As a Cuban American choreographer, I see clearly that my role in society is to be a change maker and cultural activist. My work is to engage, and to create opportunities for people to feel, relate and communicate with each other and with the sometimes difficult subject material that I address in my work. I am committed to, and am creating stunning, poignant movement and dance theater work that moves audiences. While engaging, my work also challenges notions of how the forms that I use can be utilized and developed in performance. What I am doing with Salsa and Latin social dance is very different from the work of other choreographers creating within these forms. I am addressing difficult and critical issues by using genres that have for decades been used as ‘celebratory dances’. I am challenging the power of these ‘ethnic’ forms to speak articulately and theatrically for the people from which they originated. Most people using these forms, use them to further perpetuate stereotypes. I am committed to doing just the opposite. Many times when people use dance theater – it is a hyper-cheesy approach to miming characters and experiences on stage – that is NOT what I am interested in accomplishing with my work. I am committed to creating a clear and distinct voice for those who are not traditionally listened to (or heard) on stage or in our culture. Not in a way that dumbs down, waters down or undermines these experiences, but in a way that deals physically and emotionally with the complex landscapes in which my work is developed and built!
My choreographic work is highly physical, socially charged, uplifting and calls on audience members to engage their own personal experiences to relate to those narratives presented on stage. By using narrative, text, voice overs, poetry, personal stories, traditional dance forms and fully expressed gestural and choreographed movement, I strive to create a space where traditional norms are redefined. Men dancing with men, women dipping men, women leading, the fourth wall being broken are all completely normal in my work. I also choose carefully the artists that I collaborate with and work closely with those artists to engage their unique set of skills.
I have developed a strong and unique hybrid approach that allows for exciting collaborations between performers from all backgrounds and speaks to audiences from voices that aren’t traditionally heard on stage. Resistance (pushing, pulling and responding to your partner) is the key to relationships on stage – as well the foundation of Salsa – a form that I continually thread throughout my work. Speaking metaphorically, I switch this resistance from being adversarial to being the fundamental key for communication and empowerment between partners and for a people. My choreographic work is about processing meaning for and by the communities from which this dancing originated, yet pushing those same communities to question and think critically about their own realities and circumstances. At the same time the work affects those outside of these communities by being absolutely engaging and high quality. Those disconnected from that experience can then relate. Choreography inspired by and based on those whose story I am bringing to life on stage gives my work an authenticity and energy that no audience member or critic can deny. The work feels real – it is real – and therefore allows each audience member to relate to it as such. It is an exciting time to be a part of the field of dance, theatre and the performing arts – when the very definitions of the what makes art are being questioned disassembled, pushed and reconstructed. Following in the footsteps of artists like Agusto Boal and Katherine Dunham. I see dance and theatre as a way for human beings to experience their own unique power to impact the world around them.
Download Ana Maria Alvarez’s current resume here