Puerto Rican Women Killing It in the Independent Art Scene: Glorimar Sierra

With the internet being so easy to access, it has become easier for independent artists to find an audience and let their work be known. As a result, a variety of movements, collectives, and scenes have found a way to pave their path. The independent art scene in Puerto Rico is no different. Recently, many artists from a variety of disciplines have found platforms that have made it easier for them to share their work. In addition, small businesses such as Electroshock in Santurce and Rio Piedras, bars like Off The Wall in Mayaguez, book stores like La Casita Books and Gifts in Aguadilla, Libros AC in Santurce and Libros 787 online, and independent festivals like Feria de Libros Independientes y Alternativos and Tintero: Festival de Cómics y Arte Independiente de Puerto Rico have provided up-and-coming artists a space to display their talents. “Puerto Rican Women Killing It in the Independent Art Scene” is a series of  interviews that provides a glimpse at some of the women who have recently gained recognition in the art scene. Though the artists are asked similar questions, some are asked queries surrounding their work, specifically.

Glorimar Sierra is a circus performer, journalist, social circus instructor, juggler and administrator of the Escuela Nacional de Circo de Puerto Rico.

What got you into performance art?

I suppose I have it in my blood because my mom is an art teacher and my dad is a musician. Since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a part of every dance in school. I would put the radio at full blast with 1990s hits and I would turn the garage in my home into a stage. Little by little, I convinced my mom to put me in dance classes. As time passed, I studied Ballet in the Escuela de Bellas Artes de Ponce. I remember the first time I went to a circus I was left my mind blown, I was only 9 years old. I never knew that I would take circus courses today, at 22, in the Escuela Nacional de Circo de Puerto Rico where I also work. I never imagined having a certificate from Cirque du Monde, a community project by Cirque du Soleil for administrators of projects in the social circus field.

Why do you prefer the circus to other performance arts?

That it is transdisciplinary. I have always supported music, cinema, literature, dance, theater, plastic arts, performance, etc. But the tent is my home and refuge from all those art forms. It embraces, transforms and tries to make the impossible possible. For example, you can recite a poem as you fly using a trapeze or perform acrobatics in the air while a band of musicians play a unique piece for your act. In the circus, magical things happen and they make you into a person. Inside the tent we’re all family, we work in group, we help each other out, persevere, are empathetic, defy gravity and juggle life. I love being physically healthy and in shape, so much so that I can lift my body to the point where I feel like I have super powers. That’s what the circus makes you feel.

How did you develop your style? How has it evolved through the years?

The first day I took circus courses I fell in love with aerials and flying. It is definitely an art form where one doesn’t see results in six months or even a year. It is one where you got to be able to maintain lots of pain while being disciplined, patient, and educated on security. You have to be a bit of a masochist and hard deaded. I can say that after training for three years I felt more secure. That’s when I started integrating my coquette personality into the practice. I have done many variations and different concepts from traditional, clown, contemporary, sensual art; I’ve even talked about the female stereotypes pressed by society. Last year there was a call by Panamá Åerea, a workshop for aerial dance. Without thinking about twice, I tried and managed to get in the workshop becoming the first Puerto Rican woman to be in the festival. In said process, I found my new obsession, vertical dance with harness. Ever since then, I continue exploring and investigating variations of this tool. I’m also hooked with the pole. There are so many possibilities in the circus that you never really get married to just one style or discipline.  

What are some of your influences and inspirations?

My biggest influence has been Jafet Irizarry who has been my teacher and will be my friend for life. I also owe my career to my other teachers Anaïs Nadal , José Carreño, Lisete Farias, Emmanuel Bochud, Mariano López, Antonio Benítez, Eleonora D’llasta, Lidnsey Butcher and the social community psychologist Leslynette Ramos. In addition, Luis Benet helped me a lot in the process of learning the craft of rigging tools  and recently María Da Zua has show me a lot about the performance scene in Puerto Rico. I am also inspired by Jessica Hentoff, founder of the Circus Harmony, who never stops working with children. Other artists who inspire me are Guillaume Paquin and the Atherton family (Gaysa, Kevin y Andrew).

What is the purpose of Circo News? How has the project come along?

Circo News was born because when I was graduating from Communications at the Universidad Sagrado Corazón, the circus became a part of my life. My lens became a tool to document the circus. Little by little I created the project. I started an investigation about the history of the circus in Puerto Rico, starting from the 1950s, which I hope to someday create into a documentary called Bajo la Carpa. On March 7th, I will publish a report about Puerto Rican female circus performers.

 

Is there any other form of art you wish to pursue? If so, what field and why?

Music, I have always dreamed of playing the piano. I was raised with music. Every night I would go to sleep to the sound of a vibraphone. I’ve composed various Caribbean songs which I hope come to life someday thanks to a Puerto Rican musician.  Knowing myself, I will play piano, even if it takes 20 or more years.

What do you think about the current state of the arts in Puerto Rico?

I feel fortunate to witness all of the art that’s going on in my country. I’ve noticed an increase or a movement of female artists such as BEMBA PR, FemTrap, etc. I wish to thank all of the artists who are working hard to represent our country and, of course, in a utopian world the government will support the arts, culture and sports more.

What do you think about the current state of the independent scene in Puerto Rico?

I am very happy about the growth the art of the circus is seeing in Puerto Rico and the inclusiveness found more often within the scene. Every day there’s more representation and new generations. There are already three Puerto Ricans who have graduated from professional international circus schools. Plus, the creation of Circo Fest has brought bigger exposure to independent artists and local companies. There’s also a new group of women representing the circus and I include myself in said group.

If a young girl came up to you and said she wanted to be an artist, what would be your advice for her?  

I would tell her that it’s the best decision she could make and that she should do what she loves and is passionate about. I would tell her to have fun, to enjoy the process, explore and take her art across the world.

What is your biggest goal right now?

My next goal is to get better in my technique as well as the security across the circus.

 

What do you seek to achieve with work?

Empower the youth through social circus, a project for young people in risk who use circus art as a form of social transformation. I want to help them find value in themselves. I want to help them understand that they have the power to achieve whatever they want to do. I want to tell them that they have to do things by themselves because no opportunities fall from the sky. I want to give them tools so they can move forward and end with the colonialist mind state with which we live daily.

I also want to educate society and help them understand that the circus is an art form to respect and take seriously. I want the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña to include the circus in their texts and lists because it has a history in this country and it needs its recognition. The other day I was asked various times where I was born, Ponce,  “¿Sigues en el circo?” (Are you still in the circus?), and I responded, “yo soy artista de circo, esa es mi profesión, eso es lo que seré siempre” (I am a circus artist, that’s my profession and that’s what I’ll always be).

 

All of the pictures in this article were provided by Glorimar Sierra