Metro Weekly

Migguel Anggelo Reshapes Negativity Into Deeply Affecting Performance Art

Migguel Anggelo's imaginative semi-autobiographical fable "English with an Accent" has its one-night-only premiere at GALA on April 1.

English With An Accent: Migguel Anggelo — Photo: Courtesy Migguel Anggelo

Migguel Anggelo had lived around the globe, moving from his native Venezuela to Germany, Buenos Aires, and Miami, and had never felt mistreated as an immigrant until one day, strolling down a New York street, someone exclaimed, “Go back to your country!”

“I’m like, ‘Excuse me,'” recalls Anggelo, who at the time had only recently moved to the city. “There was a lady, and she’s just screaming, ‘Go back to your country!’ And I was like, ‘Well, honey, I’m here. I have a green card, so I’m not going anywhere.'”

Anggelo also knew how to recast that negativity into something of value. “One of my best friends, Chad, was with me, and he couldn’t believe what happened. I said to him, ‘You know what, babe, this bad moment that I just had, one day I’m gonna put it in art.’ And this is what happened.”

Originally the inspiration for a song on Anggelo’s planned third album, that bad moment has been reshaped into what the self-described transdisciplinary performing artist calls one of the strongest moments in his semi-autobiographical, hybrid dance-theater opus English with an Accent.

Making its world premiere, with a one-night-only engagement at GALA Hispanic Theatre on Friday, April 1, in advance of a scheduled November run at Lincoln Center, the show builds a poignant immigration story around original songs composed by Anggelo and frequent collaborator Jaime Lozano. The immigrant in question happens to be an innocent caterpillar “fleeing the crime and noxious dictatorship of Venezuela.”

Anggelo chose the caterpillar/butterfly metaphor not only for the narrative of metamorphosis but for its natural link to immigration.

“The monarch butterfly, they fly in from Mexico to here, or from here to Mexico. So it’s like, ‘Oh, it’s an immigration story!’ When they journey, human immigration is parallel to the immigration for the monarch butterflies. And, ‘Ah, you hate us, but you can’t live without us. You need us.’ Actually there’s a song called ‘So Ironic,’ and it’s about that. Like, ‘Ah, you hate me so much, but you can’t live without my arepas, my tequila, my mariachi, my beaches.’ Hello.”

English With an Accent — Photo: Ryan Muir

Performing alongside a troupe of dancers and musicians, Anggelo hopes English with an Accent, a co-presentation of Washington Performing Arts and GALA, can engender acceptance and love in a time of war.

“I always say that love is the only power that is going to kill hate in the world,” he says.

“I know hate looks like it’s so powerful, but trust me… Even people in Russia were doing rallies against war and they were detained. The son of my friend in Russia, he’s in jail right now because he was saying, ‘No more war. Ukrainians are our friends.’ So even if Putin looks so powerful, he never, never is going to win love. Never. Look at history. Hitler, Mussolini, all those stupid bastards. They didn’t win. Where are they? Love is going to always win against hate. This is the big, big thing in the show.”

English with an Accent plays ONE NIGHT ONLY on Friday, April 1 at GALA Theatre, 3333 14th St. NW. Performances are in English. Tickets are $40. Call 202-234-7174 or visit www.galatheatre.org.

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