Amber Ortega

About Amber Ortega

Amber Ortega is a choreographer, educator, and collaborator working with relational aesthetics, movement, digital media, networked, and physical spaces. A native of San Antonio, she holds an M.F.A. in choreography from Jacksonville University/White Oak and a B.F.A. in performance and choreography from Ohio State University. Ortega is currently adjunct faculty at Palo Alto College and UT San Antonio.  She is artistic director of W-I-P/Works In Progress, an artist service organization providing a platform for performance-based artists to develop and present new and experimental work through labs, performances, and workshops. She was director and founder of and founding member of Modern Dancer's Co-Laboratory (ModaColab), a contemporary dance cooperative in South Texas. She is a two-time recipient of The Artist Foundation Grant of San Antonio.

Inspired by human interaction and relationships, as well as the environments that create, shape and guide them, her body of work lies on two fronts; narrative movement biographies which tell stories from a feminine, Latina/x experience as well as abstract choreographies exposing a non-binary human condition that explores interactions of vulnerability and strength. For Ortega performance is an act of choice-making with levels of responsibility, requiring a command and ownership of one’s personal presence. She utilizes platforms such as text/writing, film, theater and networked online spaces for expanded understandings of dance. In 2016 she debuted Queer Be-Longing as an augmented reality film at Luminaria Contemporary Art Festival. In 2017 the film was presented at the Gloria AnzaldĂșa Conference El Mundo Zurdo. She was recently accepted as a resident artist at the Cucalorus Dance Makers Retreat and will present her ongoing work with Queer Be-Longing at the Queering the Somatic: Interrupting the Narrative' Symposium at Middlesex University, London.

Ortega’s work focuses on creating dialogue between artists of different modes and practices to encourage broader ideas of art and art-making.

Over the last three years, her work has expanded beyond performance and directing, to include writing on dance. In 2017 she presented her non-scientific study on using social media as a tool for dance education at the National Dance Education Organization Conference. Ortega’s article, Corporeal Narrative; Queering Contemporary Dance in San Antonio Towards Voices of Color was recently published in Texas Arts & Culture Magazine.


November 8th
Response to Ana's texture video footage.
[2017 LG Aristo, Android phone with broken screen]
#wildflowers #urbanyard #neighborhood #planting #dirt #blackearth #clayearth #sounds #digitialtranslation #southtexas #unevenweather #hotandcold #deadleaves #bees #moths #birds #children

November 6th
Ritual is appearing.
Meaningful repetition
Embodied knowing
Coming back to an understanding with my body and its situation.

The ritual of turning my femurs out slightly, rotating my hips, so my knees can line up with my ankles.
The ritual of remembering my curved shoulders and raised scapula. It is a regimen of up-rightness.

When I Dad was in hospice earlier this year, I drove eight hours every Thursday to be with him and attend to my Mom. This repetitious act, interfered with my left leg. I now have what feels like arthritis in my left foot, ankle, knee, and hip. I ritualistically deny it.

I now am trying desperately to find the corresponding body ritual to make all this pain disappear.
This is the first time I have felt my age. My left leg reminds me that the passing years actually do mean something, calendars and the calculation of hours and minutes passed are not empty mathematical rituals. They are signs that remind us of our situation in this place.

Here is a poem I wrote under the influence of meditative space/time travel via the guidance of Niurca Marquez. This poem describes my body's sensations and visceral understanding of time, situation, earth, home, and longing. {Dirt is also coming up. Earth is making an appearance}


My body can't hold anymore the life that it keeps
My ribs keep loosening and the vertebrae let's go like old screws dropping their responsibilities. 
My pelvis holds on, the only place that won't give up its grip. 

It holds my psoas in a clench and throws my body around like a whip of bones and viscera. 

My skin is a sack, empty. 
My hair is a dried bed of leaves
My feet are empty shoes 
My hands are fallen wind chimes

Each time I drift away I return with less of me

Each time I exit I feel more in a home

Returning, drifting backwards from where I started

It's like waves pulling me back to warm sand and sending me forth into a deepness/profundity 
I'm falling 
here and then there                then back here            and again           over there

My vertebrae mounts the sky like a monster 
constructing itself in the upper space 
bridging worlds of then and now. 

My body parts dangle from this bone and cartilage 
swinging violently from coxis to occipital joint. 

My weight lands in that world and I sit in the sun
then it is dragged back 
and flung to that world 
where the voices are strong. 

November 4th
I missed the 3rd. Here's the 4th.
I read Damaris Ferrer's response post for the 3rd. It resonated with me.

