Today we’d like to introduce you to Alvin Rangel.
Alvin, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I grew up in Puerto Rico. The summer after graduating from high school (at age 16), I began studying ballet and jazz. A friend encouraged me to take dance classes. I initially went to college for Aerospace Engineering, but since I had fallen in love with dance, I switched majors to Education – English as Second Language so I would have time to perform and train in dance. I began dancing professionally ballet and jazz at the age of 18.
At 20, I considered if I’d sustain a long-term career in dance; I decided to pause dance in order to prioritize my academic career. I obtained a fellowship from my university to work and study in Washington, D.C. In D.C., I held a 5-month internship at the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans, where we worked on a report for at the time President Clinton on the status of Hispanic education from Kindergarten to Higher Education. While in D.C. I took dance classes and watch dance performance at the Kennedy Center.
After seeing the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, I knew that I wanted to focus on dance. In D.C. I auditioned for the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music to study dance. I was accepted and spent a year there. Because I came from a humble background, I was afraid to embark on going to college in the U.S. because the financial burden would fall completely on me. I built up the courage and went to Ohio to train full time in dance.
In Cincinnati, I grew immensely as an artist, and to make ends meet I worked evenings at the UC Alumni center calling alumni for pledges to the various colleges. My second job was at a Blockbuster. At the end of my first year studying in Cincinnati, I knew I wanted to audition for professional dance companies. After auditioning to several prestigious ballet and modern companies, I landed a job with the internationally renowned Dayton Contemporary Dance Company for which I dance for almost a decade. Still to this day, I collaborate with the company as a teacher, dancer, and choreographer.
Once I left the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, I returned to Puerto Rico to complete my education degree. As I completed my Bachelor’s Degree in Puerto Rico, I continued performing, teaching and choreographing for Andanza (Puerto Rico’s premier contemporary dance company). After two years in Puerto Rico, I was recruited by a school district in Houston to teach in public schools. I moved to Houston and taught ESL, Language Arts, Spanish and Teen Leadership.
In Houston, I continued teaching dance at private studios and performing as a guest artist for Ad Deum Dance. I knew my heart was in dance, so after teaching in the public schools for three years, I enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin to complete a Masters of Fine Arts in Dance. I continued to train, teach dance and perform while doing my graduate work at UT-Austin.
Upon graduating, I applied for 15 dance faculty jobs across the country and landed the position at California State University, Fullerton. I have been there for 6 years now, and continue to teach and perform around the world.
Has it been a smooth road?
It has been a rough ride. My first barrier was financial. I come from a humble working-class family where our resources were extremely limited, so I had to find ways to pay and support my training and education. I had to navigate racial discrimination once I moved into the USA (Mid-West). It has been also a challenge breaking social and career expectations for a Latino man.
Needless to say, there were many rejections at auditions, jobs, events, and opportunities, but I was always determined to focus on the positive and remain strong. GRIT is what has gotten me to where I am, and of course, there have been many “angels,” individuals that inspired me and helped me at various points in my life; without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
In sum, the bad and positive experiences were all necessary to get me to this point in my life.
We’d love to hear more about what you do.
I am first and foremost an educator. In my work, I am not only teaching dance skills. I am also cultivating a way of life by teaching dancers that through their dancing they can embody compassion, collaboration, work ethic, patience, and empathy. Dance can be a transformative vehicle; the skills learned through dance training are invaluable to living in a civil just world.
I am the artistic director of In-Version Dance project; is a dance ensemble that presents dance from emerging and established choreographers. It contributes to new platforms for contemporary dance that bear witness to the human experience, while engaging individuals and communities. We want risk. We want authentic story-telling. We want athleticism with fluidity, power in subtlety. We want to relate to our audience through movement.
The repertory includes live productions and performances for traditional theater venues, as well as in alternative spaces and film. In-Version Dance Project aims to establish multidisciplinary collaborations with visual artists, videographers, musicians, designers, and composers.
Is our city a good place to do what you do?
There are phenomenal dancers and dance companies in Los Angeles, yet the funding infrastructure does not support the growth of the arts non-profit sector. I wouldn’t discourage anyone from starting their dance company because I believe we need more art. But as artists we need to educate our communities on how to think, participate, fund, and support the arts, most specifically dance.
- Address: 800 N. State College Blvd
Fullerton, CA 92831
- Website: www.alvinrangel.net
- Email: email@example.com