Francesca Ty Esperanza has performed frequently with the All One Tribe dance troupe, a dance production started by Bengie Santos, that explored cross cultural issues by fusing Asian, African, Native American and Pacific Islander dance styles. The performances were known for sending the message of diversity and multiculturalism through highly accessible public events. Esperanza has also served as Partnership Specialist for the Seattle regional office of the U.S. Census Bureau.
Can you explain what kind of mission your dance had?
Esperanza: Our dance was a movement of trying to bring together different communities. So often, dance was just hip hop or just ballet, but we did a lot of mixing traditional dance forms with all different mixes of tribes and cultures. We did a lot of performances for community leaders, like former King County Executive Ron Sims, and for public events, so we really wanted that message of diversity to be heard.
What was your own personal inspiration for dancing?
Esperanza: It was my passion to dance, even though I didn’t have any formal training. I couldn’t afford to go to dance lessons from an early age, so I would just randomly go once a month or so in high school. I started going to the local events because they were free, and did performances with All One Tribe, learning Bengie Santos’ choreography and style. Bengie was so inspiring to me. Dancing was my passion, but it also served the community in an artistic way. We addressed a lot of important social issues, such as domestic violence, human trafficking, as well as showing that we need to know more about each other’s cultures. And it was just a lot of fun. There’s nothing better than following your passion and being able to promote social change.
How far do you think you were able to go in achieving social change?
Esperanza: Our dance really brought a bunch of different people together: native, Japanese, Chinese, African, Cuban. It was really moving. When we performed with different audiences, we did it for older and young people, so it was really a group of people from all ages. To me, that was so rewarding — the fact that we addressed issues that were hard to talk about. We also addressed a lot of basic humanity issues that everyone could relate to — death, birth, family, love and heartbreak.
Where did your drive come from? What obstacles did you have to overcome?
Esperanza: I feel like I got started really late. I used to watch my mother when she would dance with a ballet company in the Phillippines. When we came over to the U.S., it was really hard as first-generation immigrants, and I didn’t really have the time or money to do things like dance. I wanted to go out for the Pacific Northwest Ballet, but I knew I wasn’t the right height and weight. So what was nice about All One Tribe is that we were all different shapes and sizes and cultures, and we didn’t have to mold to the American dance standard — we were just doing what we loved. I don’t think I could’ve been able to dance with any other company. You often have to start out with formal training to be in these big dance companies, and that privilege is tied to a certain income level. But I received my formal training while I was actually dancing with a troupe.
What sort of advice would you give to someone looking to start out in the arts?
Esperanza: I’d say, just keep following your passions. I think if people continue following their passions and dream, doors are opening now for everyone. People can be groomed if they have the resources, the access and if someone will take the time to teach them. I really encourage people to not give up and not be deterred by their age or their experience. You can definitely still learn as long as you put time into it and practice and put your heart into it. Even older people are performing out there in theater groups, and community performances. That’s what has changed now.