PIYC: The Fiery Passion of Dancer-activist Ana Maria Alvarez

PIYC AnaMariaJumpDancing for love of movement and beauty is inspiration enough, but Angeleno Ana Maria Alvarez is equally passionate about helping underserved children in our community. Contra-tiempo, the nonprofit, activist-driven professional dance company Alvarez cofounded with her brother César, not only tours and performs but also creates arts programs and specialized arts curriculums for students. The company’s commitment to healthy eating is reflected in their newest production, Full Still Hungry, which touches on hunger, obesity and the role food plays in our lives.

Unique in its approach to dance and overall artistic expression, Contra-tiempo’s Urban Latin Dance Theater fuses salsa, Afro-Cuban, hip-hop and abstract dance theater in a “complete rebuilding of dance music” to create compelling and politically astute performances.

My neighborhood is . . . the world. I have been moving around my entire life, but right now it’s Miracle Mile.
I came to LA because . . . this definitely feels like home.
When I started dancing . . . I think I was five years old, but for as long as I can remember it was something I loved to do, that made me happy.
What I like most about dancing is . . . I feel so free and connected to everything good when I am dancing. Physically it feels so good to move my body and connect to music, but also metaphysically—my mind, heart and soul—it feeds me, it makes me feel complete and alive.
Other dancers I admire are . . . Jawole Willa Jo Zollar (Urban Bush Women), from whom I have gotten so much guidance and inspiration; Katherine Dunham for being such an innovator in the field; Bill T. Jones for his continuing creativity and engagement with the world. And there are many more.
I work with inner city kids because . . . when I began this work in Brooklyn I soon found that what I love about dance—the power of this art form to transform human beings—was so evident when working with youth who had no access to this kind of work/art/expression. I became present to the fact that dance has the capacity to teach people about themselves and could truly transform the world.
What is most rewarding to me in that work is . . . I get to see a shift in a human being because of dance. I get to see passion lit up. I witness a change in a way that the students look at themselves and the world around them.
My friends would say I’m . . . passionate, energetic, loving, optimistic about the ability of the arts to change people’s lives and… a Tasmanian devil
When I want to have fun, I like to . . . spend time with my son and family, go salsa dancing, listen PIYC Grafittito really good music, eat fresh, delicious food and talk to friends.
When I’m looking for inspiration, I . . .go to the ocean, go out dancing, write in my journal, read, watch film or talk to inspiring people.
The best thing someone can say about my work is . . . it changed the way they thought about something and left them feeling inspired.
What’s most surprising to me about my life now is . . . that I got everything I wanted as a little girl. I’m a mother, a dancer and a teacher.
The way I think I can have the greatest impact on this crazy world is . . . continuing to build powerful and inspiring work that addresses contemporary culture in a way that connects individuals and creates community.

Photo courtesy Tyrone Domingo

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