Wednesday, August 20, 2014

reflections from this oasis...

Here we are - a week and a half after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO - and since I started working here at the Beach House - the racial tension in our country has continued to escalate and rightly so - as the repeated and recorded police brutality seems to be spreading, and a disregard for and cracking down on people's right to assemble and protest has become common place - it feels in some ways surreal to find myself in this place surrounded by such beauty - open expansion of space and possibility - while the world around me feels like it is on fire. The Beach House feels like an oasis of space that I have been gifted to think about some pretty complex and difficult ideas - but this space is proving to be exactly what I need to get clarity before launching a year of creating, conversing and engaging those around me to think, dance, talk, move through all of what we and generations before us have carried and continue to pass on around race, color and privilege... 

I have spent some of this week so far moving, but a lot of the week has been spent in a space of reflection, thinking, writing, engaging in conversations with other artists - questioning... what does it mean to be making work right now about race? Who am I and what role can I play to help facilitate honest, open and compassionate conversations about race - as a Cuban American, as a woman, as a person of color that has in my life learned to slide in and out of 'passing as white' how can I acknowledge the privilege from where I come and use that as a way to impact and move this conversation forward - to change the narrative and bring new empowering narratives and counter narratives that will help to build a world of not just racial tolerance but better than that - a future where my own son won't have to fear for his life when walking down the street with his friends...  As the swell of 'ain't gunna take it no more' - 'no justice no peace' is palpable - I am becoming more excited to create and scared to create this work - which I imagine is a good thing. I always tell my students and dancers to run towards the fear - now I get to practice what I am preachin'.  As someone who grew up in a family (I am the child of two labor union activists) that taught me to never stand by and be complacent when I see or experience personally injustice - this piece has feels urgent but also extremely uncomfortable - good. That means I am moving in the right direction. 

This week we taught a Salsa class of over 50 people at the beach house and I am excited to have one of dancers come out and 'play' with me and explore some of these ideas via movement on Friday. If we were all able to live and be who we are in the dance - if we could take those principals of compassionate partnership, listening, pushing back, engaging, patience and persistence - into our everyday lives - I know we could build a more beautiful and just world... I know it. I feel it. 

No, no we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. - Martin Luther King 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Let the 'flow' begin....on your mark, get set - GO!

I am excited to say this week I will officially begin working on site - This fall CONTRA-TIEMPO and I will launch a series of site specific community choreographic laboratories. Part performance, part engagement of community in art making & story sharing, these choreography laboratories will take place in four distinct bodies of water all over Los Angeles, starting at the Pacific, at Santa Monica's Annenberg Beach House. These labs will happen while we are continuing to develop a full evening length work for the concert stage that will debut late Fall 2015 and be ready to tour in the Spring of 2016.  

I am creating a framework inspired by the Tempest, challenging notions of race, gender & upheaval, and I am interested in Sycorax: the only female character of color, the indigenous witch, with a referenced origin of Africa. She is seen as monstrous, evil and vindictive and her maternal power undermines the dominating force of white male privilege. Much has been written about her character’s role that threatens to blur the boundaries of the emerging binaries of home/away, colonizer/colonized, white/black, & chaos/order. My own work and interest in existing and creating in the ‘in between’ has drawn me to her and her clear connection to Oya, the Afro-Cuban deity of the wind/storms. Oya, the most volatile and unruly of the female orishas, is feared among most. As I physically uncover multiple narratives connected to that of the Tempest I am constantly brought back to agua: waves of family betrayal, the relentless current of absent fathers, raining down of persecution based citizenship/color lines, drowning of exile & the Africanist past washed ashore. Creating in a public space where all are welcome, that was once a space where people of color were not allowed - unless serving - I am excited to connect this larger framework of race and agua to the local and specific history of this space... stay tuned as I start delving into imagining, creating and allowing this all to 'flow'...

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Welcome to Ana Maria Alvarez, Choreographer in Residence!

Ana Maria Alvarez has soft-started her project here at the Beach House. Titled "Agua Furioso," the new piece combines public inquiry within the structure of a dance performance, and deals with water’s connection to family, migration, scarcity and abundance. Free Community Choreographic Laboratories that liberally mix dance performance and public participation are offered as the culmination of her work here on Saturday September 13 from 3-4pm and Sunday September 14 from 5-6pm along with a free rueda salsa dance workshop at 6:30pm on August 19 and an open rehearsal from 10am-3pm on Friday September 12. Check back here weekly for updates! 

CONTRA-TIEMPO, a bold and multilingual Los Angeles based dance company, is dedicated to transforming the world through dance. Founded and directed by Ana Maria Alvarez in 2005, their unique form of Urban Latin Dance Theater brings to life voices that are not traditionally heard on the concert stage, while building community, facilitating dialogue, and moving audiences to imagine what is possible.