Team DISCO RIOT

DISCO RIOT is here to produce and support innovative dance programming, and the folks listed below carry that mission in a myriad of ways as part of Team DISCO RIOT. There’s a ton of work (and play) to be done in this (r)evolution, and these brilliant and dedicated people are part of what makes it possible.

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DISCO RIOT Artistic Director and Co-Founder, Zaquia Mahler Salinas, is a native of San Diego. After receiving her BA in Dance with Honors from UC Santa Barbara in 2011, she returned to San Diego and danced for Jean Isaacs’ San Diego Dance Theater from 2012-2018. In 2017 she obtained her MFA in Dance: Creative Practice with Honors from Saint Mary’s College of California where she focused on dance as a platform for social justice. She is currently serving as dance faculty at San Diego City College and Coronado School of the Arts. As an artist, Zaquia has been choreographing and producing work since 2011, and has presented live and filmed dance works throughout California, Texas, Peru and Mexico. Zaquia is also an E-RYT 500 certified yoga teacher and leads classes throughout San Diego.

Zaquia Mahler Salinas

Artistic Director
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Erika is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of DISCO RIOT. She grew up in an entrepreneurial family and after graduating with honors from the University of Texas in Austin, she served as controller for her family’s lucrative hardwood flooring business for numerous years. Since then she has volunteered for several organizations, and served as a board member on the NWFA. Her love of movement and dance goes all the way back to childhood, and has been an excellent guide to making authentic lifestyle choices. She is an avid traveler, studying and documenting diverse lifestyles and communities around the world. She believes that through embodied practices, anyone can awaken to the whole self in a way that honors our inherent differences and allows us to feel the intimacy and awe of interconnectedness. She currently resides in San Diego, CA with her husband and two children. She balances her fierce sense of responsibility by dancing with her shadow on the beach, socially engaging others and honoring a deep and profound personal practice.

Erika Wexler

Executive Director
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Zach Leffers is neither a dancer nor an artist. Rather, he is an adman. Zach has done brand planning & advertising strategy for a variety of national and international brands, including Wendy’s, Titleist, and WD-40. He recently relocated to Kansas City on official cheeseburger business as Senior Planner at renowned global advertising agency VMLY&R. Zach is the Brand & Marketing Overlord for DISCO RIOT.

Zach Leffers

Brand & Marketing
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Desiree Cuizon achieved a Bachelor of Fine Arts, in Dance, from San Diego State University in 2008. She had the privilege to perform and travel internationally in Mexico, Switzerland, Germany, Poland, and Indonesia. Since graduating she became a dance company member with Joe Alter Dance Group (2009-2010), The PGK Dance Project (2012-2016) and San Diego Dance Theater (2015 – 2018). Desiree also worked with various independent and local artists including: Somebodies Dance Theater, Anne Gehman, Blythe Barton Dance, Boroka Nagy, Khamla Somphanh, IsadoraNow, `{`the`}` movement initiative and more. In 2016, Brittany Taylor and Desiree premiered their first co-choreographed work, Avenue Lexicon, and since then they continue to collaborate via the B.A.D. Dance Collective. Most recently she is grateful for the performance and creative opportunities Zaquia Mahler Salinas has created through DISCO RIOT. In addition to dancing professionally, Desiree is a certified Massage Therapist and Pilates Instructor. She is currently back in school to achieve her Doctorate in Physical Therapy in order to work with dancers and other athletes via injury prevention, rehabilitation, and refined performance skills.

Desiree Cuizon

Dance
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Lauren Christie has been a member of DISCO RIOT since its inception. She also performs with Malashock Dance and San Diego Dance Theater. Since moving to San Diego, Lauren has been honored to work with many local artists including: Blythe Barton Dance, Erica Buechner, Thom Dancy, Jean Isaacs, John Malashock, Zaquia Mahler Salinas, Khamla Somphanh, Gina and Kyle Sorenson (somebodies dance theater), and Chelsea Zeffiro. She has also performed throughout the Mid-Atlantic region with DC-based Christopher K. Morgan & Artists (2012-2018). Carmel Morgan of CriticalDance writes that Lauren is “captivating…an agile performer with a knack for getting under your skin.” She received her early training at the Ballet Memphis School, and earned her BA with Honors in Public Communication and French with a dance minor from American University. In addition to her work as a performing artist, Lauren also teaches yoga and movement, and occasionally choreographs her own work.

Lauren Christie

Dance
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Jaime Nixon graduated from London Contemporary Dance School in 2018, where he had the honor of teaching through The Place CAT Scheme, as well as performing for Theo Clinkard, James Cousins, Xin Xin Song, and Hofesh Schecter. Jaime trained in Cunningham, Release, Action Theatre, Gaga, Flying-Low, and Contact Improvisation, all of which inspire his own practices. In California, Jaime has been a company member for San Diego Dance Theater and has also performed for Blythe Barton, Somebodies Dance Theatre, Anne Gehman, and Keith Johnson. He has shown his work at The Place’s Robin Howard Theatre, ArtPowers New Adventurers, SDSU’s Make it Concert, CECUT in Mexico, Saville Theatre, Whitebox, and has received awards through SDDT Young Choreographers Showcase & Lux Boreal’s 4×4 TJ Nights. Jaime began dancing at 19 through San Diego City College, and is forever grateful for the guidance and support from the faculty for helping him shape the path and human he has taken on.

