Contra-Tiempo Director Ana Maria Alvarez: "Joy Is a Radical Act"

Contra-Tiempo Director Ana Maria Alvarez: "Joy Is a Radical Act"
Courtesy of Artist Management
Ana Maria Alvarez fights the patriarchy with creativity. The founding artistic director of Los Angeles dance company Contra-Tiempo will premiere her new work, joyUS justUS, at the Arsht Center on November 16.

“We’re an urban Latin dance theater company. Our mission from day one has been about social justice and using dance as a tool to build a more powerfully expressed and clearly articulated community. We stand for a world where everyone’s voice is valued and heard,” says Alvarez, who spoke to New Times from L.A. while driving to vote.

JoyUS justUS is an 80-minute performance that ends with a dance party, which reflects the mood of the piece. “There are 30 minutes of get-down dancing at the end with the whole audience," Alvarez explains. "It’s the idea of having you experience the work but allowing people to be inside of the work, not passive observers but active participants.”

In times when violence, hatred, and bigotry have become the norm, Alvarez proposes a different way to resist in her performance — not with anger, but with happiness. “The piece is about joy and justice, and about joy being a radical act. This desire to create a just world is in line with using joy as a social tool,” she says. “[joyUS justUS] is an homage to the sacred feminine. It’s about taking down the patriarchy coming from the perspective of celebrating the feminine.”

In light of President Trump’s proposals for birthright citizenship and other vitriolic rhetoric against immigrants, Alvarez says, it’s vital to acknowledge the contributions that immigrants, including those in her own family, have made to society.

“The whole immigration conversation led by Trump is full of absurdity. Members of my own family were refugees, immigrants, and exiles from Cuba. There have been tremendous contributions to society from people who immigrated to the U.S.,” she says. “JoyUS justUS is about how we can learn so much from Mother Nature… If we look at migration patterns, it’s a completely natural occurrence that borders and boundaries are absent. Allowing and not allowing people to cross over space is unnatural.”

Alvarez believes dance and movement have the capacity to bring, as the title of her piece dictates, joy and justice to citizens all over the world. “Social dance is so connected to social change. People getting together as a community inside oppression, resistance, pain, and difficulty and still having the capacity to move together and feel joy has been a form of resistance. We get so bogged down in the ins and outs, but our bodies and the art form of moving our bodies connect us. Our bodies allow us to access our humanity and transcend the politics of where we don’t see eye to eye,” she says.

“I think we need to get out of the didactic division. [We've] got to see each other as human beings… A week after the election is an intense time to bring [joyUS justUS] to Miami, but we’re really excited.”

joyUS justUS. 7:30 p.m. Friday, November 16, and 4 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, November 17, at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-949-6722; Tickets cost $42 via
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Minhae Shim Roth is an essayist, journalist, and academic.
Contact: Minhae Shim Roth