CONTRA -TIEMPO Urban Latin Dance Theater: “joyUS justUS” A Dance  of Community and Connection

Written By Diana Dunbar
November 15, 2018 at 4:02 PM

It’s amazing to see the CONTRA -TIEMPO dancers, they are marvelous in speed and wonderful in slowness.  Salsa and contemporary dance coexist in a dynamic blend of brilliant dancing; these dancers are trained in a multitude of styles and it shows in every movement. Each dancer is an individual within the group and dances as if longing for his or her story to be known. Within this remarkable troupe are personalities different from each other yet still a part of the group. Each dance has its own style and character as the audience is taken from tender moments to moments of rage. Collaboration is key here, as is the dancing and music- all make for compelling theater.

CONTRA -TIEMPO, which is translated as dancing “off beat,” mixes a fusion of Latin dance styles with other forms of dance to create a fresh vision. Infused with text, songs, African drums, salsa, hip-hop and contemporary dance, CONTRA -TIEMPO is a multilingual tapestry of art that explores social justice issues such as racism, immigration policies, and the sense of being an outsider.

In an interview, Choreographer and Artistic Director Ana Maria Alvarez spoke of the company’s name, translated as “against time – dancing against the times.” Alvarez sees the company as bringing together different styles and techniques that “reflect the hybrid nature as people and as a nation.” This concept is seen in the dance repertory of CONTRA -TIEMPO.

This weekend the company will be presenting joyUS justUS, a piece which deals with the nature of joy and tells the stories from the point of view of the dancers, collaborators, and diverse communities from South Los Angeles. “Joy is not just about being happy; it’s about the ability to bounce back from intense moments in our lives,” says company member Samad Guerra. Development of the piece involved workshops and the sharing of personal stories. Although the work celebrates community and connection, many people do not always have joy in their lives. We live in intense times and this piece put a face to the hardships while acknowledging the many wonderful things occurring around us. This is a multifaceted piece which reaches deep into the experiences of the dancers, with each dancer collaborating in many different ways. It’s taking a stance as human beings to overcome anything and everything.

Alvarez speaks on the process of the piece, which took almost two years to develop. With joyUS justUS, she looked into everything unique about each artist involved. Working with 8 dancers of diverse backgrounds, she was not looking for unity but for the thing that makes each artist different. Through the work, the dancers were really connected to each other.

“After the 2016 election we needed a piece about joy – joy as a weapon in a world adjusting to so much pain.” She speaks of the concept of joy as a mechanism for social change. “The world can’t be just if we don’t have joy.” CONTRA-TIEMPO helps us to hear the beat between the beat and to see the connection between their home base, Los Angeles, and Miami. Both are diverse communities and both have populations seeking to truly be an integral part of ever changing communities.

CONTRA-TIEMPO Urban Latin Dance Theater, Friday, November 16 ,7:30pm and Saturday, November 17, 4:00 and 7:30 pm; Adrienne Arsht Center, 1300 Biscayne Blvd, Miami; 305-949-6722,

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