Ximena Mandujano is a senior in Communication Arts and Sciences (CAS) with a passion for dancing. Merriam Webster defines “dance” as “to move one’s body rhythmically usually to music: to engage in or perform a dance,” which is fascinating. Mandujano’s family comes from Mexico, so she was raised surrounded by Chicano culture. She describes herself as “family oriented.” Her love for dancing comes in part from this background, as she said, “ever since I was a kid, I don’t remember a time when we weren’t at a family event or social event where we weren’t dancing.” She quickly realized that her talent surpassed that of her family. Though she loves them, she mentioned that she wouldn’t consider any to be particularly good at the art form.
Mandujano uses dance as a form of self-expression and an agent of change. She is part of the Dance Production program at Berkeley High School (BHS) and creates her own pieces for herself and others to dance to. Besides being a part of Dance Production at BHS, Mandujano is active in the Destiny Arts Youth Performance Company, where she dances in many local performances. Often, these pieces are political or call for social change. She has been using dance to take part in the Black Lives Matter movement, explaining that she feels “you can say a lot with just a two minute dance.” To her it’s not just a pastime, but a mode of communication.
Dancing at Destiny Arts has been a wonderful experience for her, although things have been tricky recently due to COVID-19 restrictions. They have been unable to create pieces involving multiple people, and rehearsals have moved from the usual “hot and sweaty studio” to the more drab and less smelly environment of Zoom. Hope is perhaps on the horizon, because their first in-person meeting was last week, albeit socially distanced. For Mandujano this is very exciting.
A great tragedy of the pandemic has been the downfall of performance arts; Broadway has been dark, theatres of all kinds across the country are shut down, and people can’t get together to rehearse and create art. However, it is heartening to see people coming together again to hone the particular art of dancing. It is unclear exactly what the future of performing arts will look like throughout the pandemic, but Mandujano knows that her future lies in making her way to the holy grail of dancing: Disneyland. She makes time for a Disneyland trip every year and has come to love watching the parades and performances of Mickey and his motley crew. To be part of the Disneyland performance team is a great aspiration of hers — she already has it planned out — but she still wonders how her uses of dance, such as in protest and for civil rights, could mix with this kind of career. Mandujano hopes that she can use her art to inspire and change the world. She will use her dance for good, not evil.