Department of Dance


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María Regina Firmino-Castillo
Photo by Nikila Badua, 2014.

María Regina Firmino-Castillo

Assistant Professor, Critical Dance Studies
Co-Director, Indigenous Choreographers Gathering

PhD in Transdisciplinary Studies, Transformative Inquiry, California Institute of Integral Studies
MA in Cultural Anthropology, University of New Mexico
BFA in Photography and Film, Florida International University
Office: Arts 107

María Regina Firmino-Castillo is a transdisciplinary artist and researcher who works at the crossroads. Born in Guatemala, her research trajectory crisscrosses national borders and fields of inquiry, among these: critical dance/performance studies, decoloniality, ecocriticism, and new materialism. Firmino-Castillo’s current book project, tentatively titled Choreographies of Catastrophe: Corporeal Ontogenesis in the Post-Anthropocene, discusses choreographic responses to the catastrophes of modernity/coloniality, including ecological devastation, enslavement, femicide, genocide, and violence against people living non-normative genders and sexualities. The performances discussed in the book were chosen not for their aesthetic genre or place of origin, but because they demonstrate corporeal modes of ontogenesis, that is, the rehearsing and bringing into being of more livable worlds in the midst of current catastrophes. At the same time, the book examines performances that envision and begin to embody vital futures even in the post-Anthropocene, the immanent era in which humans, no longer dominant, are compelled to enact radical kin-making across life forms. Firmino-Castillo is also co-editing, with Jacqueline Shea Murphy (UCR) and Karyn Recollet (University of Toronto), an anthology on global critical Indigenous dance studies.

Firmino-Castillo’s dissertation research was on the role of performance in ontological destruction and regeneration during the Guatemalan genocide against Ixil Mayans in the 1980s. She discussed this genocide within the context of modernity/coloniality’s attempt to impose a singular universal ontology through a complex network of violence aimed at destroying not only Indigenous bodies, but also ontologies. This theorization of ontological violence set the stage for an exploration of performances that regenerated Ixil worlds through the persistent centering of ontological tenets contrasting those of modernity/coloniality. Using methodological approaches such as performance ethnography, Firmino-Castillo observed and participated in these performances of ontological regeneration—ranging from small quotidian gestures to traditional ceremony to experimentations in theater and dance—while living in an Ixil town, from 2010-2014, where she collaborated in community-based art projects addressing the historical trauma of the genocide.

Before coming to UCR, Firmino was a visiting scholar at the National Museum of the American Indian researching colonial era chronicles and objects related to dance and ritual in Mesoamerica. She has experience as a community organizer and popular educator and was active in arts collectives in Guatemala City at the time of the Peace Accords; she created documentary, performance and experimental video pieces that interrogated the paradoxical social imaginaries of the post-war period. With her long-time collaborator, Tohil Fidel Brito Bernal, she has directed site-specific sculpture, installation, and multidisciplinary performance projects in Guatemala, México, and the United States. Firmino-Castillo has also worked closely with Dancing Earth Indigenous Contemporary Dance Creations and Grupo Sotz'il, a Kaqchikel Maya performance ensemble from Guatemala. Since 2018, Firmino has co-directed, with founder and co-director Jacqueline Shea Murphy, UCR's Indigenous Choreographers Gathering at Riverside. 

Firmino’s long-term research agenda includes participating in and writing about performance collaborations across national and colonial borders. She continues to explore ways to deepen the ontological critique in her praxis through decolonial and anti-positivist approaches to making theory and performance. Some of the Dance Studies courses she teaches include: Introduction to Dance Studies; Dance, Space, and Time; Cultural Approaches; Decolonial Approaches; and Choreographies of Catastrophe.


Firmino-Castillo, María and Tohil Brito Bernal, Lalo Velasco Ceto, Xhas Matom, 2014. Uma’l Iq’: Tiempo y Espacio Maya’ Ixil. Guatemala (Iximulew): Cholsamaj.


Firmino Castillo, María Regina. 2016 “Dancing the Pluriverse: Contemporary Indigenous Performance as Ontological Praxis.” Dance Research Journal: Special Issue on Indigenous Dance Now, edited by Jacqueline Shea Murphy. 48(1): 55 - 73. DOI:

Firmino-Castillo, María Regina. 2018. "Performing Kab’awil: Relational Materiality Against Genocidal Derealization."Transmotion. Special Issue on Genocide, edited by Melissa Michal Slocum. Vol. 4.2. (forthcoming)

Firmino-Castillo, María Regina; Guarcax González, Daniel Fernando (on behalf of Grupo Sotz’il); and Tohil Fidel Brito Bernal. 2019. "Ruximik Qak’u'x: Inescapable Relationalities in Grupo Sotz'il’s Performance Practice." Imaginations: Revue d’études interculturelles de l’image. Issue on Critical Relationality: Indigenous and Queer Belonging Beyond Settler Sex & Nature, edited by Kimberly Tallbear and Angela Willey. (forthcoming).

Firmino-Castillo, María Regina.; Guarcax González, Daniel Fernando and Tohil Fidel Brito Bernal. 2019. "Mesoamerican Performance Praxis: Transmotions in Time/Space." Movement Research Performance Journal: Special Issue on Native Dance, Movement, and Performance, edited by Rosy Simas and Ahimsa Timotéo Bodhran. (forthcoming).

Selected Talks


Closing Plenary: “Agonistic Acts: Anti-Racist and Decolonial Interventions for Dance Studies” with Anurima Banerji, Jasmine Johnson, Anusha Kedhar, Royona Mitra, Janet O'Shea. Dance Studies Association Annual Conference, "Contra: Dance and Conflict.” University of Malta; Valetta, Malta.


“Of Moving Bodies and Border Crossings.” When Worldings Meet: Ethnographically Taking Stock of Ontological Turns, their (possible) Connections, and Movements. International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences and Canadian Anthropology Society Conference. University of Ottawa.

“Carnal and Telluric Relationalities.” Approaching Dance: Transdisciplinary Methodologies and Modalities of the Moving Body in Performance. City University of New York.


“Webs of Radical Relationality and Kaqchikel Maya Materiality in Grupo Sotz’il’s Xajoj Q’ojom.” New Research in Indigenous Dance Panel. Joint Annual Conference of Congress on Research in Dance/Society of Dance History Scholars. Pomona College.

“Indigenous Survivance Through Performance: An Embodied and Telluric Praxis.” Landbody: Indigeneity’s Radical Commitments. Center for 21st Century Studies. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.


“Dancing the Pluriverse.” Indigenous Choreographers Symposium, Department of Dance Studies. University of California-Riverside and American Anthropological Association National Meeting, Boulder, CO.


“Ontological Warfare and Resistance: Ixil Maya Intersubjectivity with the Environment.” Contemporary Environmental Anthropology in Latin America Session, American Anthropological Association National Meeting, Washington, DC.

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Tel: (951) 827-1012

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Department of Dance
121 Arts Building

Tel: (951) 827-3944
Fax: (951) 827-4651

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