Jubilation Foundation Teaching Artist Fellow Fabiola Torralba

Fabiola Ochoa Torralba

San Antonio TX
Fellowship: 2019

“Smile, connect, take risks.”

Fabiola’s experience as a social justice activist, grassroots organizer, cultural arts worker, and community engagement coordinator has led to collaborations with artists, schools, galleries, and nonprofits. 

What led you to be a teaching artist?
I was taught to share what I know with those who do not have access to similar knowledge or resources. As a once-undocumented immigrant, I believe in the importance of inspiring individuals to see themselves beyond the limitations of their realities. Community work taught me the power of art to incite social change, the use of the imagination as a form of resistance to erasure, and joy as survival.

Teaching philosophy:
I place special consideration on marginalized communities, such as working class people of color. The goal is to promote a value for dance and play that honors the music, rhythms, and culture of Afro, Indigenous, and Latinx communities through intergenerational engagement.

Helping students develop somatic awareness and kinesthetic empathy is one goal. Students are asked to think critically about how they connect and respond within their bodies and to others. Reflection and discussion are often part of the facilitation process. The development of observation, listening, speaking, and sensing are fostered. These are vital for the promotion of artistry, conviviality, and risk-taking.

How have you evolved as a teacher?
I was overwhelmed initially, because it requires a different sensitivity than my work as a community organizer. Teaching involves a different kind of listening, and intimacy, a different form of translation. Teaching involves more one-to-one interaction, the balancing of a lot of different energies, needs, personalities – everyone comes in with different understandings and tension, there’s more to navigate emotionally. So I had to cultivate a comfort with balancing emotional needs, and learn to ID them.

I grew up in women-led, working class, arts-centered, LGBTQ-friendly communities. I am an asset because I know how to work with these communities. I know who/where my home is. Without teachers of color, I would not have known that dance was an option for me. It was only possible because of my community. “Just go. Just do it,” they said, and I want to encourage that in others.

What is an example of a good day teaching for you?
When people feel competent or capable, confident, and in themselves, in their bodies. Sometimes it’s hard to get folks to just be in the moment, especially working class youth of color, so if I can get them to let go and be silly, that is my ultimate goal.

Sometimes just saying your name out loud is a big deal for people, especially those with complicated names like mine. There is a lot of baggage. I look for that, those kinds of moments. And help them commit themselves to the physical process of it, allow themselves to be in this imaginative space, explore their creativity, and let loose. I try to foster emotional and spiritual growth and connection.

Photo by ZaaZaa Productions

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