps objects analysis. Nonetheless, objects?the and back. of The plethora reports, descriptions, interpretations ruptures any fight reflected in the constraining theory, and gives the lie to simple definition. The whats, writers and reinterpreted by contempo left by sixteenth-century many descriptions rather than certainty. And it is that complexity, reveal rary commentators, complexity and that simultaneity, multivocality performance theory enables us not to explain but than about
to explore.

as object of analysis, allows us to examine discrete embodied First, performance, and an end?that involve conventional acts?each with a beginning behaviors includ
ing a dance, a skit, or a farce. These are learned, mimetic practices, some of which are

aesthetically pleasing and entertaining. Everyone in a given community knows

Second, performance encompasses

enact socially agreed-upon roles. Participants the rules of accepted behavior and interaction.
far more than a set of distinct cultural practices.

a learning in and through the It also constitutes a repertoire of embodied knowledge, a as as means and well of creating, preserving, transmitting knowledge. Without body, or the access to and forms archival (whether pictograms, easy writing hieroglyphs, as learned known quipus36), people through memorization, physical knotting systems in social events. Whether in cuicacalli or through ritual training, and participation and their history learned about themselves practice or at home, people through enactment. Some of these practices were highly theatrical while others were made invisible through their quotidian quality. The repertoire of gestures, oral traditions, for transmission. movement, dance, and singing required presence People partici in and of the pated production knowledge by being a part of the event.37 reproduction These performances present, and future?of passed on the life?past, itself. The Popol Vuh, the sacred book of the Maya Quiche, begins:
performance and account to complete the emergence of all the

the community "It takes a long

sky-earth."38 Even

without passage

the exact translation of the original Quiche term, it is clear that the knowing but its transmission refers not to myth-as-information through oral, bodily as spectacle
and values



creates saw

a network

of relations
In the massive

in which


are made




the temples,


their relationship

to earthly

and divine

36 were to track of dates, quantities, and threads, dyed different colors, used events, Quipus keep other important The system was highly elaborate and precise. information. the People who mastered were See Felipe Guarnan Poma Nueva called Coronica de Ayala, y Buen techniques quilcacamayoc. Pease Gobierno, vols. 1-3, ed. Franklin Econ?mica, (Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura 1993), 270. 37 1. The Archive and the Repertoire, See Taylor, chapter PopolVuh,7\.


Diana Taylor
These social actors?priests, victims, participants?were all invested in the

social practice. It is only within this system of norms and beliefs that governed network that people could function and form a sense of identity The generalized and staying awake for nights on end, for example, fasting, abstinence, bloodletting, in members induced an altered state of consciousness of the population, and made in the struggle to assure the continuation them active participants of the world. The network, held together by shared beliefs, expanded throughout enormous stretches of means the Americas by of synchronized ceremonies and observances.
Fourth, performance serves as a lens, a way of seeing and understanding the world.

saw existence quite literally as a battle between and Andeans Mesoamericans the forces of creation and destruction, and they accepted their duty to fight ceaselessly for set all these practices inmotion. the continuation of life. These conflictive worldviews It is precisely because Amerindians contest that the many life as an unending viewed acts of affirmation became necessary. The Mexica, for example, lived in and through because they experienced the unabated anxiety of extinction. The four performance suns had died out; thus, they lived in a state of perpetual previous suddenly liminality, on the catastrophic and continuity, between destruction edge trying to maintain cosmic balance through reenactment. While performance interconnected levels associated with helps elucidate the many the Amerindian this term?like theatre?also practices I have been examining, points to ideological and epistemological frameworks that differ radically from those found in the Native Americas. My understanding of embodied practice in relation to the worldviews and enacted behaviors of indigenous has little to do with peoples notions of linearity, representation, mimesis, European image, and ephemerality, which are associated with theatre and, at times, performance. The idea of perform enactments ance, Native American insist, needs to be expanded. Some of the events I have been referring to?the skits and farces, for example? could be thought of as theatre, and chroniclers unhesitatingly referred to them as such.39 One of the distinguishing features of these accounts is the ease with which they lack of an understanding overlook obvious obstacles?the of what the observers were a familiar enough: and The skits for looked seeing they description. vocabulary in between other kinds of and imitation. Squeezed involved linearity, representation, familiar with?the the art form Spaniards were juegos spectacles, they resembled and entremeses that formed of part (games) larger religious festivals such as Corpus

