For Trystan Loucado, nothing is more genuine than a bathroom.

“It is the most honest version of ourselves,” he said. “It’s a great equalizer, because we all use the bathroom. It’s an even playing field for connecting with people.”

Loucado, a competitor in the San Diego Young Choreographers Showcase and Prize 2012 on Sunday, has created a dance inspired by what happens in a bathroom: brushing teeth, bathing or using the toilet.

This is not the first time Loucado has put some serious artistic thought toward a bathroom. He has a contracting license and used to remodel kitchens and bathrooms before discovering dance at the age of 19, when he needed an excuse to be around a girl he liked. After watching him drop into a perfect split on his first attempt, the instructor made sure he enrolled in the ballet classes.

And now he’s making a piece that explores what actions in a bathroom reveal about the humans who use them.

We’re looking forward to watching how he’ll do that. Loucado’s one of three choreographers we’re following as this weekend’s showcase gets closer. Eleven dances by choreographers between the ages of 18 and 35 will compete for a chance to win a top prize of $3,000 and two runner-up prizes of $1,000.

In the early 1900s, dancers began to rebel against the strict rules and shoes and costumes of traditional ballet. The dance forms that emerged in the century since leave a lot up to the choreographer to convey and express an idea, an emotion, an aspect of the human condition.

So learning about the choreographers, as we’re doing this week, helps us have a better framework for what emotion they might be trying to convey in the pieces we’ll watch unfold.

Loucado is 26 years old. The dance he’s making takes some direction from his life. He shared a bathroom with his three sisters growing up. “That’s the superficial direction I’m coming from,” he said.

But it’s quite common for choreographers to get skittish about telling an audience in literal terms, “This is what my dance is about.” They’re making dance, after all — something that tries to convey or express something often without words.

Despite discovering dance late, this has become a passion. “I feel really lucky I didn’t start until that point in my life,” Loucado said. “My body doesn’t have the typical wear and tear.”

He dances at Jean Isaacs San Diego Dance Theater, the company that’s putting on the showcase, and at City Ballet.

“From the first moment I experienced dance, I couldn’t imagine not doing it,” he said. “Movement doesn’t lie; you are what you are. It’s just such a truth. I like that.”


Photo by Sam Hodgson

Zaquia Salinas is 21 years old and doesn’t know life without dance. She began dancing as a 3-year-old in preschool, then took class after class ever since — mostly in ballet but now she choreographs and performs mostly modern.

Salinas has a bunch of paintings of dying people and images of rigor mortis saved on her iPad right now.

She’s toting the images as a kind of muse for the dance she’s making, inspired by how much thought humans and cultures around the world give to the idea of what happens to the body and to the soul when we die.

With three dancers, she wants to explore the physical side of dying, the spiritual side and the role of a figure that seems to appear in many religions — the character that transports you from life to death.

“So we’ve been playing with that and what role does that play in the passage of your spirit into the other world and what happens to your body when your spirit leaves your body?” she said.

But Salinas doesn’t want to lock an audience member into thinking there’s a literal storyline to follow as her dance unfolds. “It’s not a story necessarily but I hope that maybe the audience gets a feeling or a sense of that greatness or the expansiveness of that process,” she said.

Salinas graduated high school early and just graduated last spring from UC Santa Barbara with her degree in dance.

“In the time I was away I realized how much I very much enjoy and love to be a part of the dance community here in the city,” she said. “I think we have a really great dance community, a really vibrant community.”


Photo by Sam Hodgson

Melissa Adao is most at home in hip-hop. But she’s making a dance fusing that style with African and modern dance, a ways out of her comfort zone, to introduce herself to the audience on Sunday.

Adao doesn’t know any of the other choreographers in the showcase. “This is a community where nobody knows me,” she said. “I want to be able to have relationships with them.”

Her hopes to break into a new scene couldn’t come in a busier month.

She’s teaching six hip-hop and modern classes at Mesa and Grossmont colleges. Her charity organization, Outreach Through Dance, has a benefit for veterans this weekend. She’s judging a hip-hop competition at a North County hip-hop studio. She’s choreographing a music video at the end of the month.

“March is just the craziest month,” she said.

And in between, the 32-year-old is wrangling seven of her students to learn and perform the new piece she’s making.

She was born and raised here, dancing since high school. But she was nearly always in the hip-hop realm, which might as well be another world. Her first experience in modern dance was when she was studying dance at San Diego State University.

“At first I didn’t want to do it,” she said. “The modern I’d been exposed to was too out-there.”

But then some teachers gave Adao something to imagine while she moved in certain ways, or asked her to exude a particular emotion coming out through movement. Somehow those clicked, and she began coming up with a more personal expression. In hip-hop, she said, she’d previously learned much more by rote — watch the choreographer and memorize the moves in succession.

“I didn’t understand the intention — the how, the why of how modern dance is created,” she said. “But if I wanted to have dance as my career I knew I had to have an open mind. Believe it or not, I loved it so much.”

A week before the competition, Adao said she’s thinking about it every day.

“I’m really nervous about the show, but I’m also just thankful to be surrounded among other dope artists,” she said.

Stay tuned in the coming days as we learn how each of these three teaches dancers how to make the piece come to life. The Young Choreographers Showcase is Sunday, March 25.

Kelly Bennett and Allie Daugherty write about arts for VOSD. You can reach them directly at or , or by calling 619.325.0531.

And follow Behind the Scene on Facebook.

Kelly Bennett is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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