I told the children
at University Hill Elementary School in Boulder,
Colorado, that I was leaving them to study dance at ucla, one of them protested,
“But you’re already one of the best dancers in the whole school!” She was a dancer
from Tumbao, the children’s dance group I had created at the school. I wanted
to understand more about Mexicanness and dance in the United States, and I
had decided to go to graduate school to do so. Uprooting myself from the chil-
dren and my job as a bilingual elementary school teacher to begin a life in aca-
demia was one of the hardest things I have ever done. The love letters sent to Los
Angeles from Tumbao’s dancers filled my heart and kept me focused.
My adored teachers of baile popular, Carmen Nelson and Liliana Valle,
attuned me to the politics of dancing. Marta Savigliano, Alicia Arrizón, Susan
Leigh Foster, Chon Noriega, and Christopher Waterman, scholars from the
University of California, not only generously guided the early dissertation ver-
sion of this project, but they inspired and critiqued many of the ideas developed
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