OLIVIA SATHER: You're listening to Beyond the Stage from the Carpenter Performing Arts Center at Cal State Long Beach. In each episode, we introduce you to the artists, scholars, students, and arts professionals interpreting our world through the arts. Join us this week and every week this summer as we explore their stories. Let’s get started.
OLIVIA SATHER: Alright, good morning. I am here today with three students from the CSULB Department of Dance. I'm here with Jocelyn, Teresa, and Vanessa. How are you all this morning?
OLIVIA SATHER: Well, to go ahead and get us started for all our listeners today, if you could just go ahead and provide a visual description of yourself.
JOCELYN MAGAÑA: I'm Jocelyn Magaña. I am a Latina woman. have long brown hair that is framing my face. I am wearing a gold necklace. I have a navy blue tank top and I have photographs in my background, as well as a green plant.
VANESSA CRUZ: Hello, my name is Vanessa Cruz. Pronouns she/her/hers. My image description: I'm a Mexican-American woman. I have brown skin. I'm currently wearing some light makeup. I have glasses with pretty rim designs on it. I have dark brown hair. I'm wearing a black long sleeve shirt and in my background is a white wall, with some blinds.
TERESA DECLINES: Hello, my name is Teresa Declines. I use pronouns she/her/hers. And my image description: I'm a Filipino woman and I have straight black hair that's framing my face. I'm wearing a white shirt that has black floral accents and in my background I have some metal fixtures and some Polaroid pictures up on my wall.
OLIVIA SATHER: Wonderful. Well, welcome to all of you. My name is Olivia Sather, I am the host of our podcast. I am a white woman with blonde hair, blue eyes. I'm wearing a printed sweater with pink lipstick and I have a dark background behind me. Alright, so to get started, I wanted to set the stage a bit, so to speak, a little bit, um what brought each of you to dance. Why did you start dancing either as a young-in or as an adult, whenever you started? What was it that inspired you to start dancing? Vanessa.
VANESSA CRUZ: All right, my journey is quite bumpy, but I think my early exposure to dance was when I was in elementary school, I saw this really amazing performance to a Shakira song, and it was on stage. I was in fourth grade, and I remember telling myself, but I really want to do that, and I see myself on stage and from then on, deciding to pursue dance, became more solidified when I was at my community colleges, and I realized that I kept going back to take dance classes, so I decided like well, let me go ahead and just go for it and see what happens.
OLIVIA SATHER: I love that. I love Shakira. Jocelyn.
JOCELYN MAGAÑA: Yeah, so I guess you can say I've always sort of been a dancer. When I was a little girl at parties I would always be one to just be dancing by myself, sometimes with family members. But my older sisters were actually dancers, and I think just watching them from, you know, from outside the studio door, I was like I want to do that, they look like they're having so much fun. And I believe it was in it was my first performance, which was in sixth grade and after that performance, I think I realized oh performance my passion and I would love to pursue performance and pursue dance, and I think that also helped me determine like I want to major in dance, like when applying to colleges.
OLIVIA SATHER: it's funny how family can have such a big influence on us as well. I totally get that. Teresa.
TERESA DECLINES: Yeah, so mine's pretty to Jocelyn’s as well with like family. I started dancing because of my older sister and it's been pretty big and my family, always dancing and like grooving. My dad loved like the ‘90s hip hop group so he'd always be doing that playing the music. And I realized like in high school and I was doing like some studio stuff and also dancing with my high school dance team that I really loved to perform and just like share what I love to do with the audience. So that's like kind of went towards it in college.
OLIVIA SATHER: I saw the fall dance showcase last, this would have been last October now, right, that the Department of Dance, including the three of you, and it was a student run showcase. I was incredibly impressed by the artistry and everything that went into making this showcase, not only the dancing itself and the choreography, but making it during the Covid-19 pandemic, when we were all isolated in our homes or separate spaces and coming together to create something was really incredible. And not only that, but I was really impressed by the thought that went into making the showcase accessible to a wide group of people, and so I wanted to talk to the three of you about that, because you were on the accessibility team for the fall dance performance/showcase. So, first for anybody listening, I wanted to go into what did it…what does it mean to be on the accessibility team and what was your role in the creation of the fall dance showcase around accessibility.
