Alumni Spotlight: Marina Lopez


Photo by Justin Maxon

Photo by Justin Maxon

Marina Lopez began her movement training at three years old and has studied multiple forms of dance from modern technique to Lindy Hop, Flamenco, Capoeira and Appalachian Clogging. Through her study of traditional world dance, she has cultivated a greater appreciation and understanding of her Mexican heritage as well as the stories each dance tells. For Marina, dance is about more than just the steps; the beauty lies in the stories that place the movements in a socio-historical context that is unique to each culture. At sixteen she began her professional career with The Vanaver Caravan as a performer, as well as, coordinating and teaching in Arts Education programs around the globe.

Marina is a New York State Licensed and California Certified massage therapist and is perusing her B.A. in Neuroscience and Trauma Studies at Goddard College. She is a co-founder of Shakti Caravan, an international group of visual and performing artists who are united by a big mission to enhance cultural understanding and create social change through movement and the arts. 

Marina wrote a beautiful, thoughtful, and eloquent response to each of the questions below. Here are just some excerpts.

Mina! What age did you start dancing with The Vanaver Caravan? As soon as I turned four, my mom made sure that I was enrolled in Livia’s creative movement class. . .  I still remember the exhilaration of running across the creaky wooden stage of the Studley Theatre, thick velvet wing curtains a blur as I sped, eyes fixed on Livia; my small hands waiting for the upward and equal force of her hands in mine, propelling me upwards. A moment of pure ecstasy. (Read the rest of Marina's answer here...) 

For how long did you study/perform/work for TVC? . . . I spent close to twenty years as a consistent member of the Vanaver team: as a dance institute student, a dancer in the Youth Company, a member of the professional company, a teaching artist, and as an administrator. In the last four years of living in Northern California, I have had the privilege of returning to perform with the Company on a few occasions: always amazed to see the younger generations growing gorgeously into incredible people and performers alike, just like generations before. (Read more...) 

In what ways has The Vanaver Caravan mpacted/shaped the life you live today? In every way. What Livia and Bill do is an incredible manifestation of all of the ways in which dance can be a connective point and catalyst for creating and maintaining community. Growing up with them as my dance and music parents as well as my God parents, they have nurtured a desire to find those connective points in person and place alike. (Read more...)

Tell us a story! Can you share an event, memory, funny anecdote, or quote from your history with Livia and Bill & the rest of The 'Caravan?  Wow, there are so many. Life in the caravan never lacks adventure, and has a way of drawing out the humor no matter how jet lagged, lost, or small the stage is. One that always makes me laugh involves Bill’s navigation system he named Simone (this was before smartphones). Simone was programmed to only speak French, and was a staple in the ‘Vana-van.’ On this particular evening, we were lost leaving a venue, and of the six or seven of us in the van, none of us knew what Simone was saying. With each wrong turn, her French words pleaded more desperately. For what? I could not tell you. I can’t remember how we found our way, but here I am to write about it, so it must have worked out! I just love that Bill was set on learning French from his navigation system.

Do you have a favorite song/dance that you learned with The Vanaver Caravan? Deportee. It is a gorgeous piece from Pastures of Plenty: Woody Guthrie in Dance and Music. Over the years my rendering of the movements and meaning has significantly changed for me, but my love and connection to it remains deeply visceral. (Read more...)

One last question...

Recognizing that the arts often communicate what words fail to express, the mission of The Vanaver Caravan is to inspire, through dance and music, the harmonious co-existence of world cultures and traditions, to promote peace and celebrate our humanity.
— The Vanaver Caravan Mission

... Do you feel that your experience with The Vanaver Caravan reflects our mission statement? In what ways?  The Vanaver Caravan is an organization that authentically embodies their mission and vision. Their work as pioneers in Arts Education provides children (across socio-economic backgrounds, age, and gender) access to a greater understanding of the diverse ways of being, knowing, and expressing that exist in this world. So much of compulsory education is geared toward visual and auditory learners, who are expected to sit still while engaging information. TVC's Arts-Education residencies provide the opportunity to activate the brain through movement and enlist the use of kinesthetic learning styles. Children are given the chance to connect with each other through healthy touch and a shared excitement and camaraderie. Equally as important is the connection that is made to the academic information that is now tied to a visceral experience. (Read More...) 

Psst! Marina had so much more to say about The Vanaver Caravan. Read the rest of her beautiful responses. >>>

Marina, thank you for all the passionate work you have contributed to TVC over the years. This company wouldn't be what it is without you. 

What's all this about? See our Spring Fund-Drive 2018 Letter of Giving

One of the common threads in any thriving, happy, peaceful society, is a feeling among the people, of belonging and being understood. The Vanaver Caravan provides workshops, performances, and on-going school programs that directly help people understand and connect to one-another. 

This spring, our goal is to fill our alumni scholarship fund, which will help bring new students of lower means into our after school and summer programs--into our dance community. 

We have a lot of alumni. Over 50,000 students and dancers across the globe, from more than 1,000 schools. We couldn't get in touch with every one of them, but we have reached out to some of our alumni to see how they are using their Vanaver Caravan teachings to make an impact in the world.