39 Interestingly, of whether question out of preoccupations



the oldest

debates had

in relation theatre. These

to these materials earlier discussions, use "theatre"

or not Amerindians

is precisely around the not surprisingly, arise

Several commentators For example, from mine. different loosely. one of the leading of Mexica scholars refers to the "perpetual theatre of culture, Le?n-Portilla, Miguel the years which the Nahuas, with and sacrifices with different coincided performances throughout trans. Grace Lobanov Literatures and the author festivals" [Norman: (Pre-Columbian ofMexico, religious of the mid-twentieth of Oklahoma Press, 1986], 97). But some commentators century were University in the classical Greek sense?embryonic in "The Making of Latin American Drama," Press of Kentucky, of this topic. 1991), for a fuller discussion University del teatro hispanoamericano Also Historia de Jos? Juan Arrom, (Mexico City: Ediciones (?poca colonial) v. 2 p. 300 (Books Historia Antigua de Mexico, Andrea, Javier Clavijero, 1967), 10 and 21; and Francisco deeply perhaps, Theatre in proving but rudimentary, of Crisis (Lexington: invested that Amerindians had theatre theatre nonetheless. See my



Christi.40 While end, they were


the indigenous skits and farces had a clear beginning, middle, and that affirmed the continuity of part of a cyclical ritual practice existence. Never original, they were always reiterative, a re-creation of the original act of creation. The underlying intention of these efforts was precisely to forestall the end,
conceptualized not as Aristotelian cathartic closure but, on the contrary, as cata

an individual skit might be thought of in So while strophic and world-shattering. terms of linearity, it was embedded within structure another, circular, performance that resisted closure. Just as one calendar was placed within another to both recognize event functioned within and against and align solar and lunar forces, one performance

We might argue that performances in Spain also situated the particular skit within a larger religious framework and calendar (Corpus Christi, for I would example). one two differences?one of of kind. The between the suggest degree, separation in the fif secular and sacred aspects of European Worldviews was more pronounced teenth and sixteenth centuries than it was in the Americas, which allowed for the in of secular genres increasing popularity performance sixteenth-century Europe. Moreover, the relationship between the particular performance (i.e., the skit) and the was cases. two in For framework different these the larger religious Europeans, the skit or miracle plays were representations that served to illustrate and elucidate the larger Biblical story for a predominantly illiterate audience. For the Amerindians, the acts a were one more to in themselves the presentations gods, offering complex and interconnected The Western system of reciprocity. thus, is complicated concept of mimesis, practice. by indigenous to scholars need remember that mimesis itself has a troubled Clearly, contemporary observers thought of as imitation and etymology, and that what the sixteenth-century from classical Greek notions.41 Although the representation may have differed wildly comes friars had notion read Plato and the of mimesis that Aristotle, European through in the chronicles is equated quite simply with imitation, while representation is folded into the expanding language of idolatry. Time and again European chroni as excellent mimes, clers referred to Amerindians this though they usually disparaged as a sign of idolatrous, dishonest, and animalistic about tendencies: like "They go
monkeys, looking at everything, so as to imitate whatever they see people do."42 They

imitate anything?animals, of some plant life, people, and (to the consternation themselves.43 Yet, by and large, the events I have described are writers) the Europeans not representations of an action or of men sense. in the Platonic or Aristotelian Intended to do something, make something happen, these acts were not metaphorical; they lacked the "as if" quality of representation. Rather, as Inga Clendinnen suggests, reenactment animated life-affirming forces, "render[ed] present by simulation."44 could The word European
40 See

ixiptlatl equivalences




in which "image") also indicates the ways the fundamental N?huatl changed concept. As I



to Melveena



in Spain,




Press, 1989). University to Loren Kruger 411 am indebted 42 Motolinia, History of the Indians 43 Friar Diego de Landa, Yucatan, 44 The Aztecs, 253. Clendennin,

for this observation. of New 58. Spain, 104.


