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Dance Day at El Centro de la Raza

Photo of Seattle Academy Dance Faculty

Seattle Academy Dance Faculty left to right: Amy Lambert, Albee Abigania, Alicia Mullikin, Anita Kuroiwa-Schiff

This coming Saturday, September 25, Alicia Mullikin, director of the SAAS dance department, invites you to join Dance Day at El Centro de la Raza, a community event produced by Seattle Parks and Recreation and EL SUEÑO (a company owned by Alicia)! Come move your feet to community dance classes, watch free performances in West African, Bollywood, Hip Hop, and Folklorico, and enjoy some Mexican sweets n’ treats!

Dance Day at El Centro de la Raza Poster Graphic

Saturday, you will find a couple of our SAAS dance faculty members teaching and dancing at Dance Day at El Centro de la Raza. Dance Day will look and feel a lot like the SAAS dance program’s Diversity and Inclusivity in Dance event which happens the week leading into MLK Day. In fact, many of the involved artists have taught master classes here at SAAS, including Albee’s company Kontagious Performing Company

Alicia Mullikin tirelessly worked to secure a grant for her company EL SUEÑO, and was awarded funding from Seattle Parks and Recreation to bring this Diversity and Inclusivity in Dance event free of charge to the greater community for the first time. The event is modeled after an event Alicia started producing here at SAAS back in 2018. During the SAAS event, students experience a whole week of classes designed to spotlight BIPOC professionals in the dance world. The workshop teaches various dance styles — Afro Modern, West African, Folklorico, Bollywood, Heels, Hip Hop, and others — and encourages students to learn why each style is significant to the culture in which it originated. 

“There is a deficit [of BIPOC dance professionals] and we need to fill that deficit,” explains Alicia. Prior to becoming SAAS’s director of dance in 2018, Alicia was part of the arts faculty as a dance instructor starting in 2015, and has been a guest artist here since 2012. Alicia is first-generation American, her family is from Nayarit, Mexico, and her journey as a dancer spotlights the difficulties of immigrant and minority groups in this stereotypical dance world of ballet and modern dance. 

Alicia opens up about her journey: “It was my dream to be a dance artist, even when I did not see myself represented in dance… My experiences as a first generation American woman of color informs my company, EL SUEÑO, which is all about spotlighting marginalized communities through dance, community events, and accessibility to services. This ties closely to my role as an educator at SAAS, as well. I can share with my students that I am a first-generation American, from a family of immigrants, and if I can do dance as a career, then you can definitely do it too.” 

“The American dream is so elusive for some,” explains Alicia. “I want that American dream — which is acceptance, in so many ways.” 

Alicia not only brings her own experiences to the floor when sculpting the curriculum for SAAS’s dance program, she and the whole dance faculty also share a core tenet of bringing in guest dancers of color throughout the school year. They believe that educating students and our community about the importance of these diverse dance styles to their respective cultures, can facilitate a better education and a greater appreciation, respect, and understanding of social context for students. 

“I sometimes think how much more pleasant my time in the dance world would have been if my education had included diverse dance styles, and if I had seen brown bodies being elevated and included in dance,” reflects Alicia. “Our program here at SAAS includes learning about dance and their cultures, and how to both take up space and give space where appropriate. This, in so many ways, mirrors our school’s guiding principle of an inclusive community and our hope to provide equitable learning in our classrooms. I want students to feel empowered to make change and to know that they can use any platform they have to speak or dance about what is important to them.” 

You can follow along with the EL SUEÑO journey and learn more about upcoming events on Instagram @el.sueno.dance.

*The 2019 guest artists included:

  • Randy Ford, a Seattle-born queer Black nonbinary trans femme contemporary dance artist
  • DJ Baluyot, a San Jose native and Filipino-American dancer and teacher
  • Noelle Price, an African-American classically trained dancer, choreographer, and activist from Detroit
  • Fausto Rivera, a first generation Mexican-American professional dancer and choreographer