Dance has the power to change the world, but only if there are artists willing to push boundaries into the unknown and reach people like never before. Ana Maria Alvarez, the founder and artistic director of CONTRA-TIEMPO is doing just that with the world premier of joyUS justUS on Thursday, September 13, 2018, at 7:30 p.m. in the Bovard Auditorium at the University of Southern California, presented by the USC Visions and Voices.
“Whenever humans have survived immense hardship and injustice, prevailing with their humanity intact, the presence of joy—or, the knowingness and celebration of our true beauty and power—has always been at the root,” says Ana Maria Alvarez. “joyUS justUS reclaims the dominant deficit-based narrative of people of color in this country as being underprivileged, voiceless, powerless, and victimized, and flips it on its head by embodying stories of joy collected from communities of color in South Los Angeles.”
CONTRA-TIEMPO collaborated with a team of talented, multifaceted designers and artists, including East L.A. band Las Cafeteras, sound archivist d. Sabela grimes, costume designer Charlese Antoinette, visual artist Emily Alvarez-Orling, and multi-disciplinary designer Tuce Yasak, to create an evening celebrating the beauty and power of people who have survived immense hardship and injustice with their humanity—and joy—intact. Experience our collective capacity to harness joy and move towards a more just, loving, and feminist-centered world.About joyUS justUS
CONTRA-TIEMPO deeply embodies the intersection of art making and activism. joyUS justUS stems from a two-year partnership with social justice–based organization Community Coalition, whose mission is to transform the social and economic conditions in South L.A. that foster addiction, crime, violence, and poverty through community building and public policy. In bringing together art making, activism, and engaging and building community between the two organizations, a theme surfaced: the desire to disrupt the deficit-based narrative of people of color and South L.A., and the need to bring forth voices that celebrate the resilience, survival, power, and joy of this community. “This piece is like a guide book on how to live inside of this complicated world from a rooted, connected, and joyous space,” says choreographer Ana Maria Alvarez, “these are the ‘claves’ to a more just world—you need to play fully and listen to get it!”
For the past two years, CONTRA-TIEMPO, in collaboration with Community Coalition led weekly community get-downs and Sabor Sessions, and these became spaces to practice and create joy together. Reflecting on joy as the ultimate expression of resistance, Alvarez adds, “Joy is our most powerful tool in building a more just, compassionate, and loving world—we need to learn to use it—and use it fully.” From these community sessions, along with choreographic laboratories, residents of South L.A. and the general public participated and engaged with CONTRA-TIEMPO’s creative process and made an impact on shaping joyUS justUS for its world premiere at USC.
Founded and directed by Ana Maria Alvarez in 2005, Contra Tiempo’s unique Urban Latin Dance Theatre brings to life voices that are not traditionally heard on the concert stage.
Their work is rooted in Salsa and Afro-Cuban, and draws from hip-hop, urban, and contemporary dance-theatre. They create an invigorating blend of physically intense and socially astute performance that pushes the boundaries of Latin dance as an expressive cultural and contemporary form. Taking Salsa back to its roots as a mode of expression for the struggles of the working class, the company is committed to making high quality, professional performance work accessible for all, regardless of race or class.
Contra Tiempo exists inside of and embodies the ‘in-between’ space: leader/follower, immigrant/American, English/Spanish, performer/listener. They fully embrace that liminal experience as artists within communities, both on and off stage. Contra Tiempo is a rich tapestry of professional dancers and performers from varied styles, many of whom are immigrants or first generation North Americans, and exist within the varied and infinitely complex political and personal landscapes that they address in their work.