Sabor Sessions: CONTRA TIEMPO

Organization Name: CONTRA-TIEMPO

City: Los Angeles

Program Name: Sabor Sessions/Get Downs & Choreographic Labs

Time of Program: 6-8pm

Program Length: Sabor Sessions--50 minutes; Choreographic Labs--2 hours

Program When Elaborate: These programs were offered weekly (Sabor Sessions) and monthly (Choreographic Labs), leading up to a show. Sabor Sessions continue beyond the show.

Goal: For the Sabor Sessions: To build community, increase participants' creative confidence and sense of themselves as creative change makers, to enhance participants' feeling of overall well-being For the Choreographic Labs: To share work in progress for community feedback (to ensure relevance and accountability of our work), to engage participants in movement making, to create a space to share stories and build empathy.

Time of Year Offered: All year

Program Description:

For Sabor Sessions: Two teaching artists introduce themselves and engage participants in a series of call-and-response warm up games. Then the teaching artists begin introducing the history and basic steps of a dance form (Salsa, Salsa Rueda, Hip-Hop, House, or Afro-Cuban). Participants dance, either learning a simple combination or moving across the floor following the teacher. The class typically ends in either a cypher or a series of common "line dances," depending on the energy and people in the room. Teaching artists are trained to do a "temperature read" of the room, at least at the start and middle of class, to assess whether to continue with the plan, or move into a more unstructured plan. Some Sabor Sessions end with food sharing and conversation, depending on what the participants the previous week asked for.
For Choreographic Labs: Participants and company members are all seated in a circle. A dancer introduces the company and describes the general flow of the session. Then the company performs about 15 minutes of work-in-progress in the middle of the circle. A dancer asks the participants for feedback. What did they see? What did they feel? What stories do they think were being told? What resonated with them? What do they have questions about? What is not sitting well with them? All comments are received--sometimes there is conversation between participants and each other or with the company. The goal here is to simply understand what people experienced, in order to inform the continued development of the work.
After feedback, we move into group movement work. This looks different ways, depending on what the company is trying to work through, ourselves. For example, we have had the entire group "flock"--following whoever in the group decides to lead a movement. We have had people get in groups of 5 or 8 and create a short movement story made up of movements that each person contributes, then lovingly "battle" other groups. We have had groups of 10 create movement scenes about different themes like "resistance." After groups create their work, they share with the larger group. Depending on time, the group energy, and our particular goal for the day, we either end after the movement piece, or we move into Council. Council is a story sharing practice that has everyone share a personal story in response to an open ended prompt (learn more at The prompt might be something like, "Share a memory about your favorite food." Depending on group size, we might split into smaller Council circles, do a "spiral circle," or have everyone together. Council typically lasts 45 minutes to one hour. At the end of Council we ask each person to go around the circle to share one word or one phrase that captures how they feel in that moment, or something that really resonated with them. We then end with giving gratitude to the group.

Number of Participants: Sabor Session: 2-35. Choreographic Labs: 25-60.

Target Audience: Both programs are designed to reach intergenerational audiences, from elementary age to elderly.

Private/Public Public

Nature of Audience Engagement: Participants dance, watch a performance, give verbal feedback, create their own movement work, and share personal stories.

Location: Recreation Centers Classrooms or meeting rooms in union halls, schools, etc. (anywhere where furniture is moveable or removeable)

How Many Staff: For Sabor Sessions: 2 teaching artists welcome/greet participants, teach the class, and administer the final survey. For Choreographic Labs: All company members perform, and typically one member will lead or give instructions for each subsequent activity or conversation, rotating through the company so each person has a chance to lead.

Program Cost: All company members are paid $75 to teach a Sabor Session, and they are paid $100 to participate in a Choreographic Lab. We have have spent up to $200 on light refreshments for Choreographic Labs, when we knew there would be a lot of people, and when the Lab took place during dinner time.

Marketing for Program: Sabor Sessions and Choreographic Labs are marketed through the Recreation Center they're hosted at, through our social media, and through the e-mail newsletters and social media of our partner organizations.

Cost for Program Participants: Both programs are free to the public.

Attendance To Date: 953

Past Iterations: We have held Sabor Sessions weekly since May 2017, and Choreographic Labs each month since July 2017.

What works? Being flexible with the plan for Sabor Sessions and for the group movement/Council portions of Choreographic Labs is key. It is imperative to been really cued into how participants are feeling, to the energy of what's happening in the space (even what's going on in the community), and to unspoken body language. We have changed plans so many times, because either there were fewer or more people than expected, because the cultural dynamics in the room shifted (predominantly Spanish speakers with a few Black participants one week, for example--then the opposite the next week), because the community was dealing with a larger issue (an incident of police violence, for example), or because participants were really feeling one activity and we didn't want to change that joyous momentum. We always train to have multiple options and approaches to pull from.

What doesn't work? Changing instructors did not work. For Sabor Sessions, there was a period when the company was on tour, and another when the lead teaching artist had an injury, so we had subs come in to teach the classes. We lost a lot of momentum during those periods, because people had formed relationships with a group of teaching artists, so were coming to continue to connect with those people as much as they were coming for the classes themselves.

Continuing Program? We will continue to offer Sabor Sessions, but we know it isn't sustainable for our company to do it every week of the year, because of our touring schedule. So, we will create a schedule that works for us. We will continue to use Choreographic Labs as we create new evening-length work, because after using them for 4 years, we have found them to really help make our work stronger and more reflective of the audiences we try to engage.

Resources & Links:

Here is a video that gives a snapshot one of our choreographic labs. You get a sense of the energy in the room:

Target Audiences General Audiences Families or kid-friendly

Dance 101 Participation - moving

Social Bonding Aspects With artists - meeting a choreographer, dancers