VANESSA CRUZ: I'm identified as a physically disabled dancer. And so, one of the things being one of the first physically disabled dancer in the dance Program, my main initiative is to create an easier pathway for other disabled artists. And this also includes generating shows that are accessible, so when we were in the process of planning the actual show, I realized that no one was going to say that we need an accessibility team, so I decided to jump on that wagon and create this new pathway for our department to make all their dance concerts accessible. I'm very fortunate to have worked with Jocelyn and Teresa, and it was a very exciting process, especially since I've been navigating the study of disability justice for the past two years, and being able to apply that in real time to the things that I'm doing and being able to share that with this department.
OLIVIA SATHER: That’s amazing, I love that. And so, this initiative that you started, it wasn't just for this performance in particular, it's a plan to move forward to make all the performances and all programming that the Department of Dance is doing accessible for everybody, if I'm, if I'm understanding that correctly.
VANESSA CRUZ: Yeah.
OLIVIA SATHER: And so one of the things I noticed was that not only was there ASL interpreters during the talk backs, but you included the audio descriptions for every piece even making that a completely second filmed edition, so that people could, who have visual impairments, could get the same experience or a similar experience by hearing a description of the show. I think there's maybe some people listening who don't know what that is or what that was like. So could you share a bit about what audio descriptions or audio captioning is for a dance piece.
VANESSA CRUZ: I can go ahead and start that conversation, and then Jocelyn, Teresa, if you want to chime in a little bit. Audio description is primarily for our blind/low-vision/neuro-divergent population. Through the disability justice lens, I really wanted to ensure that the audio description was as interesting and exciting as if we were to watch it. And it goes beyond saying that “this dancer is moving left or right,” it becomes more of a poetic way of describing what's happening on screen. One of the challenges I guess was being able to say everything all at once, and so I got this wonderful idea from a friend of mine who was blind, her name is Tiffany Taylor, and she was telling me that they have like a pre-program that they usually do if, when we were in live watching a performance, like they'd bring in those who are blind or low vision a couple minutes before the live performance to get a hands-on of what the show is about and everything, so I decided to generate a transcription, program descriptors what I called it, to say everything else that we wanted to say, for each piece. I'm going to go ahead and open up for Teresa and Jocelyn if they want to add in some stuff.
JOCELYN MAGAÑA: Yeah, so similar to what Vanessa was saying, I think the biggest challenge I had was fitting in everything I had written, you know because I would watch the piece, and then I would sort of make a draft of what I would want to say, and then, when it came to recording that I realized, oh I'm saying too much and what just happened is already passed, and I still had so much to describe it. So for me, finding the right descriptive words that would sort of possibly invoke an image in someone's mind and, you know, figuring out what's important to say and how should I say it, in order for you know the individual watching to really get that experience as if, you know, they're in a theater, even if maybe they're in their household and viewing the performance online.
TERESA DECLINES: Yeah, definitely. Like I agree with what Jocelyn and Vanessa have been saying, like it was definitely a new experience and it's very, it's a very good experience to like see how you can translate it because I feel like sometimes like as dancers, we just kind of look at dance and it's like understood, but also using these tools about how to describe dance and how we view dance and making it accessible for all audiences [is] such a big and important thing that we should be doing.
OLIVIA SATHER: Yeah, I noticed that… um I like what you said about it's almost poetry, and having to be really thoughtful about what words you're saying, because you can't say everything. But you know, a dance evokes, for me, when I watch dance, it evokes a feeling, the movement evokes a feeling. So it's not just “the dancer moves left,” it's the getting the emotion to come through about the way they move left, the feeling that that's being created, that's really very true. Something I noticed as well, when I was watching it is, I actually ended up closing my eyes and just listening and I think that's, and I'd love to hear your thoughts, but something important about providing accessible modes of enjoying the arts in different ways, is it's really for everybody, everybody gets something out of this. And it's opening up the art to everyone in our Community, and so even I enjoyed it and appreciated it and found myself closing my eyes and just listening. Do you have any thoughts on that and how we can let people know that this is really for everybody in our community, and it's bringing this, all together, what are your what are your thoughts on that?
