Ruby Morales (center)

Steve Wylie, Courtesy CONTRA-TIEMPO

Meet the Artist-Activist Liz Lerman Says She'd "Follow Anywhere"

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.

Age: 26

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, in black sneaker and a brown and beige patterned gauzy pants and shirt, crouches in a wide-legged lunge, looking down on the diagonal.

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."

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Photo by Ernest Gregory, Courtesy Fleming

How This Tap-Dancer-Turned-Composer Stays True to His Jazz Roots

From Riverdance to HBO's "Boardwalk Empire," tap dancer DeWitt Fleming Jr. has proved to be a triple threat on the stage and screen. He's also an entrepreneur, selling his own line of wireless microphones, DeW It Right Tap Mics. Last year, he added "composer" to his resumé with the release of Sax and Taps INTERSPLOSION!, the first tap dance and jazz album recorded at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Dizzy's Club. One of the songs, co-written with jazz saxophonist Erica von Kleist, was a finalist for last year's Unsigned Only music competition.

"When you're invited to dance with a jazz band, it's always assumed that, as a tap dancer, you're going to be a feature. If you go all the way back to New Orleans' Congo Square, and even before then, dance was a part of the music. I wanted to stick to those roots and create an album where everything was intertwined."

He recently spoke with Dance Magazine about his collaboration with von Kleist and the creation of their album.

January 2021