June 11, 2019 Artist to Watch: Mina Estrada
Ruminator of dance
Mina Estrada is a ruminator of dance, among other things, and attempts to commit a substantial amount of time to teaching, creating, and facilitating some kind of dance experience for herself and those who care to join. She received her MFA in Dance at Temple University, and her choreography and workshops, which are rooted in contemporary movement concepts and improvisation, have been commissioned by several college, high school and studio dance programs, and professional companies including Spelman College, Grand Valley State University, Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre, and Todd Rosenlieb Dance. Mina has served as faculty for the dance programs at Temple University, Old Dominion University, Christopher Newport University, and Drexel University. Mina is always in hot pursuit of great storytellers, generous muses, equilibrium, and more time to pet her cats, smile at her husband, and hang out with Mother Nature.
Describe your dance journey.
My life has been rooted in movement from the start. Once I convinced my parents to let me get my degree in dance, I knew the life-long adventure would continue. After graduating from Texas State University (Go Bobcats!), I spent the next five years teaching dance in Texas public high schools and directing the dance teams. I went on to dance for companies in New Orleans before heading to Philadelphia to get my MFA from Temple University (Go Owls!). Since then, I’ve been making work, dancing, and teaching. It’s been a lovely life of dance for quite some time now.
Were you always interested in dance?
My mother loves to tell the story about how she took me to a dance studio when I was 4 and I refused to participate. I was more interested in gymnastics – the flipping and being upside down really appealed to me. As I got older, the choreography in my gymnastics routine became my focus, so dance stepped into the spotlight.
What are your thoughts on the dance opportunities on Baton Rouge?
Baton Rouge has two companies that cater to young dancers and give them opportunities to explore performance past their high school years, which is a real benefit for the community. If dance makers are interested in making and showing work, or involving the community, there are places and spaces that support those efforts, such as the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge.
Who are you influenced by in the world of dance?
Oh boy… growing up I was enchanted by Bob Fosse and Twyla Tharp, and still admire them for their commitment to their style and work. Now, I am moved by the work of Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Hofesh Shechter, Crystal Pite. These contemporary dance makers are doing some really fine work. If I had to pick one “spirit animal” in the dance world, it would be Pina Bausch. From the first time I saw an excerpt ofCafé Mueller, I knew I had found my cosmic dance godmother.
What genres do you find yourself most drawn toward?
Contemporary dance works, but not the type that is seen on TV shows with all their hyper-stylized acrobatics. *See artists mentioned above for real contemporary dance work…
How has teaching influenced your art?
Teaching is the best thing that could have happened to me. In my undergrad program, my professors tried to encourage me to teach more because they thought I had a natural talent for it, but I resisted. I didn’t want to teach, I wanted to be a star! But, the more I teach, the more connected I become to the dance making process and the things that I am interested in researching, investigating, and developing.
What would you tell someone that is interested in being a professional dancer?
If this is the life you want to pursue, then find good training and get a solid experiential education in this craft. Study with smart, strong teachers. Build a healthy technical foundation but also care about creative process. Take improvisation and composition classes. Make an effort to understand how dance has moved its way through lifetimes of human bodies, societies, cultures. Dance has a glorious and wild history… learn about it. Then, keep doing all of this constantly – learning, making, doing, sharing.
I do recommend college to dancers who are interested in making this their life. Colleges have created robust dance programs that cover all the bases, and become an instantaneous networking platform for young dancers that connects them to the greater dancer community once they graduate.
What are your plans this summer?
I recently returned from the Orlando Fringe Festival, where I performed in a collaboratively produced show with CoCo Loupe Dances. CoCo was born and raised in Baton Rouge, and I was fortunate enough to start working with her when she moved back here temporarily a few years ago. We are bringing that fringe show, From One Foot to the Other, to Baton Rouge in July - still ironing out the details. We will be incorporating some local dancers into the show!
I will also be teaching some classes, including a lunch time improvisation class at the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge beginning June 26th. Visit https://www.artsbr.org/arts-classes for more information!
What can people expect in your Summer Class at the Arts Council?
I have spent the last 15 years researching modes of improvisation, and how they can work in various populations. Improvisational practice changed my approach to dancing and dance making, and also made me more aware of how I manage myself in any normal, day-to-day living. I will introduce improvisational modes in the class as a means to uncovering personal tendencies, discovering fresh movement pathways, and eventually find some meaning-making in the process.
Where can people follow your dance journey?