VANESSA CRUZ: Yeah, I think it’s an important practice. One of the things I've been encouraging our faculty is to practice accessibility. It's not just the checkmark and that's it, you know, it's not just meeting the ADA goes beyond the ADA. One of the beautiful things about disability justice is that we ensure that all the accessibility needs are met, as much as possible, so that, for those who don't feel comfortable disclosing their disability, or have more difficulties navigating [a] disabled system, they have a way to access this material with liberty, without feeling like they need to be extremely vulnerable to share what their disabilities are. And it is absolutely true that everyone benefits from it, in the long run. Yeah, those are my thoughts on that.
OLIVIA SATHER: I wanted to pivot just a bit and talk a little bit about the pieces that you were in, or created for the fall dance showcase, and what your process was like. So, to start, Vanessa, I know you choreographed and performed in your own piece. What was that, like putting that together at your home, in isolation, and can you tell us a little bit about the piece you created?
VANESSA CRUZ: Yes, of course. I choreographed my piece titled Static Void Distortion. This piece is about navigating the ways we view disability and putting it up in the forefront. It was a very interesting process, because I am navigating a tiny space still currently and being able to transform it to what I made it to be was exciting but also kind of frustrating at times, because I normally dance with a walker and I love moving in big movements, and it was definitely frustrating in that aspect, but I think for this particular theme, I felt like it worked, because it exposed my disability in a very provocative way that was enjoyable. And then I got the awesome opportunity to collaborate with one of my friends, her name is Kiana Peppers, also known as Crystal K, she's a freelance digital artist, and she generated the illustration of what was on the projection and it was nice getting to collaborate in that aspect via Zoom, and telling her all my ideas and making sure that kind of complemented what I was trying to get out with my piece.
OLIVIA SATHER: Wonderful it's always exciting when we get to collaborate. Jocelyn and Teresa, can you tell us a bit about the piece you performed in, or the pieces you both performed in, and what it was like creating collaborating on those?
JOCELYN MAGAÑA: Yeah, so I, Teresa and I were both in In Spaces, choreographed by Rebecca Lemme, with movement generated by the students and it was a very interesting experience. I know, for me, my section, I danced on my staircase and it was an experience you know, had we been in person or in the studio, I would have never had that experience of figuring out how to dance on a wooden staircase, and how to do it safely, and you know how to protect my body, while still trying to make something interesting. I think just the biggest challenge I encountered was, you know, like this going to sound strange, but recording and having you know, a family member coming down the stairs are saying, like “Oh, I need to pass by, are you almost done recording?” But besides that, it was in just an interesting experience you know, having to use my house which is sort of like just a place where I was like, Okay, this is just this is a place where I live, you know, I don't necessarily generate movement here. And how now our homes are our studios, are places where we can experiment, where we can create and how you know, even though we're not in a studio, some of the projects that we're generating are just breathtaking there, they’re experiences that we wouldn't have had in the studio. Yes, yeah.
OLIVIA SATHER: Yeah, tapping into another side of your creativity.
TERESA DECLINES: Yeah, Teresa speaking, more off of that, I was in the same piece as well, and the piece really just highlighted different people spaces in their own homes and really made us appreciate, like the little spaces like Jocelyn said, like places that we wouldn't consider dance spaces, and bringing that into our homes and finding new ways to be creative. I danced in my like bathroom area. I have this like shower has like a door that's like kind of like frosty and like you can see it, but not really, and it was interesting working in a small space, and also with a door, and like climbing on top and trying to find different ways to like move and hold myself up . And also recording from different angles, like Jocelyn was saying, like the challenge also was to find a new angle and try and make something out of that. But I think it was really cool to see everybody's different spaces and see how creative people can be in different areas that look normal but from a different angle can be [used] and something completely different.
