company and crew members

Argelia Arreola (Performer) is a Mexican dancer, choreographer and musician. She enjoys performing as both musician and dancer for La Mezcla. She holds a Bachelor’s in Contemporary Dance from Universidad Veracruzana, México. Formally trained in traditional African Dance of Guinea for 19 years, Argelia has taught African dance workshops for more than 15 years in Mexico, United States, and Costa Rica. She seeks to make an artistic contribution to the field of contemporary dance by bringing to the fore the dynamic relationship between the music of percussion instruments and the language of African (Guinea & Senegal), Afro-Cuban and Mexican folk dance.

Ayla Davila (Musical Director, Performer) is a bassist, composer, and multi-instrumentalist from Berkeley, CA. Raised in a musical household, Ayla started playing traditional Guatemalan and folkloric Mexican music as a young child. At age 11, Ayla found her voice in the bass, which remains her primary instrument. She graduated from the Berklee College of Music with a degree in Film Scoring and Bass Performance. She returned to the SF Bay Area in 2002, where she has had the opportunity to work with many of the area’s most talented and distinguished musicians in a variety of musical styles, with an emphasis on Latin music. Pachuquísmo is Ayla’s first collaboration with La Mezcla. With over 25 years of experience as a performer, composer, arranger, teacher, and studio musician, Ayla is thrilled to draw upon her vast musical knowledge to help bring this important story to life.

Casey Tessier (Performer, Understudy) is a tap dance artist and award-winning percussionist of Panamanian/Sicilian descent from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Based in Oakland, California, she is a member of Sarah Reich’s Tap Music Project Team, an executive board member for TapIN Youth Dance Ensemble (Oakland), and the percussion caption head at Fremont High School (Sunnyvale). She holds a B.S. in Pure Mathematics and Latin from the University of New Mexico and has performed as a tap dancer and jazz percussionist in Italy, Mexico, Canada, and throughout the United States. Tessier has devoted her life to honoring, sharing, and advancing percussive dance as a medium for representation, communication, and inspiration.

Christian Galindo (Performer, Understudy) is a queer, first generation Mexican & Guatemalan multidisciplinary dancer, community organizer, and plant-based chef, born and raised in Los Angeles, CA. She is currently based out of Oakland, CA and is thrilled to be a company dance understudy of La Mezcla. Being a part of the Pachuquísmo production is also meaningful to her as it honors the stories and strength of Mexican American women from her hometown during a male-centered time of resistance through movement, music and visual productions.

Diana Aburto Vega (Performer) was born and raised in Managua, Nicaragua where she started her dance career in a wide variety of Latin American rhythms, contemporary dance, modern techniques, belly dance and urban Latin styles like Reggaeton and Dancehall. She is also a professional Nicaraguan Folklore Dancer trained under Folkloric Ballet Macehuatl (“Worthy” in Nahuatl, the language of the first people in Nicaragua). Diana has served as a Nicaraguan cultural ambassador for the Bay Area through building and directing individuals from two Nicaraguan folklore groups. As a dancer, Diana is also part of the Bachata and Salsa semi professional teams of Inlakech Dance Academy. Her curiosity in ancestral dances besides her connection with the African Diaspora brought her to train with the Folkloric Ballet “Raíces Profundas” in Havana, Cuba in 2022. She has been one of the principal dancers for “Arenas Dance Company” in the Bay Area for 9 years under the esteemed Susana Arenas Pedroso. In 2021, she joined La Mezcla upon the dance film project “Ghostly Labor: A Dance Film.”

Kirsten Millan (Performer, Marketing Associate) is a Philippine-American multidisciplinary dancer born and raised in San Francisco. She graduated from SFSU with dual degrees in History and Dance. In addition to teaching tap dance and working in various arts administration organizations in the Bay Area for the last decade, she has performed work by esteemed choreographers around the Bay Area, New York City, and the Netherlands. She is a company dancer for Parangal Dance Company and has been a performer with the Richmond/Ermet Aid Foundation (REAF) for the last 8 years. She hopes to continue exploring identity in the context of race, culture, and society in her work on and offstage. As La Mezcla’s Marketing Associate, she also promotes La Mezcla events by sharing behind the scenes videos and clips, promoting opportunities for the community, and creating content including videos and fliers.