Diana Taylor

friars and chroniclers referred to ixiptlatl as images, bad objects, and argue elsewhere, notions of objecthood: idols. Ixiptlatl were objects that exceeded all Western they a to flexible and (i.e., living) category that referred to the many dynamic belonged manifestations of the gods. The N?huatl word makes clear that the process (not the is that and of and the offers the sacred, opportu object) liminality making unmaking forces to commingle. As a living object, as activated nity for human and superhuman materiality yet another (made and unmade for the duration of the event), the ixiptlatl constitutes form of life, of performed embodiment. Thus, ifwe were to try to find an we for equivalent ixiptlatl using European terminology, might think of the consecrated it is the body of wafer. For some, the wafer is an inanimate object, but for Catholics, a essence. on This studies to Christ, living living object puts pressure performance lead in recognizing follow Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett's that the lifelessness usually not is attributed to the ethnographic the deadness of the object (of analysis) but object in which the violence of the theoretical approach/lens, "the manner [these objects] have become detached, for disciplines make their objects and in the process make

another key concept theorized by theatre and performance studies, Ephemerality, also might be revised in light of these Amerindian practices.46 Ephemeral (existing only its common usage in English the fleeting because for a day) usually accentuates an important part of its meaning: occludes "table showing the places of heavenly bodies for every day of a period almanac."47 Amerindians [. . . an] astronomical a as saw we what life N?huatl has word call ephemeral? for would fleeting. certainly cahuitl (that which For example, leaves us).48 Aztec songs are full of lamentations. describes (1402-72), perhaps theMexicas' most celebrated ruler/poet, Nezahualcoyotl "Not forever on earth / only a little while the aching awareness of disappearance:
here... ,"49 Like many other poets, however, he also stresses the continuity of life, and

the persistence
songs will not

of human
come to an

end. . . . Even

"My flowers


not come
on earth

to an end,

/ my


/ may

yellow, / they will be carried there, / to the interior of the house / of the bird with the life on earth sustains a higher, heavenly, golden feathers."50 As long as this fleeting in regular, that shows the heavenly bodies order, life will not end. The almanac, the vital, mutually is the key to understanding endless motion, sustaining relationship of that which disappears and that which endures. The constant making and unmaking the regenerative quality of the points to the active role of human beings in promoting in a constant state of reactivation. Through these universe, of life, of performance?all reiterative acts, Amerindians made sense of the past and the present, even as they tried

45 in Exhibiting of Ethnography," Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, ed. Ivan Karp Cultures, "Objects and Stephen Levine DC: Smithsonian, 1991), 387. (Washington, 46 Liveness See Peggy Unmarked Phelan, (New 1993), and Philip Auslander, (New York: Routledge, make and disappearance the theorists York: Routledge, 1999). These performance ephemerality features of performance. defining 47 C. T. Onions, Press, ed., The Oxford Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford of English Etymology University


48 Le?n-Portilla, Miguel 1992), 80. 49 Ibid. 50 Ibid., 82.



of the Aztec




of Oklahoma



to secure and values
at another, For practices the


their future. These acts also served to transmit their knowledge, to the next, thus simultaneously from one generation assuring
related, level. of what course, needed the of persistence to be annihilated.

