Contra-Tiempo, based in Los Angeles, is an activist Urban Latin Dance Theater Company founded by Ana Maria Alvarez five years ago. The non-profit company as Alvarez said after the Friday (4/16) Performance is that she implements Salsa as a social movement because a key part of Salsa is the physical resistance of the dance and the idea of resistance that many movements work hard to resist those with an upper hand. The company brings those invisible, unheard on to the big stage. The company outside of performing and dancing they go to public schools and teach dance as a way for kids to express their attitudes of their own community. The main source of the profit of the performances goes to schools in the LA area to support the arts in schools and their outreach programs.
Contra-Tiempo combines Salsa, Afro-Cuban, West African, Hip-Hop and abstract dance-theater to create an intense physical and political performance. The performance I saw by them blew my mind the way their movements held this feeling of entire communities. From their website “Contra-Tiempo is an active and uncompromisingly radical take on the ways in which artists function within communities. Its company members, professional dancers and artists, are also immigrants, teachers, activists, organizers and movers of all types living and working in Los Angeles. Each member lives and struggles within the varied and infinitely complex political and personal landscapes, which Ana María seeks to address in her work.” Alvarez takes community very seriously in both pieces I could see the emotion and physical strife and joy of community she was trying to express for both pieces.
I went to a Contra-Tiempo performance on Friday 4/16 as in celebration of Cesar Chavez Day. The first piece that they performed “I Dream America” spoke so perfectly to our American Studies course. The performance was based off a poem one of their students had written in regards to her Langston Hughes unit in class. The 7th grader wrote a poem as the perspective of her mother who had emigrated from Guatemala intertwining it with lines from Langston Hughes poems. Alvarez got the permission to use the poem to base her 40-minute piece. Her husband arranged and mixed the rest of the music to provide an amazing moving music. From the website, “I Dream America primarily seeks to engage the tensions, commonalities, strains and histories between the Black and Latino communities. Traversing the political landscape of immigration and Hurricane Katrina, "I Dream America" will investigate compassion and peace and paint a disarming and thought-provoking critique of contemporary life and injustice.”
The performance put many dances together and after the first two pieces the audience was silent by being so moved by the emotion the dance conveyed it was amazing. The Hurricane Katrina sequence was the most powerful to me. The women had these blue flowing skirts that emulated water so well that at times in the dance they literally conveyed that helplessness of drowning in water and it was so believable it was very moving. I would recommend anyone to go see this dance troop they are amazing. Here is a video of them and a blog.