Luna Fuentes (Performer) is a multi-instrumentalist, music teacher, and graphic designer based in Oakland, California – originally from Valparaíso, Chile. She provides guitar and vocal harmonies for feminist-indie-folk-pop group Coraza; percussion, guitars and vocal harmonies for latin-flamenco-rock group LoCura; drums for folk-punk group That Band Frank and indie-folk group Mount Saint Elias, and rhythm guitar in jazz manouche duo Coucou, among other many projects. Loves cats and dogs, coffee, and disrupting the patriarchy through her work with La Mezcla.

Micah Sallid (Performer) was born in Los Angeles and began studying with Arlene Kennedy Universal Dance Design and performed with the Kennedy Tap Company, and later moved to the south to become a company member of Decatur City Dance. While trying to find her own choreographic and creative voice she toured, studied, and choreographed for the Broadway Dreams Foundation traveling all over the country. Micah graduated from Saint Mary’s College of California with a BA in Dance and a minor in Women & Gender Studies. Within her college career two of her choreographed pieces represented Saint Mary’s College at ACDA. Micah is currently a faculty member at Saint Mary’s College and performs with the Bay Area Tap company La Mezcla. Pachuquísmo gives Micah the opportunity to explore the combination of her academic studies in Gender and Sex and the study of her own black dance lineage and culture. She pays homage to those that came before her and have pushed her to live in this knowledge and be a part of continuing these traditions.

Natalie John (Performer) is a jazz singer, trumpet player and composer. With a deep knowledge of the roots of the musical tradition, Natalie performs and composes with open ears and broad brush strokes to create a style all her own. In support of her latest album release, Natalie recently toured western Europe, performing at such notable jazz venues as Jazzclub Unterfarht in Munich, Germany, L’Archiduc in Brussels, Belgium, and Jazzkeller in Frankfurt, Germany. She is currently involved in several San Francisco Bay Area music projects, including the Jazz Mafia, Oakadelic, Speakeasē, Shavon and the Boneyard, and the Klipptones.

Olivia Eng (Performer) is passionate about dancing, music, poetry, photography, film making, holistic practices, herbal medicine, agroecology, and community. She graduated from the University of California, Irvine, studying Afro-Modern dance with Donald McKayle, and focusing on Dance Performance and Sociology. She has performed throughout the U.S., Singapore, Mexico, Cuba, and New Zealand, with various companies and has also studied dance in Africa and Europe. She is currently based in the San Francisco Bay area as a multi-disciplinary artist, dancer, performer, teacher, facilitator, and choreographer.

Sandy Vazquez (Perfomer, Artistic Associate) is an interdisciplinary teaching artist and educator based in Oakland by way of Los Angeles and the Artistic Associate of La Mezcla. Because she is the first generation daughter of Mexican immigrants, this work though La Mezcla is important to her because it speaks to the lineage of Mexican American folks in the US that ultimately has informed the way she navigates the world around her. She is excited to be a cast member for this run of Pachuquísmo and hopes that this show serves as a seed for future conversations around the multiplicity of the Latinx experience in the US and Latinidad as a whole.

Tanya Benítez (Performer) is a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, actress, and educator who is deeply committed to building community through the performing arts and is thrilled to be able to continue that work with La Mezcla. As a multi-genre vocalist and Mexican folk artist, she is active throughout California and México. She is the Music Director of Los Panaderos; Artistic Director of Casita de las Artes; and is the Performing Arts Coordinator of Luther Burbank School District in San José.

Vanessa Sanchez (Executive Artistic Director, Choreographer, Performer) is a Chicana-Native dancer, choreographer, and educator who focuses on community arts and traditional dance forms to emphasize voices and experiences of Latina, Chicana, and Indigenous womxn and youth. Based in SF, she is a 2019 Dance/USA Artist Fellow. She works to ensure accessibility to arts training and performances while mentoring youth and young adults of color. Sanchez’s work is rooted in community engagement, creating choreography and accessible events to tell stories of collective resistance. Her production Pachuquísmo‘ received the Isadora Duncan Award for Outstanding Production. She received a Hewlett 50 Arts Commission grant with Brava Theater for upcoming work Ghostly Labor. Sanchez is currently a Dance Lecturer at UCSC and a resident artist at Brava Theater.

