Yvonne Montoya is a mother, dancemaker, bi-national artist, thought leader, writer, speaker, and the founding director of Safos Dance Theatre. Based in Tucson, AZ and originally from Albuquerque, NM, her work is grounded in and inspired by the landscapes, languages, cultures, and aesthetics of the U.S. Southwest.
Montoya is a process-based dancemaker who creates low-tech, site-specific and site-adaptive pieces for nontraditional dance spaces. Though most well-known in the U.S. Southwest, her choreography has been staged across the United States and in Guatemala, and her dance films screened, at Queens University of Charlotte, NC and the University of Exeter (in the U.K.). In addition to being the founding director, Montoya is the lead choreographer for Safos Dance Theatre. Under her direction, the company won the Tucson Pima Arts Council’s Lumie Award for Emerging Organization (2015). She is currently working on Stories from Home, a series of dances based on her family’s oral histories.
From 2017-2018 Montoya was a Post-Graduate Fellow in Dance at Arizona State University, where she founded and organized the inaugural Dance in the Desert: A Gathering of Latinx Dancemakers. Montoya is a 2019-2020 Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Fellow, a member of the 2019-2020 Dance/USA Fellowships to Artists pilot program, and a recipient of the 2019 National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC) POD grant, the 2020 MAP Fund Award, and the first Arizona-based artist to receive the 2020 New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA) National Dance Project Production Grant. Montoya won the Arizona Creative Excellence Award at the 2021 Arizona Drive-In Dance Film Festival. In 2022, her company Safos Dance Theatre received the National Performance Network Creation Fund Grant and the National Endowment for the Arts Grants for Arts Project Grant for her piece Stories from Home. She was also recently featured in KQED’s If Cities Could Dance.
Awards & Recognitions
National Performance Network Development Grant
Arizona Creative Excellence Award
Arizona Drive-In Dance Film Festival
Southwest Folk Alliance
Projecting All Voices
Arizona State University
Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts
National Dance Project Production Grant
The MAP Fund
Nominee: Arizona Governor's Arts Awards
Individual Artist Category
National Association for Latino Arts and Cultures POD Grant
Who's Next: Art list
Recognized as one of 24 up an coming artists in Arizona by The Arizona Republic & azcentral
Best Art Film
3 Minute Film Fest
Tucson Fringe Festival
Lumie: Emerging Arts Organization
Safos Dance Theatre
Tucson Pima Arts Council
September 7-11, 2021 Yvonne was an artist in residence at the REACH at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. She will be working with the cast to create the final dance for Stories from Home.
Summer 2017, Yvonne and her then 8 year old son Buddy were artists in residence during the family residency at SPACE on Ryder Farm in Brewster, NY. At SPACE, Yvonne completed the piece Braceros that is a part of her larger work Stories from Home.
September 2018, Yvonne was a guest choreographer at Grand Canyon University created Uprooted, a ensemble dance piece on senior dance students for their fall concert.
Fall 2018, Yvonne was a guest choreographer at Tucson Magnet High School in Tucson, AZ where she worked with students teaching master classes and working with student choreographers to co-create the ensemble piece Farewell for the fall concert.
In the Community
In 2018, Yvonne Montoya worked with the Binational Arts Residency as the local choreographer collaborating with Ana Maria Alvarez, award-winning dancer, choreographer, and founder of CONTRA-TIEMPO Urban Dance Latin Theater, Xanthia Walker of Rising Youth Theater, Adriana "Bibi" Harris of Bibi Dansuer Academy, Juan Luis Angeles González of Ballet Angeles de Agua Prieta, and M. Jenea Sánchez of Border Arts Corridor. The project culminated with a dance performance that took place on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border fence in Douglas, AZ and Agua Prieta, MEX.
Under the umbrella of Safos Dance Theatre, Montoya directed the following arts education residencies for youth and seniors in under served communities such as the City of South Tucson, west Tucson, and on the Pascua Yaqui reservation.
Dance in the Barrio: Storytelling and Art, a performing arts program for senior citizens in the City of South Tucson. 2014-2015.
Color the Mural: Arts Education Residency, a week-long mural art residency program in the City of South Tucson. Summer 2014.
Youth in the Barrio: Dance in the Community, two dance theatre and alcohol prevention residencies in the City of South Tucson and Ochoa Elementary School. Summer and Fall 2013.
