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HomeDanceAna María Alvarez Redefines the Dance Program at UC San Diego

Ana María Alvarez Redefines the Dance Program at UC San Diego

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Ana María Alvarez didn’t at all times think about herself ending up again on campus. “I’ve had a love–hate relationship with the academy,” says Alvarez, the founding father of CONTRA-TIEMPO Activist Dance Theater who joined the College of California San Diego’s Theatre and Dance Division as a tenured college member in late 2022.

It’s true that her journey into dance was intertwined with increased schooling: She double-majored in dance and politics at Oberlin Faculty and earned her MFA in choreography at UCLA. Her thesis work checked out salsa as a strategy to categorical social­ resistance within the debate round immigration. The Cuban­ American daughter of two labor union organizers, Alvarez had additionally seen her mom transition into academia, which made it really feel acquainted and accessible.

It hasn’t at all times felt inviting and inclusive, nonetheless. “I used to be continually combating to legitimize the ways in which I danced, and the ways in which I moved, and the issues that I used to be desirous about learning,” she says. When it got here to exploring social dance practices outdoors of ballet and fashionable and the way she wished to maneuver by the world as an artist, Alvarez says, “I discovered myself having to actually push again and advocate and argue with folks that it mattered.”

After she graduated, Alvarez targeted on artwork and activism the best way she envisioned it. After some early adjunct-teaching gigs in dance departments, she shifted her focus to cultivating her personal work, accepting occasional guest-choreographer and visiting-artist alternatives as a substitute. “It felt like the sphere wasn’t prepared but,” she says.

Years later—after carving her personal path, constructing a thriving firm, and receiving recognition for her work—she discovered the job opening at UCSD. “It actually was describing who I’m as an artist,” she says. “After I acquired the job description, I used to be like, ‘I feel they’re prepared.’ ”

She’s so glad they had been. “I’ve at all times had deep, deep love for studying, deep love for educating, deep love for inquiry and curiosity,” she says. “A lot of my very own artmaking follow is about asking questions and grappling with the world, and there’s no higher place to be doing that than within a college.”

Making Means for New Tales

Alvarez’s dad and mom instilled in her a drive to make the world “a greater, extra loving, and simply place,” she says, and he or she wished to do it by motion. “I’ve a deep perception that choreography is group organizing,” she explains. “You’re imagining and creating worlds, and also you’re redefining the methods during which we take into consideration the world and take into consideration ourselves inside the world.”

That, in an oversimplified nutshell, is the philosophy she introduced along with her to UCSD at a second when the “Dance” a part of the Theatre and Dance Division particularly was in transition. “I fell in love with the clean canvas that I noticed,” she says, together with the scholars and colleagues she met. It gave her the liberty to start out constructing one thing new.

In her first yr, she taught programs on the politics of partnering, introduction to dancemaking, and what she calls “ancestral applied sciences,” exploring the knowledge of 1’s ancestors embedded in social dance practices. She employed almost a dozen new lecturers to show courses in varieties as numerous as conventional hula, flamenco, capoeira, Filipino folks dance, West African dance, Afro-Cuban dance, faucet, jazz, contact improvisation, and extra.

She additionally did a whole lot of listening, and heard a typical chorus­ about folks being remoted in their very own silos. She established a weekly “Connection Jam” the place anybody and everyone seems to be welcome. “We’re gonna get down, we’re gonna dance, we’re gonna sweat, and we’re gonna transfer collectively,” Alvarez says. “We’re gonna follow pleasure.”

One other new custom has all of the approach courses collect on the finish of the quarter to share what they’ve been doing with their friends. It was so standard the primary quarter they did it, in a small black-box theater, that they moved to the Epstein Household Amphitheater the following time round.

“Ana María’s presence within the division is wholly inspiring and palpably optimistic, and he or she has solid a robust sense of group,” says college member Jade Energy-Sotomayor, explaining that Alvarez led the best way in cleansing out the dance workplace and placing up new posters everywhere in the constructing, “actually making means for brand new our bodies and new tales.”

Connecting Campus and Firm

The brand new position at UCSD got here with a critical commute and a significant balancing act. Alvarez nonetheless lives in Los Angeles along with her household and continues to work as an artist with CONTRA-TIEMPO and past. It’s solely potential to juggle, she says, as a result of CONTRA-TIEMPO horizontalized its management construction—with Alvarez as inventive director operating the group with three different administrators. She splits her weeks between campus and firm and plans intensive initiatives for tutorial breaks.

There are not any silos right here, both. “As a result of I’ve this entry and connection to an expert dance firm that’s making work, that’s touring, that’s operating summer season packages, that’s doing common native gigs,” she says, “my college students even have entry to that.” Early on, Alvarez invited firm members to San Diego to guide a Connection Jam so her college students may meet and have interaction with the professionals. In current months, Alvarez has been working with a bunch of scholars to discover and deepen the bodily language of ¡azúcar!, her newest piece for CONTRA-TIEMPO, to culminate in a efficiency with different college choreography at Winter Works on March 15 and 16. When CONTRA-TIEMPO involves UCSD to carry out ¡azúcar! in April, these college students will turn into the group solid that shares the stage with them.

a female dancer wearing a large crown leading a group of dancers in flowy white costumes on stage
Right here and beneath: CONTRA-TIEMPO in Alvarez’s ¡azúcar!. Photographs by Tyrone Domingo, Courtesy CONTRA-TIEMPO (2).
tow dancers holding a pole over their heads with two other dancers moving around them

“I’m simply so excited to be wherever she is,” says Norma Ovalle, who graduated final yr however is collaborating within the course of as an alum volunteer. “I didn’t essentially develop up seeing that there’s a risk for any individual like me to pursue this,” she says. However that modified when she met Alvarez. She’s now working towards an affiliate’s diploma and a future in dance.

Arising a couple of years behind her, Vrisika Chauhan, a junior­ who has a background in Indian classical dance and likewise didn’t at all times really feel like she belonged, determined to declare dance as a second main. “My perspective on what dance is has actually shifted,” she says, due to Alvarez. “She has helped so many college students, together with myself, really feel seen.”

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