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Reflections on BlakTina

The second annual BlakTina Dance Festival occurred in Phoenix on Aug 24-25, 2018 at Phoenix Center for the Arts. About the festival: "BlakTina Dance Festival is a dance concert that showcases and celebrates the powerful, dynamic work of Black and Latinx dance makers. Our mission is to present current cutting edge voices of Black and Latinx choreographers while creating more opportunities for Artist of color. We strive to diversify programming and audiences in the local dance scene and beyond. The festival originates from Los Angeles, California, premiering for the first time in 2013 by choreographer, Licia Perea; and has been an annual production at the Bootleg Theatre for the past five years. BlakTina was presented in Tucson, AZ in 2015 and last July 2017, through a collaboration with Phoenix based choreographer, Liliana Gomez, BlakTina expanded to Phoenix, Arizona."-BlakTina Dance Festival Facebook page, "About"

Anthony James Kelly performing "Jack-O-Lantern Therapy in the Land of Broken Soles"

As a first-time attendee of the BlakTina Dance Festival, I had no expectations of what I would see. I have always been intrigued by Dance. How dancers tell a story without words, using only the fluid lines of their body. And what a story did they tell on Saturday night!

The piece titled “The Invisibles” choreographed by Erik Canales, kicked off the show about the horrific journey of rape and kidnapping 6 out of 10 women face on their way north. The haunting movement reminded me of the invisibility of migrant workers in fields and factories striving for a better life but being paid less than a living wage, so are forced to leave their families in search of better jobs. “Resist,” choreographed by RaShawn Hart made me feel the tension of trying to resist the pull of the world shaping you into someone you don’t recognize.

“the epic...part dos” choreographed by Felix Cruz was uncomfortable to watch. I cringed seeing women dancing around in their bras and panties and instantly wanted to cover them, but as I listened to the words over the music, I realized that I was supposed to feel uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable trying to fit “gender” into a box neatly marked “boy” or “girl” when you are both simultaneously. Therefore, your body becomes a spectacle simply because you choose to make it the canvas you use to express your duality. People point and stare, making you feel uncomfortable as if you are wrong for your choice and should hide or cover up. As a woman of color, I can relate having to constantly negotiate my identify as I navigate the white space of corporate America where I am forced to prove that I belong. Thank you, Felix Cruz, for challenging me to examine my uncomfortability and grow!

“Healing,” choreographed by Malikah Fernandez resonated with me the most because it explored the love-hate relationship between doctors and patients of color. My heart dropped hearing the patient say, “The nurses covered up the mistakes, so many mistakes, when they were supposed to be covering me…Believe in me like you believed in that doctor…Help me heal.” The poignant words and movement combined were mesmerizing and affected me on a such a personal level that tears rolled down my cheek. Thank you, Malikah Fernandez, for giving voice to the tragedies that befall people of color at the hands of the medical profession whose motto is to do no harm.

The visual setting of “Broken Soles,” choreographed by Anthony James Kelly with shoes spread out in a circle made me think of the many masks we wear; code-switching to please others. I absolutely loved “Café con Leche,” choreographed by Ruby Morales comparing black and brown skin to coffee beans. Through Ruby’s piece she explored colorism and how we continually try to lighten our skin just as we add cream to lighten our coffee when the richness of the coffee bean is already perfect as it is.

The show ended with “Lift,” choregraphed by Alexander Patrick which was colorful, fun and flirtatious; leaving my husband and I happy that we spent out date night seeing such an amazing show together.

I can’t wait to attend BlakTina next year and I look forward to seeing it expand to more cities. There’s never been a more important time to tell our stories and dance it the perfect way to tell it!

Dr. Tamika Sanders is a well-known spoken word artist, motivational speaker, MC and accomplished actress. Her passion is arts education and creating strategic partnerships between students, learning institutions, and the communities in which they reside in. Through her company Savvy Pen, Dr. Sanders hopes to continue using the arts to break barriers, inspire youth, and create social change.

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