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Elia Arce doesn’t wear panties. At least that’s the reputation she got when she performed “Stretching My Skin Until It Rips Whole” at a Houston shelter. Even though she had excised all of the cursing in the piece and assented to the shelter’s religious-minded officials’ request that there be no nudity, they ultimately found her work too threatening. It’s little wonder. There is something of la bruja in Arce’s incantatory work. Like performance artists Diamanda Galas and Karen Finley, Arce makes the sound of her voice important, perhaps more important than the words she speaks. Her highly calibrated vocals perform reflexology on the body, each pitch hitting emotional buttons hidden along the spine. She curses well in both Spanish and English, and slides effortlessly between characters, morphing her voice and physique at will. “Stretching My Skin” literally tugs and spreads the distinctions between sex and birth. “Push harder” takes on new meanings upon exiting Arce’s panting mouth. In telling the stories of different women in her family, she stretches the definition of womanhood. At 8 p.m. Friday & Saturday, April 17 & 18, at Gala Theatre, 1625 Park Rd. NW. $15. (202) 234-7174. (Holly Bass)