The Wallis, now a top exhibitor of L.A. Dance, hosted the exciting Contra-Tiempo Urban Latin Dance Theater in joyUS justUS, January 17 & 18, 2020.
Cuban/American, Ana Maria Alvarez, dancemaker, raised in the South with a solid background in dance and specifically World Dance, is Contra-Tiempo’s Founder and passionate “multi-dimensional and boundary-blurring” choreographer. Her ingenious vision and leadership is expressed in “joyUS justUS”. This evening conveys Alvarez’ passion and authenticity in not only her expression, but the vitality and skill surrounding her from the dancers, community cast, support staff and partners.
Contra-Tiempo (Against Time) aptly expresses three outstanding elements in this tour de force and all-encompassing evening of movement, song and word; 1) the element of ritual/spirituality a sense of the soul of the people; 2) the collective consciousness/the awakening of wo/men 3) Justice and liberation.
The opening, marked by the brilliantly colored alter quilts and visual design by Emily Orling, covered the back of the stage like stained glass windows, and Tuce Yasak designed the dramatic lighting, executed by Maximiliano Urruzmendi. Streaks of light cut across the gently rising smoke of the burning sage, while the “community cast” were seated, churchlike, on the sides and back of the sacred space setting the place for the telling. Two dancers Diana Toledo and Jasmine Stanley process through the audience with lit candles, and up onto the space. They then join with Isis Avalos and begin a vocal ritual, calling out to the elements of Fire, Water, Air, and Earth. They give thanks to the ancestors with rhythmic elements of Latin-Afro, walking, hip hop, capoeira, whirling and spinning the brown and black ancestral stories of struggle so movingly expressed in the spoken word, the songs and powerful dance so fearlessly and freely expressed by dancers Avalos, Charlie Dando, Jannet Galdamez, Medina, Alan Perez, Stanley, Diana Toledo, and Dalphe Morantus.
The transitions from one piece to another shed a bit more light on the plight of those made to feel as the other. The stories clearly reveal a people’s ability to rise up and vanquish personal and physical challenges when “you and I become us.”
There are many moments of brilliance from the supple undulating musicality of Jannet Galdamez, who lit up and covered the stage with her unique spirit and compelling movements. Diana Toledo’s guttural emotional song, Stanley and Morantus’ forceful duo, and the dancers unique angular walking piece which eventually gathers everyone together in an amoeba-like group peering off in the distance with emotionless faces, not unlike the ones seen on the news at the border…with Justice on their minds.
This evening gifts the audience with the soul and history of our community in a unique pastiche that brings humanity to a confused world through artistic expression. To end the evening, a quiet underscoring of “this land is our land” and “You are my sunshine” re-affirms through a clear declaration of Rights, The “Right to be joyous,” “Right to remain indigenous,” “The right to be happy.” It is the “restoration of the heart.” Contra Tiempo is working against time to remind us of our once stated values. A beautiful well-crafted legacy it is.
Written by Joanne DiVito for LA Dance Chronicle, January 20, 2020.
To visit the Contra-Tiempo/Urban Latin Dance Theater, click here.
To learn more about The Wallis, Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, click here.
Feature image: Contra-Tiempo/Urban Latin Dance Theater – Photo courtesy of the company.