Winter 2022 In Dance

SANTA MOMENTUM ALL YEAR LONG BY YAYOI KAMBARA “Santa, tell me if you’re really there Don’t make me fall in love again If he won’t be here next year” Santa Tell Me — ARIANA GRANDE A have a pretty strict no Christmas music until after Thanksgiving policy. Still, after a pan- demic school year with limited socializing, no holiday performances, many of my house rules seem to be up for debate. It’s currently mid-November, and Halloween candy has barely made a dent as I write and I’m con- templating my Santa note. Dear Santa, you magical mystery of good- ness, are you really there? When I get the notification that I am a finalist for national grants, I believe your mysterious universal power of love is pulling me to become an awardee. And then an email delivers a coal lump of disappointment, leaving me feeling inadequate, talentless, and wondering if you exist. As I evolve and build into a mid-career artist, the gaps are getting wider and the envi- ronment feels inhospitable for marginalized artists. Outgrowing the emerging grants, the mid-level grants are few and far between. And riana Grande, Mariah Carey, and Michael Bublé croon Christmas cheer loudly in my house the day after Halloween. I used to then, the big national grants such as NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) and Cre- ative Capital feel really out of orbit. The odds are stacked against mid-career BIPOC art- ists. The amount of time, work, and resources it takes to take on these grants is exhausting

I recognized that for real change to happen in the dance field, I had to stop thinking of myself as an individual artist and think more about my community of artists, specifically my Latinx colleagues.

As a young artist I never saw narratives such as these on dance stages or within the leadership of companies heralded as Ameri- can dance staples. Sometimes companies had a singular Latinx dancer but they were rarely the lead. I felt erased by the art form I loved. I dreamt of programming that reflected the communities and people I knew. I couldn’t be alone in this feeling. Was I? This need motivated me to create David Herrera Performance Company (DHPCo. 2007) with a mission to center Latinx experiences and communities in contem- porary dance. In this time, I have explored immigrant histories, family separations at the U.S.-Mexican border, LGBTQ+ iden- tities, Catholicism, Day of the Dead, lan- guage, racism, colorism, cultural empathy, nationalism, mixed-race dynamics, cultural poverty, celebration of heritage, and decol- onization of the Latinx body and aesthetic, and much more. While the dance company gave me a platform for artistic expression and representation, I began to realize that it was not enough to ensure field wide change, at least not for me. I felt a calling to do more, but what? I dug back into my own upbringing. How had my own community persevered and even flourished in the face of erasure and assimilation? What made us so resil- ient? I reflected on the way that “ la Raza/la chusma/los vecinos/la communidad ,” always played a role in all major (and some minor) events throughout my childhood. If someone was celebrating a Quinceañera or mourn- ing a death, la communidad rallied. Per- haps they helped plan the party, some would become “ Padrinos (god parents)” for the young lady’s dress, for the catering, for the church ceremony. In moments of sickness or sadness, the neighbors would offer to take care of the children while the parents dealt with the situation. If money was needed to return to a home country a collection was taken. You could count on the vecina to stop by with a small amount of groceries to help through the week when someone fell ill. In sadness and in celebration, the community

community impact programs: LatinXten- sions and Latinx Hispanic Dancers United with this idea in mind. Both programs are based in community exchange, giving, and learning. Both programs embrace intersec- tional Latinidad and have a mission to uplift the national community. These programs are not about me, they are about Nosotros . In them I urge others to build their art with community, in support of community, in relationship to community, and to ask for help in community. We have to because we need to. I have to because it’s needed. We have to because we owe it to the next gener- ation. I have to because it’s right. I want to build up with my fellow Latinx and BIPOC and LGBTQ+ and artistic communities. I want to see them thrive as much as myself. Sincerely, I do. I want to share in the glory and the pain. It will make the glory more glorious and the pain less painful. Through this, the field-wide change for inclusivity, liberty, and visibility that I did not see as a young artist can actually be achieved. But now we are doing it together. I have stopped chasing empty promises of individualism and have started doing some- thing more tangible and powerful. Working in community, en comunidad . If we uplift each other, we will grow . I have gone from dreaming about it, to making it happen. This is where I am now. This is my dance field of dreams. DAVID HERRERA (he/him) is a Latinx, gay choreographer and community leader. He is the Artistic Director for David Herrera Performance Company (DHPCo., 2007) in San Francisco. DHPCo’s mission is to center Latinx experiences and communities in the dance field. David has also launched two community impact programs: LatinXtensions mentorship and Latinx Hispanic Dancers United. Both programs provide community, resources, and opportunity to the greater national Latinx dance community. He currently sits on the Isadora Duncan Awards Committee , is a founding member of Dancing Around Race , and serves as advisor to the Festival of Latin American Contemporary Choreographers . David is a 2021 National Association for Latino Arts and Cultures Leader-

made sure that burden was as minimal as possible on the centered family. We all mourned or celebrated simultaneously; no one was left behind. I recognized that for real change to hap- pen in the dance field, I had to stop thinking of myself as an individual artist and think more about my community of artists, spe- cifically my Latinx colleagues. We have all heard the saying, “If you build it, they will come.” This (mis)quote spoken by Ray Kin- sella (Kevin Costner) in the film Field of Dreams has been absorbed into the Amer- ican psyche. This mentality puts the onus on one person to build something grand, build it alone, at any cost, with the prom- ise of American greatness. This false proph- ecy often leads to fatigue and exhaustion. And even worse, it assumes that one person should be able to present a fully realized “product” without faults, loopholes, mis- takes, or room for growth. If it does not, then we are considered failures. Is it of any surprise then that we see so many Latinx and BIPOC dance organizations and artists leave the field, stop dancing, or go under so quickly? This and the lack of support, access, and visibility. ( Side Note: As I type, I am juggling an upcoming production and its many needs, building and leading two community programs, involved with 3 other dance organizations in member capacities, writ- ing 3 grants, sitting on a residency panel, and still having to hold a part-time job outside of dance. The difference is that now I ask for help within my circles and larger community.) Why are we pushed to “excel” as individ- uals in the dance field rather than taught to enter the field in pods or in community? It has taken me almost 20 years to begin shak- ing off that toxic mentality of pulling myself up by my bootstraps and American individ- ualism force-fed into my consciousness by the generations that came before me. This particular buck stops here. In the last several years I have had the privilege of creating and leading two

Why are we pushed to “excel” as individuals in the dance field rather than taught to enter the field in pods or in community?

ship Institute Fellow.


in dance WINTER 2022 36

WINTER 2022 in dance 37




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In Dance | May 2014 |

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