We moved my mom to Detroit last week, she wanted to live near my brother. My mom has never traveled that far north. She has never lived in a place where she cant speak Spanish and English in the same sentence to anyone she meets. She has never lived in a place that cold, and where the caldo and menudo aren't boiling on the stove when the slightest chill hits the air. We got her a POD, one of those giant shipping like crates and she refused to pair down, to let anything stay behind. She insisted on taking her old and broken vacuum cleaner, the one she bought from a traveling sales man in the 80's that my dad said was way too expensive. She insisted on taking my dad's old safe and when my cousins were lugging it into the POD some marbles rolled out, they stopped and wondered, who has such a large ancient safe just to hold a small handful of old marbles? My mom does, she's a hoarder. She hoards because each individual item holds some kind of memory for her and she needs it to feel her identity, she needs these things to tell her who she is. When we arrived in McAllen the night before her plane was supposed to leave, we found her sitting in the living room with a canister of Pirouettes on a small wooden tv tray beside her. We picked it up, opening it, hoping to indulge in some chocolate creamy wafers, but instead it had two paperclips, an old rubber band, an old hair clip, and some bits of small paper. We knew each one of these items she would be able to recall, know why it was there, and what it was needed for. We are worried for her because so much of who she is is tied to place and land, our homeland and she is now far from it.We tried to move her to San Antonio, we tried keeping her in South Texas, but it wasn't what she wanted. One of the last times I visited her for an extended period of time after my Dad passed away, she told me emphatically that she had to "leave this place", she "had to get out of here". She said my Dad wouldn't leave her alone, he was always walking around the house, changing the radio station and laying in her bed. I understood her desperation and so did my brother and we decided to go forward with her wishes. She was desperate to start a new life, a life that is now utterly foreign to her.
So for me right now, I am thinking of containers, POD's, boxes, receptacles that hold artifacts of memory, that hold what Damaris called "material reality". My mother is still waiting for her POD to arrive, she is waiting for her identity to land.

Movement Response with hammock:

November 2nd
I tried to find a way to Tolla (this is how I remember my family spelling this but the actual spelling is Toyah) but there is no way for me to get there during this week. I will keep trying but it will not happen during the 1[1] Materiality of Exile project. So I was trying to figure out ways in which I could keep the rule of 11 with my responses and I have decided that I will make 11 movement responses.

I also wanted to share today that I discovered what I think is the history behind my daughters name, Izel...its Mayan for the goddess, Ixchel. When I just happened on this information, I ran to my daughters room and told her. Its perfect. My daughter, Izel, is an artist naturalist, scientifically minded yet warm-hearted for all that is the earth and its non-human inhabitants. She is an amazing artist and will not ever fit any preconceived mold. A snake rests upon Ixchel's head and she is accompanied by a rabbit and a rainbow. She is the Mayan moon goddess, and the Aztec earth goddess. I share this because it is a representation of the struggle for connection to something that was not simply lost through time, but something that was stolen, something that was forced into the exile of forgetting.

In this first video of a movement response, I am reflecting on Ana's post for today, particularly the following;

In time she has learned to enjoy knitting, it is no longer a distraction but a state of being, an action  in and of itself, fulfilling its own desire --  an integral identity,  joy in each loop and pull, crossing over and under.  She is constantly shaping crossings across territories through the motions of her hands, travelling through time and space whilst seemingly immobile, a motionless exile, except for the motion of those hands....builder of territories yet mistress of none.

While reading this, I began to cry because it made me think of how much of life is a slow and quiet act of adapting to that which was at first an un-easy task, that which was hard, not asked for, not wanted, not intended to be the summation of us. But through the tedious action of repetition, a repetition of work, of necessity, of survival, we find the small (micro) places of cultivated contentment and sometimes joy and love.What a brutal thing. What a conundrum for the idea of choice and free will.

Ah, and then as I re-read what I have just typed out, I think once again on my Grandmother and how over the years, she nurtured a love and care for what had become her life.

November 1st
I am responding to 1[-1] Materiality of Exile from my homeland, San Antonio, Texas.
I am a Texana, Xicanx, Mexica. I am connected to this land as my family has been living and cultivating Texas and Mexico since before 1848 and the treaty of Hidalgo. My family history and heritage is spatially demarcated by a border, that tells me one day I am U.S/American and another day I am Mexican depending on where my feet land. The Southwest region of the North American United States is a strand of my history that I rarely have known through my Tigua/Tewa ancestors, specifically those few who migrated to the small town of Tolla in West Texas.

⥗ My grandmother's family were forced into migrant labor after the revolutionary war in Mexico.
⥺ My grandfather (Texano/Tigua) kidnapped my grandmother and took her to New Mexico.
⥷ My grandmother's parents were ashamed of of their daughter for allowing herself to be taken, so they abandoned her and went back to Mexico.
⥩ My grandmother was forever bitter, angry, and ashamed, as she was forced to live out the rest of her life in Texas.
I have never been to Tolla, Texas. My great grandparents were founders of the small town. Research now shows that trauma is genetically passed down and I can keenly understand the abandonment my grandmother felt, she was only 14 when she was kidnapped.

For part of this project, I intend to drive out to Tolla, now virtually a ghost town, and respond to 1[-1] Materiality of Exile from there. I don't know how successful my trip will be, but I feel it needs to happen. I will be posting here, what I find, what I discover, my thoughts, what I see, and feel.