Ana Maria Alvarez and her non-profit, LA-based dance troupe, Contra-Tiempo, finished their tour of “I Dream America and Other Dances” in Northeast DC, in which they explored the tensions and shared experiences of Black and Latino communities in America today.
Framing the discussion with immigration, Hurricane Katrina, street culture, and gender relations, Contra-Tiempo showed the failures of the American Dream for these two communities and the power that is available when we remember that we are all connected.
The program showcased pieces from the past three years. Blending modern, Afro-Cuban and hip hop dance, “I Dream America” held nothing back in its exposure of the failed immigration policies of the US, the disaster of Hurricane Katrina that continued long after the storm disappeared, and the commercialization of hip hop that undermined its power and its purpose.
Salsa, a dance of resistance where the man is the leader and the woman the follower, is a dynamic entity, changing with each new partner, a dialog that never ends. In “Al Alba Ache” and “contra-tiempo/against the times,” the gender roles were established, then subverted, then redefined. Contra-Tiempo stripped resistance of its confrontational and explosive nature, using the tension and counter-tension to build something new and powerful.
The energy, emotion, and barely-contained chaos of the entire program kept the audience wholly involved. Throughout, there was an anger simmering always below the surface, and when it broke through, the violence was stunning. Because these groups cannot easily strike out at the America that has failed them, they attack each other.
While the traditional American Dream may no longer exist, the face of America is changing and a new American Dream is emerging. Contra-Tiempo explores what that might look like. We are in the midst of explosive possibilities, and nothing will be same again.
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