For the creation of CONTRA-TIEMPO's most recent evening-length work, Agua Furiosa, we began the creative development process with a series ofinteractive, site-specific performances, planned in partnership with diverse community organizations. These performances were open to the public and connected to specific bodies of water in Los Angeles. We called these "community choreographic laboratories.". Through these laboratories participants witnessed work in progress, created their own movement/theater-based work around themes explored in the piece (race, exile, injustice, water, drought and upheaval), and shared their own stories connected to those themes in Council circles. The Council practice that we use is guided by the Center for Council's work connecting indigenous story-sharing with social justice work.
The labs provided a rare opportunity for community art-making and for "holding space" to hear each others stories. Many of the stories and movements in the final production of Agua Furiosa came directly out of these choreographic labs, so they were extraordinarily rich for our creative process. As importantly, they were rich for community-building. When Agua Furiosa's development process came to an end, we knew we had to continue the labs. We have adopted the choreographic lab process as one of our core community engagement practices.
We're excited to announce our new partnership with the Community Coalition in South LA, to lead a two-year project called "From Movement to Movements: Creating Art and Action in South LA." Community Coalition ("CoCo") has been working for 25 years in South LA neighborhoods to help empower residents to create the change they need to see in their communities. CONTRA-TIEMPO's mission to use dance to help audiences see what's possible and transform their worlds matches CoCo's commitment to using the arts as a vehicle for social change.
CONTRA-TIEMPO will be bringing our choreographic labs into CoCo's organizing work, to see how dance, theater, and story-sharing can help move forward their fight for social justice. We will also be leading regular "Sabor Sessions" (from the Spanish word for "flavor"), creating spaces of joyous movement where residents can learn Urban Latin Dance technique, build community, and be their full, beautiful selves.
The project kicked off in June 2016 at CoCo's People Power Convention, where CONTRA-TIEMPO led a workshop with youth about how the resistance we use with our partners when dancing Salsa Rueda connects with the resistance we use in our communities when fighting for positive change.
Each Friday night, since April 2017, CONTRA-TIEMPO has been hosting "Sabor Sessions" or "Get Downs" in South L.A. Sabor Sessions (from the Spanish word for "flavor") are FREE community dance classes, where community residents can learn Urban Latin Dance, Hip-Hop, House, Afro-Cuban, Salsa, and Salsa Rueda from our company's teaching artists. These sessions are designed to allow participants to groove and move, explore new dance forms, gain confidence, build community, and move with JOY! They are open to anyone in the public, and most specifically, those families living in the community of South Los Angeles. Check our "Connect" page for details. Our work in South L.A. is generously funded, in part, by the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs and the California Arts Council.
Grito—Spanish (noun)—a yell, a call to action, a raising of one’s voice
“The moment we choose to love we begin to move against domination, against oppression. The moment we choose to love we begin to move towards freedom, to act in ways that liberate ourselves and others. That action is the testimony of love as the practice of freedom.” —bell hooks
As an offering in this time of national anguish, CONTRA-TIEMPO presents G.R.I.T.O.—a space to Gather. Re-envision. Inspire. Transform. Organize. Combining music and movement, Council practice, and an analysis of U.S. history, G.R.I.T.O. is designed as a space to build human connection, understand how this country got where we are, and figure out a way to move forward, building the society we know can exist.
We are seeking community partners who think their community would appreciate and benefit from the movement/conversation and that would be willing to open their physical space to us to lead this workshop. Each sessions is designed as a three-hour highly interactive and multi-modal experience, open to anyone searching for a way to both understand and plug into the movement for equity, anti-racism, and anti-violence, using the arts, story sharing, and dialogue.
G.R.I.T.O. will both support and challenge participants to raise their voices and use love “to move towards freedom”.
To learn more and schedule a G.R.I.T.O., please e-mail our Executive Director or call our office at 424.258.6091.
CONTRA-TIEMPO was honored to have received a Dance/USA Engaging Dance Audiences grant to develop and lead the first phase of our choreographic lab engagement work, and we are a proud part of that learning community. We also received the California Arts Council's Artists Activating Communities grant to enter the second phase of this work with Community Coalition. We are excited to document and share our findings with any organizations, practitioners, and community members, to continue to build the powerful practice of community-engaged art making.