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Crossing the river before summiting 17,500 Pico Austria. Photo by Ella Williams (2016 Fall Semester Photo Contest, 2nd Place), South America Semester.

Living in Teatro Trono with the Collective Compa

Hello everyone, friends and family that are following this informative space about the experience that your loved ones are having. This is Itzá talking, one of the tree instructors on this adventure.  I want to share with you all a bit about our last week’s experience.

Over the last week (from Sept 27th to October 4th) we were in the city of El Alto, above La Paz. This young city is famous for its history of resistance and the mixture of diverse cultures that have emigrated from the countryside due to mine closures and other forces of urbanization looking for better opportunities. It is also the home of the Theater Collective Compa, which is located on the first pedestrian street in El Alto and the first Cultural Street in Bolivia.

With an itinerary full of so many interesting things to do/see it is hard to say what excites you the most, but I can be honest by saying that meeting the collective of artists at Compa and Trono Theater was one of the things that I was most excited about. It fulfilled my expectations 100 %, and I believe all the students were as excited as I was for being able to be there and breathe art during the whole week.

For writing this Yak, I asked my self: What is Trono? In order to be able to express what we experienced there it took me a while to be able to answer this question, because Trono is so many things, but I will give my best shot here. Trono is the dream of a group of people who thought that theater was a good way to approach different social issues. They started this dream more than 20 years ago, by teaching young people how to express themselves in different ways. Soon they developed what they now call “decolonization of the body”.

Physically speaking Teatro Trono is also an eight-floor building, made out of recycled materials, where every square meter was built with care. This building tries to break social schemes, and invites you to explore different ways of living; it allows you to be playful in your daily life. One example of this is the (if I remember correctly) six different entrances that the building has, that allows the people who live there the freedom to move around (going in and out) in different ways. One of the days that we spent at Trono, Lenia and Tintin (who are part of the theater collective) explained to us all the different components of the space, starting from the water fountain in the base that is connected to the outside by an opening in the middle of a spiral staircase. .. this is for remembering that life begins with water and ends in the sky, therefore they have this opening crossing all the floors. Another thing that has a lot of meaning to me is the structure that they built on the rooftop, which is in the shape  of a Chakana (one of the most important symbols of the Quechua and Aymara cultures).  On all of the floors you can breath art, and the space has many different studios for the multiple classes they offer. In Trono you can find ballet, breakdance, theater, audiovisual arts, cooking, self defense, and languages such as Quechua,  French, German and English (provided by volunteers). They also have a movie salon that presents films every Tuesday and Thursday evenings. And of course, they have a central theater to present concerts and plays. On average every day 180 people come and go through Trono, and in case you were wondering all the classes are for free. They manage to maintain all of these dreams by funding money through different NGOs and autonomous activities.

One of my favorite activities that the collective planned for us (this was again hard, because all the things they planned for us were incredible), was the first theater workshop we had, with Tintin. He taught us about their theory of Decolonization of the body, which basically refers to the long history of oppression in Bolivia and the way one’s actions and gestures are influenced by that history.  This approach explores the ability to feel free, sometimes using the kind touch of your hand or a hug; it allows you to be playful and helps you to express yourself in ways we are not always used to it. That day I felt that everyone – students, co-instructors, and myself – were really engaged in the activity and enjoying ourselves.

Sharing this space with all these faces that come and go, helped me to remember the importance of dedicating your life to a specific goal, and how small actions can become large with the help of others. It also reminded me that we are here not to fulfill whatever the system wants from us, but to do with our lives what we want/need in order to be happy, and that there are many ways of achieving this. This collective brings the theory used for their plays to their daily life, by saying that we need to decolonize our homes, our streets, our relationships,  and I simply loved this idea.

(I am so sorry for not having pictures of the activities, I am not good at having the camera with me while we are doing them, I’ll try better the next time!)