Building Community with CONTRA-TIEMPO

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In a few weeks, LA’s own CONTRA-TIEMPO will premiere their newest work, Agua Furiosa.   It will be the first time they’ve appeared on the CAP season, but it’s far from our first partnership. Since 2008, the company has been an important part of the Education programs here at the Center.  From capacity crowds at our Demonstration Performances to long-term classroom residencies, they’ve helped us fulfill our mission of making the arts accessible and inspirational for young people across our city.

With CONTRA-TIEMPO, Students learn how to work together, as dancers and as classmates
With CONTRA-TIEMPO, students learn how to work together, as dancers and as classmates.

In our ongoing work with CONTRA TIEMPO we strive to give students an opportunity to not only observe a performance as audience members, but also respond to what they’ve experienced, and become active participants in the creative process.  This idea was at the heart of Design for Sharing’s Residency program which launched in 2009.  Working closely with the faculty of the about-to-open UCLA Community School, and Ana Maria Alvarez, CONTRA-TIEMPO’s dynamic Artistic Director, we developed a year-long series of in-class dance, movement, theater, creative writing and visual arts activities led by teaching artists from CONTRA-TIEMPO and Design for Sharing.

For the next five years, hundreds of 4th, 5th and 6th graders explored big ideas of community and identity, resistance and engagement with us.  How do you get a 10-year-old to tackle these huge concepts? With kindness, enthusiasm, high expectations and mutual respect.  Ana Maria and the teaching artists of CONTRA-TIEMPO are an irresistable force, drawing even the shyest kids in, and creating the space for students to share their thoughts and make themselves heard, vocally and physically.

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The foundation of this group work is the salsa rueda, a form of salsa danced in a circle with a leader calling out the steps.   The dance seems simple on the surface—the movements aren’t complicated, the caller keeps everyone on track—but a successful rueda demands that the participants, both individually and communally, choose to be fully present with their best selves. It’s a challenge that year after year, classroom after classroom, the students rise to meet.

Ana Maria also challenges students in DFS Performance Workshops, small-group activities that are part open rehearsal, part movement class, part discussion. For the high school students that participate, these programs offer a window into the process of creating art and an opportunity to respond directly to what they’ve just seen. For Ana Maria and the dancers, they offer a fresh perspective and re-energize the creative process.   It’s quite a thing to witness a room full of anxious, self-conscious teenagers being asked to think abstractly, express themselves honestly, and creating a community where everyone feels safe enough to do so.

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CONTRA-TIEMPO is dedicated to transforming the world through dance, to the growth and development of more self reflective and engaged young artists. We’ve seen first-hand how successful they are at achieving that mission.

Come see them in action in Kaufman Hall, and experience their unique kind of alchemy, turning strangers into a community, no matter how old, or how young.

You can join us in welcoming CONTRA-TIEMPO back to the Center in a new capacity. Get your tickets for Agua Furiosa here.