Sharon Benítez (Company & Projects Manager) manages the company’s productions and community programs by providing administrative support for La Mezcla projects and touring. Sharon is a musician, dancer, educator, and arts administrator who has taught and performed throughout California, México, and the UK. An SF Bay Area native, she holds an MA in Dance Anthropology from University of Roehampton London and graduated from Santa Clara University with dual degrees in English and Ethnomusicology. She has spent the last decade working as a program coordinator for various arts nonprofits, museums, and schools.

Daniela Garcia-Piedra (Executive Assistant) is a San Francisco native, latina dance educator, and artivist. Daniela works with La Mezcla’s Executive Artistic Director, Vanessa Sanchez, as her Executive Assistant. Under this role she supports in maintaining documents, preparing rehearsals, scheduling, and to overall support our EAD. Garcia also works teaching dance classes to 3-14 year old youth throughout the Bay Area with Dance Mission, Rising Rhythm, and the Performing Arts Workshop. Her goal in La Mezcla is to support Vanessa overall, in an attempt to focus artistically on the upcoming production of Ghostly Labor.

Ariana Cruz (Hair & Costume Design, Stylist) is a seamstress, costume designer and educator based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has worked with La Mezcla since 2018, styling hair and costumes, and creating visual art installations for the show Pachuquísmo. Ariana is the creator of Sew Frisco, a wearable thread art brand inspired by growing up in San Francisco through iron on patches and pins. She continues to work with La Mezcla as costume designer for their upcoming show Ghostly Labor. 

Justine Fernandez (Technical Director & Lighting Designer) is a theater and museum worker born and raised in the Bay Area. For La Mezcla she acts as both Lighting Designer and the Stage Manager. She also works as a freelance TD/technician at venues around the Bay and as a preparator at the Oakland Museum of California where she enjoys and takes pride in creating and working with her hands.

David R. Molina (Sound Design & Audio Engineer) is a composer, musician, sound artist/designer, and instrument inventor who works on performing arts and multimedia productions. Credits: El Borracho (The Old Globe), King Lear (STL Shakespeare Festival), Quixote Nuevo (Tour 2019-2020, Round House 2021), Mojada (Rep of St. Louis, CTG, OSF), Two Trains Running (Seattle Rep, Arena Stage), Macbeth (Play On Podcasts). Resident Artist: NAKA Dance Theater, Human Shakes, Brava Theater. Awards: L.A. Ovation, Creative Capital, Wattis Fund, InterMusic SF Grant, San Francisco Arts Commission Grant. Multimedia: SFMOMA, The Broad, Oakland Museum of California, McLoughlin Gallery. Music Collaborations: Tau (Berlin), Emanative (U.K.), El Paso (Peru), The Pyramids. Bands: Impuritan, Ghosts and Strings, Transient.

Carlie Algas (Audio Engineer) got into live sound after she volunteered at a weekly open mic night at a coffee shop. From there, she graduated from Women’s Audio Missions’ internship program. After working with diverse clients, she landed at Brava Theater, where she experienced the swing and rhythm of Pachuquísmo. As La Mezcla’s Audio Engineer she elevates the percussive sounds of the dance and highlights the musicality of the original compositions.

John Jota Leaños (Film Co-Director, Animator & Videographer) is a Mestizx (Italo/Chicanx/Chumash) media artist and animator focusing on critical convergences of history, memory, social space, and decolonization. Leaños’ animation, installation, opera, performance and public media fuse traditional practices and aesthetics with new technologies and contemporary reconfigurations. His work has been shown at the Sundance Film Festival, Cannes Short Corner,, the Whitney Biennial, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago and a variety of other art and public contexts. Leaños is a Guggenheim Fellow in Fim & Media and Creative Capital Foundation Grantee who has received the United States Artist Fellowship, National Association for Latino Arts and Culture (NALAC) Master Artist Award, the San Francisco Art Commission Individual Artist Grant, and the Creative Work Fund Award. He has been an artist-in-resident at the Center for Chicano Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara, the Center for Arts in Society, Carnegie Mellon University, and the Headlands Center for the Arts. Leaños is currently a Professor in the Department of Film and Digital Media at the University of California, Santa Cruz.