memories, their future

Europeans, was exactly




cultural was


as central to a conquest that willed native cosmologies into extinction. Nonetheless, Franciscan Friar Bernardino de Sahag?n clearly recognized in his momentous Florentine transmitted Codex (1569), the so-called pagan and idolatrous beliefs were through The Devil takes advantage of songs and dances and other practices of performance. [. . .] Said songs indigenous people as "hiding places in order to perform his works contain so much guile that they say anything and proclaim that which he commands. with But only those he addresses understand them."51 The colonist's claim to access ismet of performance. and linguistic the diabolic opaqueness Shared performance not the itself. Others the constituted could codes. The community decipher practices was at tentative best. these friars feared, spiritual conquest, In order to supplant native performances, the friars introduced missionary theatre use saw as the Amerindians' to the what love of spectacle Conquest they shortly after for evangelization. They hoped to affect indigenous beliefs systems (the what-they or ways, the hows, of knowing. The plays know) by slightly tampering with native set out to maintain native by the friars and acted by peoples developed forms while transforming the content. Even though they were performed performance in native languages and looked familiar?staged with thousands of flowers, arches, were radically worldviews artfully created landscapes, and fabulous stagecraft?the Olmos to Andr?s de One example: The Final Judgment Quicio final), attributed to be the first play and staged in Tlatelolco (in 1531 or 1533), is considered in the Americas. Even though the work aims explicitly to frighten native performed into intervention goes far under threat of hellfire, its ideological marriage peoples a one as it Time For character the linear, force, presents deeper. thing, universalizing to native understandings antithetical of cyclical motion. Christian Furthermore, salvation (following death) is depicted as an individual fate. Prior to the Conquest, extreme sustain life on earth and maintain that effort could group people thought only different.
the vital connection between the sacred and the mundane. After the Conquest, the

collectivity of experience gives way to individual responsibility: "They must take their own defense in the presence of God as they are individually called."52 Moreover, that native peoples had to forsake their own gods?not conquest now meant simply as previous add new ones to their pantheon, This was a conquests had demanded. whole different world, made visible through the many acts that, on one level, looked so familiar. Small wonder, and spectators wept and then, that native participants to see such stagings. As Franciscan Friar Toribio Motolinia marveled recounts, native the story of Adam and Eve. Their loss of peoples cried as they saw the play depicting Paradise was "so well performed that no one who saw it could keep from weeping bitterly."53We might be forgiven for asking if the native spectators (formerly participants)

51 Sahag?n, 52 Marilyn (Washington, 53 Motolinia,


1:45. Codex, Prologue, Ravicz, Early Colonial Religious DC: The Catholic of America University 109. History, Florentine

Drama Press,

in Mexico: 1970), 145.



to Golgotha

salvation baptized

Diana Taylor
The massive the loss of Paradise or the loss of their own world. often ended with the theatrical defeat of the infidels and the supposed
the Amerindians ceremony54 at the performance's conclusion, thousands were



in a mass

in which the friars celebrated the ways their new as if to the learned behaviors reflected Catholicism, enthusiastically Initially, Edicts

and ordinances mandated that neophytes kneel and pray acts themselves would produce faith.55 "Kneel down, move your lips in prayer, and however, you will believe," Althusser quotes Pascal as saying.56 Gradually, they that embodied behaviors were not a stable or uncomplicated indicator of understood belief. Although corporeal practice makes ideology visible, as I noted earlier, it can also do

converts took so a change of heart. to God, hoping the

The friars grew to the opposite. Scenes of cognition resulted in misrecognition. at not and that the church did suspect that the bent knee guarantee orthodoxy, and misunder hid deep ambivalence apparent acceptance of Christianity neophytes' Sahag?n standings. The repertoire has its own tricks. The frustrated and disappointed one thing and doing accused the Amerindians of "idolatrous dissembling"?believing