OLIVIA SATHER: Like the environments dictating a little bit, or like playing a role in your movement and your choreography maybe in a way it wouldn't if you were in a studio or in an open stage, which is really interesting. Um, well I wish we had more time I, but I want to get to two final questions that I wanted to ask. Can you share a little bit about making performances—and we're talking specifically here about dance, but I think it applies to any type of art form or specifically for me, coming from the Carpenter Center, performing arts—making them accessible is something I think a lot of companies and a lot of institutions could do better at, to put it simply. And the Carpenter Center is included in that I guess my question is, what do you want them to know, or what would your advice be if an institution like the Carpenter Center or otherwise was wanting to make performances more accessible and or you know, get started in disability justice like where would, where would they start, what would your advice be, what are your thoughts all of those questions.
VANESSA CRUZ: I could start Vanessa speaking. I think if I wasn't a student and I was coming in to teach about how to make things accessible, I would have taken more time last semester to fully teach disability justice and accessibility, at the same time, so I believe that institutions should definitely merge those two so that this doesn't become a checklist. I think, also, it is important to think about accessibility when we're planning events, because what often happens is that it becomes like the last thing, and that can create a lot of problems, and people don't know ahead of time like what are the accessibility components, and doing it well because accessibility are human rights, and we need to make sure we take care of that to the best of our ability. So definitely immersing yourself in disability justice and where that can generate new ways of thinking of accessibility.
TERESA DECLINES: Teresa speaking. For me, this is a completely new experience and I'm so grateful that Vanessa was here to guide us through it. But also, just be open to just using the Internet, finding resources, and just don't be afraid to try, because I feel like sometimes people get daunted by like “Oh, this is a lot of work,” but like Vanessa said, you never know your audience and it's a human right, so pushing for this and planning ahead for it is really what's going to make it successful, and it is a great process, and it's super exciting to see all of us come together.
JOCELYN MAGAÑA: Jocelyn speaking, yeah just going off of what Vanessa and Teresa have been saying I just think sometimes I feel when you know certain institutions love to say they're diverse and they're inclusive yet, at times, I feel they aren't, because if we really are diverse and inclusive, you know, like we said, accessibility is a human right, and if we're ignoring an entire community, and if they're speaking out on their needs and we're not meeting them with those needs, I feel like we're doing a disservice to everyone. And like what Teresa is saying I think a lot of people get nervous, or they get scared about going into accessibility, because they may not have knowledge about it. However, there is the internet. And Vanessa, I cannot thank you enough she provided so many resources, whether it was articles or actual companies who make their words completely accessible, and you know Vanessa send us a link of this piece and it was a link to an audio description and similar to you, I closed my eyes and listened to this audio description, and I was like this is amazing, and I you know when I even joined the accessibility team, I told Vanessa I was like you know, I'm shocked that there are so many dance companies who they're not accessible. And they're losing an entire audience, and that's a disservice to everyone, you know. The arts are for everyone, so I think we need to pave the path to making sure everyone is actually included in that.
VANESSA CRUZ: I have one last thing: listen to disabled voices. At the end of the day, because we know best of the different needs and what is out there. Because often these roles are kind of left to non-disabled folks. While I know they mean very well, I think there's always that missing person who's at the table. Disabled voices need to be at the table when generating this kind of work.
OLIVIA SATHER: Yeah, absolutely. And like you said, I think, Jocelyn, so many dance companies don't think about this or tacked on as an afterthought or a checkbox instead of being a part of the process of the creation, from the beginning, and we need diverse and disabled voices at the table if we're going to be creating these things. Well, I know that, for me, and I can speak for the marketing team, because we all watched the showcase, we shared it on our social media channels, and I was really inspired and so the three of you have given me a lot to think about over just the last few months, and as we move back to in-person performances and moving forward, what are we doing as an institution, on the campus of Cal State Long Beach, to make sure that what we're bringing through our current performances are available and accessible to a wider group of people, to everyone in our community. So those are things we're thinking about so thank you for inspiring me to think more about that. As we move forward. So I want to ask you a few things as we wrap up, just about the future. So I know you're all graduating this year, which is so exciting. So what are your plans for after graduation, or I know the world is a little chaotic right now, so if you don't want to answer that, I totally understand. But what are you working on, do you have a project you're working on, or something coming up, anything that's going on for the future, for you.
