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Dance in the Desert

Dance in the Desert: A Gathering of Latinx Dancemakers was founded in 2017 by Yvonne Montoya.


The goal of Dance in the Desert is to support and uplift Latine dance artists in Arizona and beyond. Since 2018, Dance in the Desert gathered Latinx dancemakers from Tucson, Phoenix, and Douglas, AZ for a series of research initiatives, master classes, professional development workshops, and to support the incubation of new dances. Dance in the Desert centers local dance makers while investing in our own communities.


Safos Dance Theatre, Liz Lerman LLC, and Erin Donohue are ongoing project partners who have been working on the initiative since its inception. Yvonne continues to be a co-organizer and co-administrator on the project.

DITD addresses systemic deficits in dance in the Southwest by providing a space that redresses geographic isolation and centers local expertise.


Dance in the Desert returned May 2022 with an in person gathering and binational dance exchange that took place in Douglas, AZ and Agua Prieta, México. The gathering featured professional development workshops and master dance classes of various dance styles on both sides of the border. Master classes were free and open to the Douglas and Agua Prieta communities.

This gathering was the first binational gathering of Dance in the Desert, connecting AZ-based Latinx dance artists with Mexican dance artists. Twenty choreographers and dancers were invited from the following Arizona communities: Tucson, Douglas(US)/Agua Prieta(MX), Phoenix. DITD master classes are free open to the Douglas/Agua Prieta community. Approximately 300 local dance artists attended.

This project is supported in part by the Ford Foundation, the Arizona Community Foundation, the Flinn Foundation’s Arizona Creative Communities Follow-On Grant, a program administered by the Arizona Commission on the Arts, an agency of the State of Arizona, the Arts Foundation for Tucson and Southern Arizona with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts Federal CARES, City of Tucson, and Pima County, and the Dance in the Desert community! Safos Dance Theatre is supported in part by an American Rescue Plan Act grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to support general operating expenses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.


In 2021, the Dance in the Desert community met virtually in a series of quarterly online Happy Hours. During the Happy Hours, dancers shared resources including information about upcoming grants, online performances, calls for artists, and the like. Each Happy Hour ended with a short dance class led by a member of the Dance in the Desert community.


Dance in the Desert  2020 was set to take place the first weekend of May in Douglas, AZ/Agua Prieta, SON, México. Due to COVID19, the gathering was postponed until January 2022.

Instead of an in person gathering, Dance in the Desert 2020 offered a series of free professional development webinars that are open to the Latinx and Arizona dance communities. To view those webinars, click here



Latinx dancemakers from across Arizona gathered in Tucson from May 15-19, 2019, for the second annual convening of Dance in the Desert.


This was a unique opportunity for the Latinx dance community to come together, deepen relationships, and expand research for the field.


Dance in the Desert 2019 engaged Arizona-based Latinx choreographers and dancers in a choreography retreat and professional development series that supported the development of new work.


The gathering featured workshops by renown choreographers Liz Lerman and Ana Maria Alvarez.


Yvonne Montoya seeks to deepen the conversation around the community’s unique assets and potential.

Dance writer J. Soto authored an article about Dance in the Desert that was published in the Grantmaker in the Arts GIA Reader Summer 2020 Edition. The article begins on page 32.

Dance in the Desert 2019 Collaborating Partners were Yvonne Montoya, Safos Dance Theatre, Erin Donohue, Liz Lerman LLC, Gabriela Muñoz and Anna Needham, AZ ArtWorker A program of the Arizona Commission on the Arts funded by the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation with additional support from the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures and Projecting All Voices, a program of Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts supported by ASU Gammage.

For more information about Dance in the Desert 2019, click here.












Conceived and organized by Tucson-based choreographer and dancer Yvonne Montoya, Dance in the Desert brought Latinx dancemakers together for three-day gathering Inaugural convening held in Phoenix, April 26-28, 2018.  


Dance in the Desert included a choreographer’s jam, meetings among dancemakers and arts administrators, and research interviews. The three-day convening concluded  with a community share-out and public reception.  


Dance in the Desert arrived at a critical point for Latinx dancemakers: a moment of aesthetic innovation grounded in the experiences of Latinx communities.



Yvonne envisions the gathering as a pilot for future Latinx dance initiatives. To realize her vision, Yvonne engaged a diverse set of partners, including Safos Dance Theatre; AZ ArtWorker, an initiative of the Arizona Commission on the Arts funded by a grant from the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation; Liz Lerman LLC; Phoenix Hostel & Cultural Center; and Projecting All Voices, an initiative launched by ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and supported by ASU Gammage.


This project received support from WESTAF and the National Endowment for the Arts. The inaugural Dance in the Desert occurred during Montoya's post-graduate fellowship at Arizona State University. For more information click here.



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