The Old One

1. What is the female force I feel coming from Wolfe? 

Clarissa Pinkola argues that folk tales or stories are healing phenomena that come with embedded guidelines to navigate through the complexities of life. “The remedies for repair or reclamation of any lost psychic drive are contained in stories.” (Pinkola, 1992, p. 29.) For this medicine to work, it is very helpful to hear stories as though we are inside them and to comprehend every character as part of our own psyche. “We enter into a story through the door of inner hearing.” (Pinkola, 1992, p. 38) I see a connection between this inner hearing and the method of Listening with the third ear that is part of my research. Also, I recognise my interest to approach stories and folk tales as one of my research strategies because I agree with Pinkola in her understanding of the deep meaning of stories.  


Accordingly to the author, La Loba is a story of resurrection of the wild nature that is within every woman, and it presents an old lady that wonders in the desert gathering bones. When she finds a whole skeleton of a wolf, she sings next to the fire (both metaphors of transformation) and the creature comes alive. When the wolf is running and a sun or moon ray catches it, it becomes a laughing woman. From this perspective, La Loba, the main character of the tale, is the personification of a female ancient force that lies within us. 


She is an archivist of feminine intention. She preserves female tradition (…) The old one, The One Who Knows, is within us. She thrives in the deepest soul-psyche of women, the ancient and vital wild Self. Her home is that place in time where the spirit of women and the spirit of wolf meet—the place where mind and instincts mingle, where a woman's deep life funds her mundane life. It is the point where the I and the Thou kiss, the place where, in all spirit, women run with the wolves (Idem p. 45)


So Wolfe could be understood as the personification of this old woman, expressing her ancient knowledge through my bones and muscles.  


"There is an old woman who lives in a hidden place that everyone knows in their souls but few have ever seen (…) She calls herself by many names: La Huesera, Bone Woman; La Trapera, The Gatherer, and La Loba, Wolf Woman.

The sole work of La Loba is the collecting of bones. She collects and preserves especially that which is in danger of being lost to the world."

From the tale La Loba By Clarissa Pinkola 

(Women Who Run With The Wolves, 1992, p. 40)

Video (3 mins, 3 secs): La Loba in danced sing language. Sequence created for WolFloW 2018.

2. Butler interrupting  

Even though Pinkola’s story and arguments inspired my creative practice in a tremendous way, the understanding of my wolf as a metaphor for the wild nature of woman opened many questions from a theoretical perspective. The use of terms such as nature, wild, instinct and spirit, in the frame of poststructuralism, requires a critical analysis since they are also historical and socio-cultural constructions. Even more, feminist theories since Simone de Beauvoir (1949) have been very critic of defining woman in terms of nature and biology. The main statement of Beauvoir’s book The Second Sex, is that Woman does not exist as a prior notion but is a matter of becoming. Alongside Beauvoir, many feminist theories, since liberal feminism, base their ideas on the separation of sex from gender. Academic Rosemary Tong presents different perspectives on feminism and the argument that that female subordination is rooted in natural definitions which is the same argument underneath the false belief that “woman are less intellectually and/or physically capable than men” (Tong, 1997, p. 2) which leads to the oppression and exclusion that the feminist movement is fighting. 

From a more radical perspective, Judith Butler interrupted the feminist discourse with the idea that not only gender identities are socially constructed, but also the bodily viewable gender division is. “She, therefore, states that there is no such thing as a ‘natural’, ‘biological’ ‘sex’.” (Rose and Ricken, p.61). If gender and sex are constructed categories, to talk about the nature of woman becomes problematic. Butler addresses this problem by saying that “in an understandable desire to forge bonds of solidarity, feminist discourse has often relied upon the category of woman as a universal presupposition of cultural experience which, in its universal status, provides a false ontological promise of eventual political solidarity.” (Butler, 1988, p. 523) 

Hence, to keep on working using Pinkola’s knowledge, it is important for me to re-phrase her and to be careful with not falling into essentialist arguments. In this case, that means to maintain the understanding of my characters in references firstly to me like the first relevant context of the research, and also to approach the story understanding that it has a pearl of wisdom constructed by others throughout the years. Pinkola even mentions that she came across the story doing ethnographic work in “the great desert which lies half in Mexico, half in the United States” (Pinkola, 1992, p.39) where she meets a bone woman from the Pueblo people of the Southwest. So, to understand where the story comes from becomes relevant and meaningful. 

From this enriched perspective, I understand the wolf-like bodily state I have been developing, as a female creative force. Therefore, my characters Wolfe and Libertad can be defined as different intensities of that same strength. From this, I am able to point out that my artistic and political approach is to locate sources of potency in my own gender construction as a woman. 

Then, the figure of the wolf extends and it is more accurate to say that functions as a trope in my artistic outcome. Sometimes as a metaphor of inner strength, sometimes as a personification when the dancer explores the anatomy of the wolf with her own anatomy, sometimes as hyperbole in the sing language trio inspired in the tale La Loba, and even as the rhetorical question that the whole performance presents. 

Video (2 mins, 16 secs): La Loba in danced sing language with 2 virtual dancers. Sequence created for Wolfe and Libertad 2019.

3. A new understanding of Extimacy  

With the dancers of WolFloW we created a trio using the six hands sing language mechanism as a way to embody the tale La Loba. The first step was to translate the story into signs with the help of interpreter Lorena Lozano. The kinetic aspect of this language was enhanced to transform it into a movement phrase in which the sings are expanded in terms of space, dimension, speed and the interconnection of body parts between the three dancers.

For the piece Wolfe and Libertad, I came back to this sequence to create a trio in which the physical dancer interacts with two imago dancers which are pre-recorded videos of herself performing the two other roles.   

This new version of the trio made me realise that the concept of Extimacy was also helpful to understand the relationships I have been creating between live and mediated presence. In topological terms Extimacy refers to the exterior of the interior; then, the mix media presence, created by projecting images of the same person on her body or in interaction with her, creates an image of Extimacy, where the border between interior and exterior gets blurred.