Lilia Leon Explores Identity and Ancestry

Lilia Leon is a Mexican-Canadian performing artist with Mestizo heritage. Lilia’s versatile career as a dancer, actor, choreographer and arts educator, has led to collaborations with Indigenous, Canadian, and Latin American artists, who have left an imprint on her artistic practice. Lilia holds a B.A. in dance from York University and is a graduate of the Professional Training Program at The School of Toronto Dance Theatre.

Here, Lila shares insight into her new work Perdida.


Can you tell us about the significance of the title of York work Perdida?


Perdida means lost woman in Spanish, my first language, and is based on my experience of feeling lost between cultures as a Mestizo-Mexican-Canadian woman of colour and an immigrant in Canada. The work integrates the language of dance with original text in Spanish, English, and Náhuatl (a Mexican Indigenous language), woven with an original live musical score. As the piece unfolds I conjure and embody three female archetypes representing my ancestry: a warrior woman, a goddess, and a ghost woman.

When I turned thirty, I felt a yearning to know more about who I was, and who my ancestors were. I began to wonder if my ancestors could speak to me, what would they say? I realized that a lot of their stories had been lost, hidden, or forgotten, and all I had was bits and pieces of information. Creating Perdida became my way of honouring my ancestors’ stories through art and creating a personal, yet universal story about connecting to our past in order to build our own future.

I created Perdida because I wanted to see more stories that I could relate to on stage. So I decided to be part of the change I wanted to see. Although this piece is my own personal excavation, I believe that the themes of identity, ancestry, and belonging have a universal reach.

Perdida is a DanceWorks’ CoWorks presentation, which will also feature Aria Evans’s link from February  15 – 18, 2018 at the Scotiabank Studio Theatre. The full show is called Prevailing Voices. Tickets are available here Arts Worker/CADA/Student $18 and General Admission $22

 Interview has been edited for publication purposes.


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