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Zarina Mendoza, who choreographed Solace with Alicia-Lynn Nascimento Castro.EXPAND
Zarina Mendoza, who choreographed Solace with Alicia-Lynn Nascimento Castro.
Ashley Baker

BlakTinx Dance Festival Creates Safe Space for Black, Latinx Choreographers

Phoenix dancer Alicia-Lynn Nascimento Castro recalls feeling an affinity for fellow dancer Zarina Mendoza after seeing her perform during last year’s Breaking Ground Festival in Tempe.

Now, they’re getting ready to perform together in the BlakTinx Dance Festival at Phoenix Center for the Arts, where they’ll be using movement to explore themes that resonate with their own personal histories and today’s political headlines.

Nascimento Castro recently returned from living for seven years in Brazil, and Mendoza hails from Mexico. So, when they started to talk about creating work for BlakTinx, the theme of home quickly emerged.

This weekend, they’ll tackle the topic of what home means, during a seven-minute performance called Solace, performed to "Sans Peau" by Swod.

The dance they choreographed together opens with each dancer isolated under a spotlight. One faces the audience, recounting memories of home, while the other stands with her back toward the audience. Soon, they trade places, as it becomes clear that their stories are both individual and shared.

It’s a theme that recurs throughout BlakTinx, which features artists of color creating and sharing their own narratives. This is the third BlakTinx (formerly BlakTina) festival in Phoenix, which was co-founded by Phoenix creative Liliana Gomez and Los Angeles creative Licea Perea.

For choreographers and dancers, it’s a space to explore and express their identity, while sharing stories that inform both their movement and their everyday lives.

Connections between creative work and the current political landscape are intertwined and unavoidable, Nascimento Castro says. “Dismantling white supremacy is on our minds every day,” she says. “My husband is working on getting his citizenship, so it’s part of our everyday lives.”

For Nascimento Castro, BlakTinx provides a safe space to start conversations about tough issues. “Having these difficult discussions is something that’s very important,” she says. “We have to allow space for people to be uncomfortable and to react.”

This year’s festival includes 11 pieces, including two created and performed by California artists. Dance styles vary, as do the specific ideas each piece addresses. But Nascimento Castro sees a common thread.

“I feel like the show itself is a call to the fact that these spaces are necessary,” she says. “We’ve come a long way, but there’s still so much farther to go.”

The BlakTinx Dance Festival happens Friday and Saturday, August 23 and 24, at Phoenix Center for the Arts. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased via Phoenix Center for the Arts.

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