Gabri Christa, founder, Danzaisa

In my new work, "Dominata," I explore several themes: the immigrant in New York who looks at a game that is very New York: dominoes, while the game at the same time reminds her of the Caribbean islands, where she is from.

Domino thus brings back associations with the men playing it; traditionally, in the Caribbean, it’s mostly the men who play. I thought of domino, and a sonata, and out came "Dominata".

"Dominata" is about relationships between the folks playing, and relationships between men and women. The piece explores the game and relationships, but also the numbers and points in [the game]. Movement is created around the numbers on the stones. I’m still completing the work. I haven't reached the point yet that I feel: "this is it."


Everything has been done already; one’s take on it is what makes it special. I like to think that my viewpoint is different. In my last full-length work, "Yeye," I gave it the title of spirit of the Winti ceremony. The piece was inspired by Yeye. But I don't believe something completely new exists. Passion is more important then technique.

"I see myself as a humanistic creator.
I’m interested in people and their ways."


Inspiration: Mostly I have a title before I start. Mostly a theme; after that, free association around that theme.

I like to improvise and to create an imagined space. Something always happens. Sometimes I search for new ways, but that is all. Creating is just being in the flow.

All work is in some form or the other is based on real-life incidents. The major difference between creative license and real life is the interpretation.

I see myself as a humanistic creator. I’m interested in people and their ways. I admire and am inspired by abstract creators, who make movement about movement. I tried to do that, but can't. I see two people on stage and I see some form of relationship besides the relationship to space, time and form.


What frustrates me daily: The lack of passion and caring in a lot of people and folks. I was in the playground with my baby the other day, and big kids were trowing a big ball around other little babies.

I told them to go to their section and no one else said anything. I really stood my ground, but no one else did. Then a big kid, a teenager, started telling me to mind my biz. I said if other babies get hurt, I should say something.

I asked: “Don't you care?”
She said: “No, they’re not my kids, I don't know them.”

Anyway, long story short, I left fuming.

"Creating is just being in the flow."

Other people told me: "Gabri, you need to learn to shut up. Who knows, maybe she would have a gun, or trow a punch. If you see something that you don't like -- anything, a person being beaten up, a bad scene, you can't do something. Just leave. Bottom line."

This kind of a thing makes me so, so, so mad. The helplessness I feel, and mostly the fact that other adults around just won't do anything. So what, we shut up, let kids shoot? Just hire more police, put gates up? I don't get it.

Other things that puzzle me: Why do people like President Bush? Why don’t people vote, why don’t people care about pollution, other people, the environment, violence? Why are they not furious and upset about all that is happening? Why is there no affordable healthcare? Why is there war?

Is dance necessary in daily life? Oh, yes. Not necessarily as a performance art, but it is a must for the soul.


Some of the themes that appear in my work: relationships, outsiderness/otherness, Caribbean cultural themes. The name of my company is Danzaisa. It’s a combination of two words: danza (“dance”), and aisa (“she who unites through music and dance”).

Dance works I wish I would have made: “Sacre du Printemps” by Pina Bausch or "Set and Reset" by Trisha Brown.

Hanif Kureishi is one of my favorite writers and film writers. Maryse Condé has influenced me tremendously in her writing, and in her ideas about Caribbean identity in art-making. I think writers in general have a big influence on me.

Recently I have been influenced in a new way of working, by collaborating with Greg Tate and his orchestra, Burnt Sugar. Greg uses a method called conducting to create the improvised pieces. This really is Butch Morris's method, but Greg has a funky, loose approach I appreciate. I am not sure how to translate this to dance, but I am trying...

My husband, Vernon Reid, is also is an influence. He is one of those people who is constantly creating and he doesn't make any distinction between popular art and highbrow, he moves fluently from one to the other. I find that inspiring, yet impossible to achieve.

Bio: Gabri Christa is the founder/director of Danzaisa. Christa has danced with Danza Contemporanea de Cuba and DanzAbierta, of which she was one of the founders. Her work has been presented at Dance Theater Workshop, PS122, Aaron Davis Hall and Judson Church. Christa landed in New York from Puerto Rico via Cuba, the Netherlands, and Curaçao, in the Dutch Caribbean, where she was born and raised. She holds an MFA from the University of Washington. She has taught dance and lectured at Fordham University and Ballet Hispanico's School of Dance. Her choreography has been performed throughout Europe, the Caribbean, Latin America, and the United States.

Her evening-length works include "Yeye," "Orangemelted," "De Steen" and "Semela." Her new work, "Dominata," features Christa’s continued exploration of contemporary Caribbean culture, community and diaspora rituals told from an urban New York perspective. The game of dominoes, which is popular in Caribbean and Carib-American communities, inspired her short film, "Domino" (2003).

Official site: Gabri Christa