Choreographer showcased for her artistic activism

This year, the Binational Arts Residency showcases the works of Ana Maria Alvarez who brings out her artistic style while tackling social issues


For years, Los Angeles-based choreographer and activist Ana Maria Alvarez has utilized dance to inspire change and transformation. This year, she is being spotlighted at the Binational Arts Residency.

The Binational Arts Residency is a program dedicated to showcasing artists with alternative narratives, especially those of women. The program highlights one artist each year, giving them a chance to show their craft to communities in Phoenix, Tucson, Douglas and Agua Prieta over a week and a half. 

“About three years ago, Performance in the Borderlands at ASU started this initiative around hosting a residency for an artist to come to Arizona and spend several days here throughout the state working with communities,” said Michelle Téllez, assistant professor in the University of Arizona Mexican American Studies Department and the lead organizer of Binational Arts Residency events in Tucson.

Téllez and the rest of the Binational Arts Residency team was first introduced to Alvarez’s work when she brought her dance company, Contra-Tiempo, to Phoenix to showcase its unique blend of dance cultures and styles.

“Afro Cuban dance, and Salsa specifically, deeply inform my work and the vocabularies that I work,” Alvarez said. “Dance has the capacity to transcend genre or style. We all have bodies, and we all have the capacity to move our bodies in different ways.”

The residency began Sunday, Feb. 18, in Phoenix with a Sombremesa kick-off event. This was followed by both a classroom-instructed urban dance session and a workshop about exploring silence, activism and movement on Monday, Feb. 19.

Tuesday brought a student talk for discussing dance as a tool for social and political engagement, and another workshop focused on storytelling and experimentation through dance. Wrapping up the Phoenix events on Wednesday with one last discussion, Alvarez will be stopping in Douglas and Agua Prieta before taking up her three-day residency here in Tucson.

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Alvarez and a host of other dancers in the area will be participating in a Binational Border Performance just three-quarters-of-a-mile east of the U.S.-Mexico border Saturday, Feb. 24.

“It would be interesting for folks to make it down to the border to see what it would look like to transcend the border with your performance,” Téllez said. 

After this performance, Alvarez will be finishing up her time as resident artist here in Tucson. On Monday, Feb. 26 from 4:30–6 p.m., Alvarez will host a lecture in the Cesar E. Chavez building room 400, that is open to the public. Titled “Dancing Community: Reflections From the Field,” the talk will be about using art and performance as a tool for building a better society.

Following the talk, there will be a community dinner hosted by the Guerrero Center in the same building at 6:30 p.m. This event, also open to the public, aims to give students and community members a chance to meet Alvarez and talk one-on-one.

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The final event in Tucson, and the final event of the 2018 Binational Arts Residency schedule, will be a dance workshop held Tuesday, Feb. 27. “Dancing Joy: A Workshop for Radical Practice” will ask participants to embrace their bodies, move and communicate to build community and inspire positive change. While this event is also free and open to the public, a ticket is required and can be reserved in advance on the Binational Arts Residency website. 

“Art reminds us of who we are as human beings inside this crazy world and allows us to see each other’s humanity and experience our own humanity in a powerful way,” Alvarez said. “When you’re dealing with breakdowns happening in society or things being built on top of injustices, our ability to break through that with an intense experience that reminds us of our humanity is powerful.”

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