JOCELYN MAGAÑA: Um yeah, that is a loaded question. Um, so for me, post-graduation, I will actually be completing the Limón professional training program and the Limón Company is a company that I hold very dear to my heart. I love what they stand for, I love their founder who's been deceased for a very long time, as the company's very, you know, it's been around for a while. So that is sort of just what I want to be focusing on in the moment, and I start that program in September, I believe. Besides that, I currently do not have any projects. I'm not choreographing right now. I think I'm sort of just taking one day at a time, seeing where life takes me, and I guess, I don't know, one day at a time and, hopefully, I find my path.
OLIVIA SATHER: Limón Company is great. Congratulations that's exciting. Vanessa.
VANESSA CRUZ: Yes, it is a very loaded question. Um, I did have a couple, like I had a plan before the pandemic, but now it's kind of like gone. One of the things I know for sure, at least this year, I really want to focus on getting my body back to fitness. That's the thing that I really need to strive for and work on. And then I am doing some film projects, I have one premiering before graduation. Can't get into too much details, yet, but that's coming soon. I'm excited about that. And then I do have a performance with actually the theater department called American Distortion and I'm working on a piece about Frida Kahlo and amplifying more of her disability identities. That's something that's not necessarily spoken about when we think about Frida Kahlo, so I really wanted to do that and that's coming up, I think, at the end of April. And I have other things happening, but that's pretty much my current, what's happening currently, yes.
OLIVIA SATHER: I look forward to hearing more about the film. It's exciting. Congratulations. And Teresa.
TERESA DECLINES: Yeah, so always the question what after graduation, but I, like Jocelyn and Vanessa, I'm probably just going to take it like one day at a time. I hope to like immerse myself into training, a lot more, and just being immersed into Los Angeles doing collaboration concert work or even like commercial industry. I have a lot of itches so going wherever I flow. But in terms of like near future-ish, I do have a piece that's going to be premiering in our concert or spring concert for our department so check that out when it comes out in May, it’ll also be online. So hopefully just doing more choreographic projects in the future and just making work that feels really genuine and meaningful to myself and to other people.
OLIVIA SATHER: Final thing. Is there a dancer or choreographer that inspires you or dance company that inspires you, or you would recommend that listeners check out if they otherwise don't know.
JOCELYN MAGAÑA: Yeah, so I guess, I already sort of said this, I very much love the works created by José Limón, as I feel he really touches upon humanity, and what it means to be a human, and I think that is what sort of speaks to me because, yes, we're dancers, but before we're dancers or before we're anything, we’re human and you know we all have this human experience. And I think I feel like in times like this, you know, we need to remember that we are all human and we have more similarities than differences. And I'm actually performing one of his solos for our spring concert premiering in May. And you know that experiences has just been amazing and it's made me fall even more in love with the company and the movement and sort of what I can do with all that information, and just, you know, that human quality and how we can retain that human quality in movement, where you know dancing isn't always about the legs, all the way up here, or you know, the high jumps, multiple turns. Sometimes it's about a simple gesture and there's beauty in that, and I think we need to embrace that beauty more. But yeah, I guess, you know, in terms of the company, though I feel like they can be more accessible. I think, yeah what I’ve noticed, I feel you know some of the older companies and if they've been around for a while, I feel I don't want to say that they lack the accessibility component, but I definitely think it's something that they should sort of consider. As well as you know, just individual artists, I know for myself I'm always working on how I can be accessible and you know, ensuring that I'm listening to those who have certain needs or you know just making sure anything I create is accessible.
TERESA DECLINES: Yeah so, I feel like I gained a lot of inspiration from a lot of different sources with my interests and stuff, but I also gain a lot of inspiration from my peers, too, so, you know check around your community and see what other people are doing as well, that's one of my biggest things is there's so much that you can take in from the people around you. But I guess one main person that I kind of look up to is, more on the commercial industry side her name is Galen Hooks. And she also explores a lot about like human emotions and experiences and her choreography really taps into that, and whenever I watched her stuff I always feel something of interest too, so check it out like Jocelyn said, I know that a lot of things, a lot of companies, a lot of choreographers, we're still trying to work on being more accessible so that's always something to look out.