To add insult to injury, many of the practices that Sahag?n described?the fiestas, to with masked dances, processions, altars the offerings building departed?continue to this day. Innumerable communities throughout the Americas have kept alive their continue to employ performance fiestas, and practitioners genres (such as pastorelas moros and cristianos battles enacted between make-believe [mock y [shepherd's plays] Moors and Christians] developed during the sixteenth century to deal with uneasy and and relations between peoples religious views. Plazas, atrios (churchyards), war theatres are full of Moctezumas, Malinches, Quiche Atahualpas, Tepoztecatls, riors, Yaqui deer dancers, and other famous indigenous ancestors who help contempo rary subjects
continue to be


their present.
in the same





folk performances
and other places











on in the Americas theatre the sixteenth during bibliography evangelical en Nueva Espa?a (Mexico City: UNAM, Teatro de evangelizaci?n this end, see Oth?n Arr?niz, Drama in Mexico; Louise M. Burkhart, Ekdahl Ravicz, 1979); Marilyn Holy Early Colonial Religious of Pennsylvania A Nahua Drama from Early Colonial Mexico Press, University Wednesday: (Philadelphia: century. To El teatro n?huatl: ?poca novohispana Horcasitas, 1996); Fernando (Mexico City: Universidad y moderna and Christians: Festivals Aut?noma Nacional de M?xico, 1974); Max Harris, Aztecs, Moors, ofReconquest del Teatro of Texas inMexico and Spain (Austin: University Sten, Vida y Muerte Press, 2000); Mar?a Theatre in Latin America Press, 1993); and N?huatl; Adam Vers?nyi, Cambridge University (Cambridge: El teatro franciscano en laNueva Espa?a, ed. Mar?a Sten (Mexico City: CONACULTA, UNAM, when FON?A, the Ave is 2000). 55 the knee before "All people must bend the cross and images/7 rung, and reverence Before

54 There

is an excellent

recite the prayers fixed the sacrament, in "The Ordinances of Tom?s L?pez,"

Ramos 180. See too Maya and After the Conquest, Smith et al., eds., Censura CONACULTA, INBA, CITRU, 1998). (Mexico City: Colecci?n Escenolog?a, 56 in Lenin and Philosophy and other and Ideological State Apparatuses," Louis Althusser, "Ideology Review trans. Ben Brewster Press, 1972), 168. (New York: Monthly Essays, 57 the native neophytes of being perpetual he accuses is wrong when performers, engaged Sahag?n 3: 352. This is also quoted in Florescano, Historia in "idolatrous See Sahag?n, general, dissembling." Memory, Myth, and Time inMexico, 133-34.

in Landa, Yucatan y teatro novohispano



to the gods rather than entertainment debt payment for audiences. The Latin American dramatists who have also found reasons to reactivate Amerindian scenarios to list, though of conquest and resistance throughout the centuries are too numerous by and large they remain unexamined. or authentic practices?as I am not arguing that we can speak of uninterrupted if intact from generation to generation. there were such a thing?transmitted Some of roots (such as the Rabinal Ach?); some have ancient, pre-Conquest these performances are eighteenth- and nineteenth-century inventions based on legends. The texts of these were in all cases written after the performance tradition was well performances and they change as the performances recent established, change. Dennis Tedlock's translation of the Rabinal Ach?, based on the performance he saw in Rabinal, Guate in 1998, differs, necessarily, from the text that French priest Charles Etienne mala, wrote Brasseur down (with the help of Bartolo Ziz, the Mayan performance specialist) in 1855.58 The archive, like the repertoire, invites after he saw the dance performance revisions and new interpretations. I am advocating, is that systems of embodied practice stemming What however, to continue from pre-Conquest make themselves felt throughout the Americas, days as in such modes of the Dead celebra fiestas, Day particularly popular performance reenactments of ancient conflicts. Many of these events tions, and commemorative to the gods?Christian continue to be presentations and indigenous?rather than the we on Latin Danzantes find America's theatre de stages. fe (faith representations that they dance dancers) continue to perform according to traditional rules mandating for three days straight and commit to undertaking the dance for a period of roughly three years. While the guidelines of vary from the Andean regions to the highlands to the Southwest of the United States, they continue to underline a shared Guatemala to divine forces rather than offer a gift of human expenditure purpose: performers entertainment for an audience. However, these performances tend to fall out of of Latin American, theatre and even performance, discussions because theatre usually of in mimetic refers toWestern while reenactment, systems performance, especially a Latin America, too often limits itself to performance and art, contemporary culturally I have been discussing here. specific art form that has little to do with the phenomena
Our terminology, then, blinds us to certain forms of transmission.

