On the weekend of the 4th annual Global Women’s March, Los Angeles–based Contra-Tiempo brought the rally for social justice to the stage of the Wallis Center for the Performing Arts.

All photos courtesy of the Wallis

As stated by founder and director Ana Maria Alvarez. “joyUS justUS,” is in no way a neutral piece of art, but a call to action. This work is a radical celebration of our humanity, an honoring of the feminine, a passionate battle cry for our rising collective consciousness and a calling for connection. We are asking you to be a part of our movement to choose joy, to stand for justice and to vibrate together in love.”

We enter the theater to take our seats, which are adorned with cloth swatches, to see the stage set with a candle-lit altar, a backdrop of five brightly colored hanging altar quilts and about 30 people seated in a semi-circle surrounding the performance space.

The performance begins as two women holding candles walk slowly down each of the aisles to the stage.  We are now present in what has become a sacred space. As with the beginning of a tribal community ritual, words are spoken to honor the Tongva land where we reside, express gratitude to Mother Earth and the Air that carries birds and butterflies for which migration becomes inevitable, and thank Fire for the struggle — all that contains this moment in which “we participate in our creation.”

We are told that we are gathered together to experience Radical Joy where “You and I become Us,” a mantra that we, the audience, are invited to vocalize along with the performers.
Woven together throughout the performance are the spoken and sung narratives of personal, familial, and societal struggle and joy, which are deftly interpreted in movement. In solo, duet, small group or ensemble, the dancers convey their individual style be it Salsa, Afro-Cuban, house, urban breaking and stepping Hip-Hop, and contemporary dance-theater.

As the precepts of the Constitution are articulated and summed up as “Justice – Just Us,” the “witnesses” who were seated on stage rise to dance to the humming of Woody Guthrie’s “This land is your land, this land is my land”.  The work culminates with the affirmation “You have the right — to joy, to be indigenous, to elevate your consciousness, to devour space.”

To further engage us in this community building experience, the audience is invited to the front of the stage to connect to the energy of the performance and to dance together in celebration.

joyUS justUS was conceived and Directed by Anna Maria Alvarez as a collaborative effort with the performers who generated choreography, movement phrases, song ideas, rhythms, poetry, text, spiritual practices and entire movement sections to create an “authentic embodiment of this US”

Performers are Isis Avalos, Charlie Dando, Jannet Galdamez, Bianaca Medina, Dalphe Morantus, Alan Perez, Jasmine Stanley, and Diana Toledo.

Dance Party at the Wallis; Photo by Michael Baroff

Residential composer César Alvarez deconstructs salsa, collaging Americana with hip-hop, poetry with clave, industrial and found sound with the powerful rhythmic traditions of the African Diaspora. Original Music by Khalil Cummings, d. sabela grimes, Samad Raheem Guerra, Bear Fox & Las Cafeteras with Lighting Design by Tuce Yasak and Visual Design / Alter Quilts by Emily Orrting.

Contra-Tiempo is committed to activating the local community and offers programs including: “From Movement To Movements: Creating Art & Action In South L.A.”;  Friday night “Sabor Sessions” or “Get Downs” in South L.A. where community residents can learn Urban Latin Dance, Hip-Hop, House, Afro-Cuban, Salsa, and Salsa Rueda from the company’s teaching artists; G.R.I.T.O.—a space to Gather. Re-envision. Inspire. Transform. Organize designed as a space to build human connection; and the Futuro Summer Dance Intensive

For more information, go to contra-tiempo.org

For upcoming performances at The Wallis, go to TheWallis.org