VANESSA CRUZ: Yeah, Vanessa speaking. One of the companies it's a smaller company, but they're getting around, actually Kinetic Light. Alice Shepherd is the founder of Kinetic Light and I am constantly in all of her work and her advocacy and about dance and disability and how the dance world can become a lot more accepting of disabled bodies on stage, and her work is quite amazing and I highly recommend checking them out. Yeah, I met Alice Shepherd two years ago in person. It was a very exciting moment and just hearing her speak about disability and dance. It's just really inspired me to do this kind of work. So check her out, as well. Most of her talks are on YouTube so check her out she's amazing.
OLIVIA SATHER: I am familiar with their work, and it is fantastic. So we'll link to all of those in our show notes. And then my final question is that if somebody was wanting to learn more about accessibility and dance or the performing arts or get involved and learn more about disability justice, where would they go. Can you plug a few resources are a few places to get started, I know Kinetic Light is a great place to get started, watching some of their fantastic performances I've seen clips of, but yeah could you pick a few places where people can learn more?
VANESSA CRUZ: Yeah, thank you for that question. Vanessa speaking. Okay, Sins Invalid is a wonderful performing arts theater. They do dance as well. They are pretty much the founders of disability justice and they actually have a lot of workshops if you go to their website on disability justice and talking about ableism and confronting that, and all of that, so that is an excellent place to start. We have the ten principles of disability justice on their website. That is my primary source that I go to. Another thing they can go into is Crip Camp website. The documentary is amazing if you have not watched it, please do, it is totally worth your time and it's nominated for an Oscar, which is so exciting for disability community. They have a bunch of resources on there as well, just basically how to talk about disability. In terms of accessibility, Kinetic Flight is definitely been one of my resources, and they also have a lot of workshops throughout the year called Always Access and those workshops are held every couple of months so just go to Kinetic Light or type in Always Access on Google and you should be able to stumble on their workshops and when they'll have them.
OLIVIA SATHER: My final question is, where can anybody who's listening follow you or check out your work individually, if you have a website go ahead and plug that now, or social media, your handles if you are a person who does public social media go ahead and put that now so Jocelyn.
JOCELYN MAGAÑA: Yes, so I am on Instagram my handle is jocelynmagana24. I post most of my works there or any projects I'm doing, I also have a website, which is jocelynmagana24.wixsite.com/mysite. That's where I have, you know, sort of my resume and everything like that I also had the link to my YouTube on there, which is just my name, Jocelyn Magana.
TERESA DECLINES: Teresa speaking. You can find me on Instagram teresaarose. I also have a website it's declinesteresa.dotwixsite.com/tdeclines, and it has like Jocelyn says, the link to my resume, it's linked to my Vimeo, which is still updating, and you can find my works and all of that connected as well.
VANESSA CRUZ: All right. Vanessa speaking. I am on Instagram. My instagram is galaxiesdance and then my website is galaxiesdance.info. Both of which have my link tree, which has a plethora of things on there, that you can check out.
OLIVIA SATHER: W will link to those in the show notes as well. I encourage everyone listening today to please check out these three fantastic dancers. I guarantee you'll be seeing them in something on a stage near you soon, so check out the future of dance. Thank you all so much for joining me today and for this conversation. It's an incredibly enlightening and I hope our everyone listening has learned something about accessibility and dance today, as well. Thank you for your time, thank you for your generosity and have a wonderful day.
JOCELYN MAGAÑA: Thank you so much Olivia.
VANESSA CRUZ: Thank you Olivia.
TERESA DECLINES: Thank you.
OLIVIA SATHER: Beyond the Stage is produced by the Carpenter Performing Arts Center at Cal State Long Beach. Views expressed by guests of the show or the hosts are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of the University. A special thanks to today's guest and the entire staff of the Carpenter Performing Arts Center, including our Executive Director Megan Kline Crockett. Audio engineering is provided by Ken Beaupre. Graphic design by Patti Laurrell. Digital Communications by Franz Neumann, and additional marketing and media assistance by Amber Legaspi-Valdez. Our theme music is by Ken Beaupre. If you'd like to support Beyond the Stage or the Carpenter Performing Arts Center, please donate online at Carpenterarts.org. Thank you for joining us today and we'll see you next time.