Interview: Alexis Saenz
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Q: What has been your professional dance journey?

When I was younger I grew up in my mother's dance studio and started dancing as soon as I could walk. I danced there until 2005 and then went to Artistic Fusion Dance Academy in Colorado. From there I went to Denver School of the Arts for middle and high school and then CalArts for college and got my BFA in Dance and Choreography. A year after graduation I got signed to Go To Talent agency and have been booking jobs here and there. My most recent job was a dancer for the “Get Me” dance video by Justin Bieber, choreographed by Rhapsody James. I’ve done Kanye West Sunday Service, a few commercials for Disney, and live performances with up and coming artists. I have done a lot of creating my own work as well, I toured The Process of Remembering that I created as an eight part visual series. The Process of Remembering is about healing and self love as an indiginous mixed race woman. It is a journey of finding myself and remembering who I am and this was one part of the many processes of remembering that I will be going through throughout my life. I turned it into a full length dance show and took it on tour and did an immersive art installation workshop and did some live dance performance. I did that for 5 cities across the US and I have been constantly creating dance for camera visuals and auditioning as well.

Q: Do you have any mentors or important people in your life that have shaped the way you dance and or think about dance?

Definitely for performance in general, she wasn't a mentor but inspiration was Selena Quintanilla. Actually, today is the anniversary of her passing away. I owe me getting into the performing arts to her. It was the first time I realized I could do whatever I wanted. My mom as well, she was a dancer and was also my teacher and owned a studio. She really shaped who I am and what I do and really pushed me to go for it in terms of dance. My sister is also a dancer, her name is Jordan and she has been a big inspiration in terms of creativity and movement quality and has been all around one of my people. Definitely I owe a lot of my career to my teachers at Artistic Fusion. They really pushed me and were the ones to push me in a new way I hadn't been pushed before. My mentor in college was Cynthia Young, I admired her a lot. She was always there to remind me of my abilities and capabilities and was the reason I got Pilates certified.

Q: What have been some challenges in your pre-professional or professional dance career?

The biggest thing that I am faced with is trying to navigate the commercial dance industry with my moral values and beliefs. There are a lot of things in the industry that go against my values and belief systems and so it is really hard to try and find those jobs that align with you and your creativity and what you want to do. And it is kind of like that saying “everything is for you” and that is something I have had to try to figure out and embrace. Sometimes it is hard constantly getting no’s, but maybe that means that job didn't align with what you believe in. I think also every artist when they do their own work struggle with quality and financial capabilities. Just being able to create quality work when you're on a budget or you are not able to necessarily do a huge big project that costs thousands of dollars. Trying to work with what you have to produce the best quality. Sometimes even not focusing and doing the bare minimum and seeing how that turns out. I feel like since I released this film [Process of Remembering] that everything I do now has to be that same type of quality. There’s sometimes that pressure instead of focusing on the simple things and ways to create.

Q: Do you believe dance can be a platform for social justice topics? If so, how? and/or Have you used your art form to make a difference?

Absolutely. I think it is creating your own platform and using your creativity in a way, art is what heals people. In the social justice movements healing is the biggest thing. I feel like that is what we are looking for in environmental justice. We look for the healing of the earth, we look for the healing of different races. When you are able to couple art with these topics there can be mass healing and one can create a platform where there's also culture in it. Art is also culture. I think that a lot of these movements end up being very white washed in the sense that they turn into something with a very colonial mindset with doing things. I feel like if we came at it from more of an artistic way it would change the game. There is nothing like adding the art culture to these movements. It makes them so much more alive.

Q: What inspires you and drives you forward as an artist and a person?

I think the world around me and the things and experiences that I have are what drive me and inspire me in my work. A lot of my work is based on identity and I feel like it's using my experiences to create and inspire the work that I do. It’s actually that simple.

Q: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected you as a performing artist?

It has affected my entire life. I teach dance and pilates and all the studies are not essential businesses so I have been out of work. The dance industry has no work, no auditions, it's a complete stand still for me. Right when things were starting to take off, I was so ready for 2020. After booking the Bieber video literally the first week I was like, “Heck yeah this is it!” I was in Trinidad until the 12th and I booked the Bieber video the 13-15th of January and then everything hit in March. So I had that and had some other auditions and things and small gigs with the same choreographer, Rhapsody James. In February I moved into my own place and slowed down. In March the auditions picked back up and then everything just stopped.

Q: What social changes and responsibilities have you seen people making during the pandemic?

I feel like a lot of people are now exercising a lot more. I’m seeing people out more. I think when this first started the park was completely crowded, it was wild and beautiful at the same time. I saw people in nature and spending time with families and exercising. I told my friends this is a time to go inward and it is time to heal. My favorite quote is by Tosh Collins, a Native American wellness advocate. He said, “The health of our land reflects the health of our people.” Which is so true. You can see that now in how different the world is since everyone has been forced to be isolated and not driving. I have seen less people out lately. It has changed a lot in the last two weeks. I think the number of cases has skyrocketed and that keeps people inside.

I remember the first week people were in hysteria. My friend called me and said, “You need to go get toilet paper!” I didn't believe her. They shut down the schools. I went to the grocery store and it was crazy. I couldn't believe it. People had left carts full of things. It took me two hours to check out and there was almost nothing in the store. Now they only allow you to take one thing per household. They are limiting everything. They are still out of a lot of stuff. Here they only allow 10-15 people in the store at once. So you have to wait outside for two hours to get in. Last week I got up really early to go get some eggs. The first two hours are only for the elderly and pregnant.

Q: Using the idea of “worldmaking” how do you imagine the performing arts world after the pandemic? (Worldmaking: How you can re-imagine the world in your own terms, the way you want it to be. Using this tool one can construct new worlds and write themselves into narratives that have excluded them and systems that have disabled them.)

I imagine that everyone has had so much time to isolate that there will be a new found respect for performance art and art in general. Especially because a lot of people are taking this time to do art whether it is coloring or learning an instrument. I am hoping this will help catapult the industry forward. People in isolation will now hopefully want to go see the show, support local artists, and want to go to a gallery and have that be at the forefront of things. I think with this pandemic there has been a big realization that the world needs a break and how much art fuels our hearts and our minds especially when something like this happens. I hope that this happens for the arts industry.

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