Here, various

to propose that we start by thinking about terminology and then, I want forms of embodied practice before we turn to the discussion of any specific as acts of transfer, allow for object of analysis, be it a play or a festival. Performances, the transmission of traditions, and histories.59 If we limit influences, trajectories,
ourselves to arguing that plays can represent history, or at times even intervene in

history, we

ask too little of corporeal practice. Performance practice transmits history; performance theory can make historical claims. How would we, as scholars, go about examining corporeal practice from the past, once the very bodies that constitute it have disappeared? We would analyze all the archival sources available?texts, buildings,

Drama and Sacrifice trans., Rabinal Achi: A Mayan (Oxford: of War was as Teatro The Brasseur version 2003). University published ind?gena prehisp?nico Aut?noma Nacional de M?xico, Ach?) (Mexico City: Universidad 1979). 59 uses "acts of transfer" Paul Connerton in his How Societies Remember, 39. ^Dennis Tedlock, Press,

Oxford (Rabinal


Diana Taylor

artifacts, and so forth?but

context, as part of a network

an eye to understanding
internal and external

live practice
relations. We

in its particular


the use of performance space, techniques of the body including specific and the logic of movements, gestures. We would dance-steps, explore language, about and intended audience, presentation participation, assumptions representation, that configure or delimit the performance the social hierarchies of self (in terms of status, gender, social function, and so on), the role of social myths and legends, the also examine in and simultaneous activities the performance, the ways surrounding competing and which the (agricultural, calendar frames the the event, religious, budgetary) importance of the landscape in the construction of the physical and symbolic staging. is We would also need to consider the economic infrastructure of the event?who to A the in curious 1998 and relation the event, sponsoring why? example performance is that it was sponsored of the Rabinal Ach? that Tedlock fails to mention by the to use the confrontation International Red Cross, seeking of the two honorable as a model warriors for thinking about armed conflict in Guatemala. Does that make a difference or does it change the participants' to the meaning of the performance, are to what commitment interconnected they doing? By bringing together various we to out in the would flesh role of the try performance highly regulating layers, function of social spectacle. are always necessarily based on past practices, Contemporary performances, is reinventions and performatic that involve speculation leaps. The same, however, in Performances, "'Presenting true of historiography. As historian Greg Dening writes the Past' will always imply bringing the past and present together. Itwill also imply that the past will not be replicated or repeated, but represented, shaped, staged, in some way other than it originally existed."60 Theatre studies, perform performed ance studies, area studies, history, archaeology, anthropology: all offer approximations to be sure. Even though history involves to the past?using diverse methodologies, it claims archival legitimation in a way performance?as theatrical representation, the
so-called ephemeral?has not been able to. But what we know is linked to how we

it, and it seems urgent to recuperate embodied practice as away of knowing and it's not even The past is not dead; it's not disappeared; transmitting knowledge. from view. Current practices always exist in conversation with past events, hidden traditions. The repertoire and the archive work sites of remembrance, and embodied in different but usually in tandem, transmitting knowledge ways. complementary a a as not that but Mexica is the believed, thing practice requires the meaning Perhaps, tireless and repetitive process of doing, making, unmaking, revising, retheorizing, and know reconfiguring the many, many parts.

60 Greg





of Chicago