Choreography for Lola, March 2021

Author: Dahlia Nayar (Univeristy of California, Berkeley)

  • Choreography for Lola, March 2021


    Choreography for Lola, March 2021


Keywords: Lola, choreography, Asian American women, anti-Asian violence

How to Cite:

Nayar, D., (2023) “Choreography for Lola, March 2021”, Conversations Across the Field of Dance Studies 42. doi:

  • 0.

    Walâ: Hold breath

    • Rational or not,

    • You kept the directive short.

    • Focused on key words.

    • Don’t go out alone.

    • Another attack.

    • Someone just like you.

  • 1.

    Isá: Palm of the hand

    • Later, you overhear Mom

    • (aka Nanay aka Lola aka Tita)

    • on the phone with her Ate and Dete.

    • Not safe right now. Mahirap.

    • Their chorus of Ay Naku!

    • Travels through the ether

    • From Quezon City to Chicago via WhatsApp.

    • Their furrowed brows fill the screen

    • In the palm of her hand.

  • 2.

    Dalawá: Flank and Surround

    • A new choreographic response emerged instinctually.

    • At first it was a kind of flanking. Two family members on either side.

    • Flank: verb [with object]

    • guard or strengthen (a military force or position) from the side.1

    • But she was still exposed. She was still visibly a senior citizen, an

    • Asian/American woman. Intuitively, a third family member moved to walk in front of her.

  • 3.

    Tatló: Circumscribe

    • Thus, the flanking became circumscribing.

    • “Some common synonyms of circumscribe are confine, limit, and restrict. While all these words mean ‘to set bounds for,’ circumscribe stresses a restriction on all sides and by clearly defined boundaries.”2

    • We surround her with our bodies to hide her from view. We imitate bodyguards shielding a celebrity from the paparazzi. We are ridiculous. We acclimate to her pace. Our amoeba formation shuffles down the sidewalk.

  • 4.

    Apat: Quotidian movement

    • (By the way, we were just taking her to the dentist.

    • A quotidian outing.

    • Like how, the Monday before, Tita Vilma was going to church, on the morning of her birthday.)

  • 5.

    Limá: Tongue

    • In a class for heritage learners,

    • The professor explained my mother tongue to me.

    • It is the logics of a different world.

    • Ka indicates relationality… .

    • Ka + patid (cut) = means cut from the same umbilical cord

    • Kapatid na babae—sister

    • Kapatid na lalaki—brother

    • Kaibigan—friend

    • Kapitbahay—neighbor

    • Kasama—companion, comrade

    • Ka as a worldmaking speech act

    • Ka as recognizing relationality.3

  • 6.

    Anim: Out of Sight

    • So let me get this straight.

    • We want to keep her safe by keeping her invisible.

    • Wasn’t she invisible from the day she arrived in this country?

    • And now these things keep happening.

    • In broad daylight.

    • East coast, west coast.

    • And we need to make her invisible again?

  • 7.

    Pitó: Cover your ears

    • Are you about to quote the trite bits from the news? Or a meme? Or a tweet?

    • I don’t want to hear it. Another incident of. No thank you. Salamat.

    • The news, by the way, is a choreography of emphases and elisions.

    • For example:

    • Emphasis: Spike in Asian Hate amidst pandemic.

    • Elision: In the aftermath of the president’s pernicious phrase “China virus”

    • Emphasis: Attacker: mentally ill, homeless, ex convict

    • Elision: The brokenness produced by 400 years of structural racism

    • Emphasis: Security guards were fired.

    • Elision: Neoliberalism requires apathy for survival.

    • Emphasis: She was told she does not belong

    • Elision: Due to the normalization and perpetuation of violent white settler colonialism that this country is founded on… .

  • 8.

    Waló: To Shut

    • No need for a screenshot here.

    • The security camera footage is burned in your mind.

    • This particular choreography of silence and erasure

    • One body laying on the ground outside.

    • Three bodies tentatively approach from inside

    • One locks the door

    • The three back away.

    • Circumscribing keeps them in. Keeps the danger out.

  • 9.

    Siyám: Shuffle

    • We shuffle forward around Lola.

    • Qualities of a shuffle…

    • A hushed yielding to gravity

    • Is also an imperceptible allowance for lightness.

    • A transitory state.

  • 10.

    Sampû: Dissolve

    • Whenever they asked How long have you been here?

    • You know, in that way,

    • My father used to respond.

    • Since before you were born.

    • Long enough to know, for example,

    • That in the Midwest

    • On the morning after the first frost

    • (If you’re lucky)

    • You’ll catch a murmuration

    • Over the fields.

    • In some other world, a world we have yet to know,

    • All the non-belonging minor bodies

    • Join and congeal like this.

    • The choreography of circumscription morphs into a continuous folding

    • A swallowing of center and periphery.

    • A dissolution in order to start anew

    • And take flight.

Flight After Frost

Video footage by Dahlia Nayar shows flocks of birds flying in murmuration over a green field in Illinois, in October 2021.


  1. Erin McKean, The New Oxford American Dictionary (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2005). [^]
  2. [^]
  3. Special thanks to Tita Joi, Dr. Joi Barrios-Leblanc, UC Berkeley. [^]

Author Biography

Dahlia Nayar is a PhD student in UC Berkeley’s Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies program. Her research focuses on embodied manifestations of Quiet in minoritarian communities. She holds an MFA in dance/choreography from Hollins University and has toured and performed throughout the United States and internationally. She is a recipient of the Jacob Javits Fellowship, Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellowship in Choreography, and the National Dance Project Touring Award.