Birthing a Company (and a Baby): Part II

After quitting dance in Tucson, the grand plan was to save up for a year, move to L.A. and live with my friend “Chava” who was dancing with a touring folklόrico company based in the area. I was going to move to L.A. with my friend and dance. Oh how plans change.

On a trip to Southern CA for a cousin’s wedding in the summer of 2007, I drove down a few days early to visit my friend Chava. During that trip, we became more than friends and after a whirlwind 6-week long-distance romance, I was pregnant, we were married, and he was moving back to Tucson.

I never left town. At the time we married, my husband was undocumented and I needed to use my job at the University of Arizona and my income to immigrate him. And I needed to immigrate him, for the sake of my new family and unborn child. In 2007, the anti-immigrant sentiment in Arizona was at an all-time high, peaking right before the passage of SB 1070 in 2010. Chava drove through Maricopa county, home of the infamous Sheriff Aripaio, on his way home from L.A. to visit me every two weeks. I worried about him being stopped in Phoenix. I worried that if he was pulled over, had a flat tire, or the like, that the father of my unborn child could be deported. Staying in the desert to immigrate my husband was the most logical path, so I stayed and he returned, eventually.

Around two months after I gave birth to Buddy, my little firecracker, I was commissioned to create 3 pieces of choreography by the Fundaciόn Mexico and Durham University located in the United Kingdom. At Durham University, doctoral students of a certain department were paired with artists who interpret the research findings of the PhD candidate and help disseminate the findings back to the community. The commission came about because the partner of the Ph.D. candidate and choreography commissioner worked as an administrator in the Mexican American Studies Department where I taught. The Ph.D. candidate and his wife knew that I was a choreographer and that I had some experience(s) with the theme the dissertation explored, undocumented college students. Not only was I familiar with the academic research on the subject, my husband and his brother were undocumented students who graduated with a bachelors and masters respectively in engineering in the early 2000s and were unable to work in their fields at that time. Keep in mind this was in 2007, prior to the Dream Act/DACA. I was selected as one of approximately 10 artists on the bill. Given the fact that I was in the process of immigrating my husband and all of my new in-laws were still undocumented at this time, I threw myself into the project, creating three new dance pieces.

Opening (and closing) night came, and the one night only show was completely sold out! There was a line around the theater and one of my close friends was calling me asking me to sneak her in the back door of the venue. I thought about that former director of mine…whatever happened to “my” people not showing up to see contemporary art? Maybe they weren’t marketed to in the most culturally competent ways? Or perhaps they just wanted to see something relevant to their experiences on the stage?

Armed with the knowledge there was an audience for contemporary Latina@ performing arts, including dance, and stuck in Tucson with a modern dance community that had absolutely no space for me, I mulled over the idea of doing something.

After the death of a classmate from college about six weeks after the mix billed show, that idea evolved into “I am going to create my own company”. Although we did not get along that well due to ideological differences, I had respect for the woman who had a large impact on the youth and students in the Chicano community. Driving home from the services that afternoon, I thought to myself “Life is short. If I am going to do what I want, choreograph the pieces I see in my mind’s eye, I should do it now. Why not?” After picking my child up from my mother-in-law, I called two of my close friends – one a former folklόrico dancer who collaborated with me on “Estatus: Unsent” and experienced with me first hand all the microagressions of the Tucson modern dance scene, the other a friend who I did research with at the UA. I also called up a new dance acquaintance and in-law by marriage and another friend from college who had experience opening his own businesses. I asked all of them if they would be interested in starting a dance company with me.  All of them agreed.

On February 18, 2009, we gathered around a glass coffee table in the home of one of my best friends. A company was born. My son was 7 months old.

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