Joy in dance, music coming with Contra-Tiempo, Las Cafeteras

Dance company Contra-Tiempo and band Las Cafeteras will display their unique styles and experiences at Hancher Auditorium

Samantha Murray, Arts Reporter

Los Angeles-based dance company Contra-Tiempo and band Las Cafeteras will bring their show “joyUS, justUS” to Hancher Auditorium for one night only today.

According to Contra-Tiempo founder and current artistic director Ana Maria Alvarex, the performance will be a snapshot of life seen through the lens of joy, and how happiness is threaded throughout the experiences of everyone.

Alvarez formed the company almost 15 years ago for her thesis project at the University of California-Los Angeles, aiming for it to be a tool for social change. After she left the university, she decided to grow the company, and said she has not looked back since.

“I was really interested in creating a space that all those intersectionalities and uniqueness as an artist could exist,” Alvarez said. “As I build the company, I find more and more artists and audiences who are really interested in that in-between experience.”

“joyUS, justUS” will blend together the stories and experiences of several different people.

“It’s very much a collage,” Alvarez said. “There’s these huge pieces that are sort of the backdrop of the piece and they are very much the reflection of the patterns of a quilt… it’s threaded together all through the lens of joy, the central theme.”

Las Cafeteras, another Los Angeles-based band, met as activists in college and got their start at the East Side Cafe, their namesake. The group changed the masculine “cafeteros” into the feminine “cafeteras” as a way to stand against the patriarchy many languages have.

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Band member Hector Flores said Las Cafeteras adds another level of authenticity by using live music during the dance performance.

“After Ana Maria had seen our performance, I think she was really inspired to bring live music to dance because really, dancers will dance to pre-recorded tracks, but when dancers dance to live music, it is a whole other thing. It’s almost a whole other genre,” Flores said.

Both Alveraz and Flores believe in using several different styles and genres in their work to create a more authentic and overall better experience. Flores said he finds it hard not to use all of these styles.

“We play Afro-Mexican,” he said. “It’s called son jarocho. Son jarocho music derives from African, Indigenous, Arabic, Spanish beach rhythms and rhymes, so the music that we play comes from so many places. On top of that you layer that with kids who come from LA, with so many different musical talents, it would be hard for us to play one thing. Also for us it’s very natural to be a collective.”

University of Iowa alum Bianca Medina will be one of the dancers featured in the show.

As a Bachelor of Fine Arts student and a women of color in the Dance Department, she remembered her senior year being spent in questions of her identity.

“I was navigating finding my voice in a space where I didn’t quite have those reflections in front of me,” Medina said in an email to The Daily Iowan. “Therefore, I’m very excited to return to [the UI] with Contra-Tiempo Urban Latin Dance Theatre, because it feels like a very special sharing, and I hope that there are students in the audience that see themselves/their stories reflected in the work.”

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