Performance Poetry en Vivo: From Page to Stage and Beyond, a poetry dance theater residency at Pistor Middle School and Hiaki High School on the Pascua Yaqui Reservation.
Yvonne worked as Adjunct Faculty at the University of Arizona’s Department of Mexican American Studies (MAS) from 2006-2012 where she taught classes and oversaw student research on Chicano and Latine representations.
She is as an independent writer and researcher.
Yvonne presented the following papers at various academic conferences.
Stories from Home: Siglos. Sueños. Sefarad. presented at the Western Jewish Studies Association Conference in Las Vegas (digitally) in 2021.
The Traditional and the Contemporary: Embodied Research on the Folk Dances of Northern New Mexico presented at the Indígenas, africanos, roma y europeos. Ritmos transatlánticos en música, canto y baile Conference in Veracruz, México in 2019.
The performative academic paper Who Takes Center Stage?: Xicana Epistemologies in Contemporary Dance at El Mundo Zurdo conference in San Antonio, TX in 2018.
Additionally, Yvonne facilitated both qualitative (focus groups) and quantitative (pre and post surveys) research conducted at the inaugural Dance in the Desert at 2018.
She was also invited to speak as a Movement Research Studies Project Participant on the panel An Ethics of (Talking About) Watching in NYC.
Yvonne Montoya is an original member of the Decolonial Epistemologies Dance Lab organized by Fabiola Torralba.
Wishes, Longing & Heartbreak a solo and group piece commissioned by Dr. Jacqueline Barrios for the Big Books Book of the City Project. Developed in collaboration with the dancers and the Big Books team, 2022.
Stories from Home: COVID-19 Addendum Act 1 a series of five dance films that emerged as a response to the pandemic, experiences of social isolation, and quarantine. The films exemplify personal and nuances stories from home while sharing embodied testimonies of family, love, and the inevitable change in the era of COVID-19.
Duality: Ometeotl A mobile site adaptive performance ritual created for the Desert Botanical Garden's Día de los Muertos Celebration, 2018.
Uprooted A large group piece created for and with Grand Canyon University's Graduating Seniors, 2018.
Braceros: An Excerpt of Stories from Home. Choreography created in loving memory of created in loving memory of my father Juan "Johnny" Montoya. Produced by Safos Dance Theatre and Urban Bush Women, 2018.
20: An Excerpt of Stories from Home. Site adaptive choreography designed for performance in spaces without fourth walls. Produced by Safos Dance Theatre, 2018.
Deslenguadas: An Excerpt of Stories from Home. Rework in progress.
Decolonial Epistemologies Dance Lab Showing #1: Time, Space, Roots. A collaboration across space and time with Fabiola Torralba and Mireya Guerra, 2017.
Digna. Movement for a play produced by Digna Theater, 2017.
Reflections. Choreography for the MPA Project, 2016.
The Ghosts of Lote Bravo. Choreography for a play produced by Borderlands Theater, 2016.
Barrio Stories. Choreography for a play produced by Borderlands Theater, 2016.
Aguas. Restaged by Safos Dance Theatre, 2016.
Mas. Choreography for a play produced by Borderlands Theater, 2015.
Las Comadres. Choreography for Dancing the Mural produced by Safos Dance Theatre, 2015.
La Troquita. Choreography for Dancing the Mural produced by Safos Dance Theatre, 2015.
Yvonne collaborated with the following artists and organizations: Thom Lewis, Bobby LeFebre, Armando Castellano, Quinteto Latino, the Latina Dance Theatre Project, Borderlands Theater, Raices Taller 222 Art Gallery, the Esperanza Dance Project, Dia V Tucson, the John Valenzuela Youth Center, Mission View Elementary School, the House Neighborly Service, and Musical Mayhem Theater.
In 2022, she was commissioned by Dr. Jacqueline Barrios to create new work for The Book of the City project. The Book of the City is a new exhibition featuring projects by a team of scholars, artists and designers who use David Copperfield (1850) to anchor a site-specific “field studio” in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. From digital installation to performance, sonic experiments to film, cartography to micro-publication, the exhibition explores questions about the relationship between arts and public-engagement, literature and everyday places, and authors and readers.