Artist of the Week Ari Mosqueda ’25 on Thinking Outside the Box

I was a bit overwhelmed when I met Ari Mosqueda ’25 in Shane Lounge. Admittedly, I’m not the most knowledgeable about dance. Ironically, Ari had the same feelings when she began her dance career at Swarthmore. 

“My family [members] are social dancers and Mexican, so I’m definitely used to Banda. But, though I had some informal experience, I was really interested in hip-hop,” she said. “In my freshman year of high school I started watching choreographers like Matt Steffanina and Alexander Chung on YouTube. I just learned from these videos until I finally took some dance classes in my senior year.”

One of those classes was on Zoom, and some of Ari’s classmates had ballet training. She was different: she had taught herself how to dance and was less acquainted with traditional styles. But she didn’t shy away from her peers. Instead, she learned from them.

“So at times, I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing. But it was really fun. I learned a lot through them [the other dancers] and got exposed to Modern. And I realized I enjoyed that too, even if I’m more focused on hip-hop,” she said.

Entering Swarthmore, Ari was used to practicing in her bedroom. She would observe her dances in a small mirror, conditioned to spatial confinement. In part, it made her gestures restricted. 

(Credit — Abby Chang)

“When I started taking classes here, my professor pointed out that I was restricting my movements. I made this little box for myself because it was what I was used to. So, even though I was standing on this large stage, I was still dancing as if I were in my room. I had to learn how to take up space,” she recalled.

Interestingly, I noticed Ari’s ability to maximize her space during the interview. While thinking of answers, I watched her fall into small, chair-sized dances. As our talk progressed, her movements became more natural and loose, and she began to expand outside the arms of her chair. Dance is like breathing to Ari and, like air, is pervasive in all of her extracurriculars. 

“I played a lot of soccer in high school and it’s a form of dance itself. When we’d practice movements with the ball, it was really no different than choreography,” she said.

However, to Ari, dance supersedes its physical form. Currently, in her Cross-Cultural Dance class, she’s learning about the historical implications of dance. Her readings on the US banning indigenous dances, in the name of heightening productivity, have made her wonder what stories lie behind her heritage. 

(Credit — Abby Chang)

“I’ve also begun to think about whether Mexican dance was possibly a form of government resistance in the past. Maybe it was also a form of community healing. I’d love to learn more about that. There’s a culture behind dance that involves more than just individual dancing,” she said.

For her screen dance class in her first year at Swarthmore, Ari explored the intersection of individual and collective experiences through dance. The class focused on the individual intersection of film and dance, and her professor tasked everyone with producing an original, taped choreography. In her video, Ari dances in an elevator that takes her to unrecognizable floors. Ari wanted to represent feeling lost as a first-generation student in college. While dancing alone, Ari expressed a distinct feeling many can identify with. Coming to Swarthmore was frightening because, unlike her childhood room, the college was a big stage.

(Credit — Abby Chang)

But Ari has embraced the diversity associated with a larger space. “I want to take an African diasporic dance class … and I’m a part of Rhythm ‘n Motion too. It’s been fun learning from my dance partner and using hard-hitting, hype moves,” Ari said. 

When I asked Ari about any lesson she learned from dance at Swarthmore, she emphasized letting go of perfectionism and Professor Clark’s motto of “practicing greatness.” 

Clearly, Ari listened to his advice. She cultivates greatness not only in her dance routine but also with the Center for Innovation and Leadership as a Stanford Fellow. 

“We focused on the disconnect between administration and students,” Ari said. “We noticed that most students had similar issues that weren’t being resolved and we wanted to learn more about why.” Though her work is unrelated, Ari noted that she wishes Swarthmore had more Latine-centered dance classes. “There aren’t that many latine dance classes. It’s something I wish they offered because I want more knowledge [of the styles].” 

As a sophomore, Ari isn’t entirely sure where her dance journey will lead her. But she’s excited to abandon boxes and take up as much space as possible. 

For those interested in seeing Ari’s choreography, her Instagram handle is @aribailaa.

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