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

January 6, 2021

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.


Glendale, Arizona

CONTRA-TIEMPO, Liz Lerman Projects, Safos Dance Theatre

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.”