For Ruby Morales, dance is both a form of resistance and a radical expression of joy. Watching her mix cumbia, breaking and contemporary in CONTRA-TIEMPO's joyUS justUS is a lesson in lightness, gravity, surrender and, oftentimes, bliss. In her kinesphere, the floor is not just a landing surface, but an active space that propels her in any direction. Part of a new generation of dancers who find art and activism inseparable, Morales brings this spirit to her choreography, as a dancer with CONTRA-TIEMPO and Liz Lerman, and as a field organizer for the Arizona Democratic Party.
Hometown: Glendale, Arizona
Companies: CONTRA-TIEMPO, Liz Lerman Projects, Safos Dance Theatre
Training: Arizona State University; breaking with Bboy House, Ervin Arana, Stuntman and YNOT; hip-hop philosophy and theory with YNOT; cumbia from her family and family friends
Mining her roots: Her 2019 project, Breakin' Pachanga, honored her Mexican culture through community cumbia classes, which culminated in an evening-length work. She also created Café con Leche, a solo exploring colorism in the Latinx community. "I was examining how I have internalized racial inferiority, the concept that I am less than others because I am Mexican and brown," she says.
Dancing with Lerman: At ASU, Morales was drawn to Lerman's ideas of inclusivity. Now she is the youngest member of Lerman's multigenerational cast for Wicked Bodies. "During the rehearsal process we investigated healing rituals, and I had just interviewed my great grandmother about curandero/a, traditional Mexican healers. Liz said, 'This has to be in the piece.' " Of Morales, Lerman says, "Ruby has enormous skill, a deep engine of inquiry and a willingness to stand up and be heard. I would follow her anywhere."
Ruby Morales at work on Liz Lerman's Wicked Bodies
Jenny Gerena, Courtesy Morales
Performance power: Morales found a home with CONTRA-TIEMPO's multi-style rep and dedication to social justice. Founder Ana Maria Alvarez describes her as a "powerful thinker, mover, feeler and change-maker. She has a boldness and ferocity in her movement that draws you in."
Going digital: During the lockdown, Morales and Rock Steady legend YNOT collaborated on an Instagram performance using wearable technology, where her dancing dictated the music.
The future: Morales hopes to pursue an online master's in dance and social activism, and eventually base her dance operations in Arizona. "There's a real hunger here to make work. Plus, I love the desert."