Latinx dance artists gather for second annual Dance in the Desert convening

Latinx dancemakers from across Arizona will gather in Tucson from May 15-20, 2019, for the second annual convening of Dance in the Desert, a unique opportunity for the Latinx dance community to come together, deepen relationships, and expand research for the field.

This year’s Dance in the Desert will engage Arizona-based Latinx choreographers and dancers in a choreography retreat and professional development series that will support the development of new work. The gathering will feature workshops by renown choreographers Liz Lerman and Ana Maria Alvarez.

Conceived and organized by Tucson-based choreographer and dancer Yvonne Montoya, the inaugural Dance in the Desert was a first of its kind convening for Latinx dance artists of the region. In its second year, Montoya hopes to deepen the conversation around the community’s unique assets and potential.

“I believe Arizona is poised to be a leader in the field of Latinx dance,” said Montoya. “The Latinx community is the second largest ethnic group in the state of Arizona and growing; audiences are changing and so are the dancers. Additionally, as a border state, Arizona could be a gateway to dance exchanges with Latin America and beyond.”

Dance in the Desert 2018 drew national attention in the field. In the year since the inaugural convening, Montoya and others involved in its planning and presentation have been invited to present at a number of national symposia, including the 2018 NET National Gathering & Symposium, the 2018 National Performance Network annual conference, and the 2019 West Creative Placemaking Leadership Summit

Additionally, Montoya was featured on Arizona PBS’s Horizonte and named by the Arizona Republic as one of “24 creatives building the Valley’s arts scene.”

In March, NALAC (National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures) awarded a Pod Grant to Dance in the Desert 2019, one of five grants awarded this year in support of activities that, according to a NALAC press release, ”foster community building, refine leadership skills, polish aesthetics, sharpen critical thinking, amplify exposure, encourage advocacy, and promote messaging in support of Latinx arts, culture and equity.”

Dance in the Desert is presented in partnership with Safos Dance Theatre, AZ ArtWorker, an initiative of the Arizona Commission on the Arts, Liz Lerman LLC, and Projecting All Voices, an initiative launched by ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and supported by ASU Gammage.

About the Artist

Yvonne Montoya is a mother, dance maker, consultant, and founding director of Safos Dance Theatre based in Tucson, AZ. Ms. Montoya is a process-based dance maker who creates low tech site specific and site adaptive pieces for non-traditional dance spaces. Her work is grounded in and inspired by the landscape, languages, cultures, and the aesthetics of the U.S. Southwest. She is currently working on two solo projects, “Motherhood and the Performing Arts” a multidisciplinary project that explores the challenges and joys of juggling of motherhood with a career in the performing arts, and “Stories from Home” a series of movement vignettes based on her family’s oral histories. Her choreography has been staged throughout the Southwest and her dance films have been screened in Tucson, North Carolina, Budapest, Hungary, and at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom.  Ms. Montoya is currently a Post-Graduate Fellow in Dance at Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts in the Projecting All Voices Initiative.

About Safos Dance Theatre

Safos Dance Theatre is a non-profit modern dance company founded in Tucson, AZ in 2009. We are committed to creating dance that represents the unique aesthetics of the Southwest and the US/Mexico borderlands region.

About the Arizona Commission on the Arts

One of 56 state and jurisdictional arts agencies across the United States, the Arizona Commission on the Arts is a 51-year-old agency of the State of Arizona and a leading force in the creative and professional development of Arizona’s arts sector.

The Arts Commission supports Dance in the Desert through AZ ArtWorker, a program that facilitates dialogue and knowledge-sharing between Arizona artists, their national and international artist peers and residents of Arizona Communities. The initiative is generously funded by the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation.

About Projecting All Voices

Projecting All Voices, an initiative of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts supported by ASU Gammage, aims to support equity and inclusion in design and the arts so that our nation’s cultural life honors and represents the full creative diversity of our country’s population. Faculty, students, fellows and guests of the Projecting All Voices initiative research, design, prototype, implement and disseminate ideas and mechanisms for confronting field-level issues of equity in arts and culture. The initiative also supports artists and designers from underrepresented groups through scholarships, fellowships, mentorship and visiting artist residencies.

About Liz Lerman, LLC

Liz Lerman is a choreographer, performer, writer, educator and speaker, and the recipient of honors including a 2002 MacArthur “Genius Grant” and a 2017 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award. Key to her artistry is opening her process to various publics, resulting in research and outcomes that are participatory, urgent, and usable. She founded Dance Exchange in 1976 and led it until 2011. Her recent work Healing Wars toured the US. Liz teaches Critical Response Process, creative research, the intersection of art and science, and the building of narrative within dance at institutions such as Harvard, Yale School of Drama, and Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Her third book is Hiking the Horizontal: Field Notes from a Choreographer. As of 2016 she is an Institute Professor at Arizona State University.

About NALAC Pod Grants

The NALAC Pod Grants are part of the NALAC Fund for the Arts, the nonprofit’s national grant-making program for artists and nonprofit arts organizations. The 13th edition of the NALAC Fund for the Arts is possible thanks to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Ford Foundation, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Southwest Airlines, Surdna Foundation, and Nathan Cummings Foundation.

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For more information on the Arizona Commission on the Arts, visit or contact Steve Wilcox, Communications Director, Arizona Commission on the Arts, at (602) 771-6536 or [email protected].

To request this or any other agency publication in an alternative format, contact the Arts Commission offices at (602) 771-6502.

Banner photo by Dominic AZ Bonuccelli, courtesy of Yvonne Montoya & Dance in the Desert. Additional Images available upon request.