Dance in the Desert, organized by Yvonne Montoya, works to build relationships within the Latino dance community and create a space to share ideas on keeping the community connected.
Focused on metro Phoenix, Tucson and Douglas, Dance in the Desert took place during the last weekend of April. This inaugural gathering of Latino dancers included a choreography jam, a dance workshop, public events and a dance party to end it. The main purpose of the event was for dancers and arts administrators to have conversations about how the community could grow.
Montoya has been dancing most of her life, but as a Latina she didn’t have many mentors in the area who can guide her. She says she was approached to apply for a mentorship in 2015 and got paired with a phenomenal mentor, but it would have been encouraging to see someone with her ethnicity being successful in the field.
“The organizers of the national level don’t know of a lot of Latina choreographers that are elders and can mentor younger generations,” Montoya says. “I realized how disconnected and disenfranchised we are. I wanted to have a gathering like the one we had to bring us all together and know each other. I think that’s the first step to building a community.”
Not only within dance, but with every field it’s important for those who are just starting to see people like them who are successful, Montoya says. When a beginner sees themselves reflected in the field, they know it’s a possibility for them as well.
Within contemporary dance, Montoya says there is a lot of momentum and an eagerness to work. She says dancers at Dance in the Desert spoke about creating a mentorship pipeline as an effort to sustain the community. There were many potential leaders in that room, she says.
Dance in the Desert was also a place for beginning dancers to receive inspiration and guidance. Montoya’s advice to them is to keep dancing no matter what. Bring all of your influences with you wherever you go whether it’s from professional dance lessons or watching Shakira on YouTube.
For more information on what Montoya is working on and images from Dance in the Desert visit safosdance.wixsite.com/safosdance.