Jaime Nixon

Dance
Nicole

Nicole Oga is a radical thinking dance artist and community organizer who approaches her work through an intersectionality lens that is influenced by abolition and socialism work. She was born and raised in Novato, CA where her dance journey began by joining the high school show choir. She moved down to San Diego and received a BA in Dance from UC San Diego. Nicole is trained in contemporary, modern, improvisation, ballet, jazz, tap, and contact improvisation. She is a constant student who believes life is a continuous journey of learning, growing, and evolving. In both her dance and organizer work, Nicole regularly questions and evaluates her practices and methodologies to ensure she is inclusive and in true solidarity with her community - listening to, collaborating with, and centering those who are at the margins. Nicole cultivates genuine empathy, compassion, and kindness through embodying revolutionary love, which will transform the world into an equitable society where all are truly liberated.

Nicole Oga

Dance
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Chelsea Zeffiro is a dance artist specializing in experimental and collaborative performance between theater, dance, and film. Zeffiro’s current practice is rooted in research, writing, and process – devising character and script reflexively, with who and what is in the room. As a performer, Zeffiro works collaboratively with artists, choreographers, and directors on processes wherein she is able to utilize her improvisational and technical background from development through performance. Zeffiro received her BA in Comparative Literature from the University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA) and her MFA with a Fellowship in Dance from the University of the Arts (Philadelphia, PA).

Chelsea Zeffiro

Dance
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Marty graduated with a BA in Dance from New Mexico State University in 2011. He performed in San Diego Dance Theater's Annual Trolley Dances in the Fall 2011, which inspired a relocation to San Diego. Since then, Marty continues to perform in Trolley Dances each year and danced for many local San Diego dance artists and companies including Visionary Dance Theater (2012-2015), The PGK Dance Project (2014-2020) , Compulsion Dance and Theater (2014-2019), as a guest artist for San Diego Dance Theater (2019), and he’s currently a company dancer for Malashock Dance (2014-present). He has also been exploring his creative side more recently, choreographing work for productions with Diversionary Theater and DISCO RIOT. Marty is thrilled with his decision to move to Southern California and be part of such a wonderful community of devoted artists.

Marty Dorado

Dance
Guillermo

Guillermo Castro from San Diego, CA, is a University of California, Santa Barbara graduate with a BFA in Dance and Choreography with honors. His formal dance training began at the age of 13, training under Rayna Stohl and Ericka Moore. After high school, Guillermo stayed local and continued at MiraCosta, training and performing. During his time in San Diego, he had the pleasure of working with choreographers Khamala Somphanh, Zaquia Mahler Salinas, and Sadie Weinberg. He has performed with Unity Dance Ensemble, Selah Dance Collective, Nebula Dance Lab, The UCSB Dance Company and was an apprentice with Santa Barbara Dance Theater under the direction of Christopher Pilafian. Guillermo has performed works by Jose Limon, Shen Wei, Andrea Shermoly, Stephanie Miracle, Brandon Whited, Nancy Colahan, Edgar Zendejar, and Ephrat Ashire, amongst others. Guillermo has recently moved back to San Diego, and is excited to be dancing with DISCO RIOT for its third season.

Guillermo Castro

Dance
Joyce

Joyce Lien Kushner, a SoCal native, trained in modern (Graham, Limon, Horton), contemporary, jazz, ballet, and tap. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from UCLA with a BA in Economics/Business. Joyce relishes collaborating with other artists, making her own work, and training dancers of all ages. She recently moved from the Bay Area, where she taught at Geary Dance Center and Peninsula Dance Academy. Joyce is a certified Progressing Ballet Technique (PBT) instructor and co-founder/artistic director of TILTshift Dance.

Joyce Lien Kushner

Dance
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Jonny Tarr. I am originally from Wales, UK, but somehow always knew I would end up in California. I started playing the saxophone when I was 11 years of age because I thought it would get me girls and I ended up really loving it. I got involved with Jazz early on and found that this was a solid foundation for understanding many more genres of music. I went to Paul McCartney's Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts to get my music degree and after college I toured Europe, the US and Japan and played nearly every major festival in the UK. I was one of the first people in Europe to play saxophone with House music DJs and found that I was very interested in music that made people dance. This is the music I want to create. With the realization that the Sax is not really a writing tool, I taught myself guitar and piano. I used my understanding of music theory to help me form bands and a unique solo show where I can pretty much incorporate all of my skills at once.

Jonny Tarr

Music
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Sarah Annie Navarrete is a dance artist and photographer based out of Austin, Texas. Her work, capturing the moving body, investigates the fabric of our inner world by exploring identity and universal vulnerability. Originally from El Paso, Texas, she was named East Side Magazines Top 5 Artists to watch in 2018.

Sarah Navarrete

Photography
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Elva Salinas currently serves as Trustee on the Grossmont Union High School District Board and delegate of the California State Board Association where she continues her work in equitable and affordable education and humane immigration rights advocacy. She is Professor Emeritus of English and Chicano studies with 39 years of teaching and professional leadership training experience at San Diego City College. She is the recipient of the Golden Apple -Faculty of the Year Award, KPBS and Union Bank Hispanic Heritage Local Hero Award in education and the Board of Governors Exemplary Program Award for A Pedagogy of Love: A Professional Development Model for Educational Practitioners. She believes that education must be transformational, that culturally and personally relevant experiences are essential to learning and that each one of us can become social change agents.

Elva Salinas

Honorary Mother of Radical Funk

We work with many other artists in San Diego and beyond – you can find info about these artists linked to the projects they’ve contributed to.