Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy graduate Darrion Gallegos, 26, is currently dancing his way through the east coast on Ariana Grande's "Sweetener" tour.
Gallegos said working as a backup dancer for "Ari," as he affectionately calls the pop star, is a dream come true.
“I was like melting,” Gallegos recalled of their first meeting. “I was so excited because she’s been someone I’ve always wanted to work with. You can feel in her music and her work that she has a lot of love for the things she does.”
Gallegos has also danced for Taylor Swift, Demi Lovato, Gwen Stefani, Fergie, Camila Cabello and Sharaya J in music videos, awards shows and concerts and has appeared on the Ellen Show and X-factor. Gallegos said although he gets butterflies from meeting and working with big names, he doesn’t mind them.
“When you really love what you do, butterflies are something that’s telling you that it’s right,” Gallegos said. “You have to remind yourself that you are built for this and just dive in wholeheartedly.”
Born and raised in Flagstaff by his grandparents, Gallegos grew up playing different sports, trying out a multitude of musical instruments and taking art classes. He began to experiment with dance while attending Knoles Elementary School.
Leslie Baker, one of Gallegos' FALA dance teachers whose daughter went to Knoles with him, recalled that Gallegos “stole the show” during a fourth grade dance recital. By the age of 14, Gallegos was fully dedicated to dancing, and by the time he had transferred from Northland Prep to FALA as a junior, he was already an accomplished hip-hop dancer, Baker said.
“Our job was to round out his dance experience with some jazz dance, dance history, modern dance and a little bit of tap,” Baker said. “He quickly became a student teacher and choreographer and it was difficult to challenge that boy, but I think I did once or twice.”
Robert Corbin, who taught Gallegos modern dance and ballet at FALA, noticed Gallegos’ strong work ethic as a teenager.
“Darrion did not need any motivation from me. He was fully committed to what he wanted to do. He soaked in every bit of knowledge I gave him. He never wavered, complained or questioned what was asked of him, but took it all in and grew,” Corbin said.
Gallegos carried this work ethic with him to Los Angeles, where he moved after graduating in 2012.
“My dance style is very much that of a chameleon, especially moving to L.A. -- I wanted to always be able to be that performer that no matter what the choreographer or director needed, I could do,” Gallegos said.
Shortly after his L.A. move, Gallegos participated in the Nexus Elite Protégé program, where he had won a scholarship for 2011-12 and was able to assist on the Pulse tour, training under top choreographers.
“Everything at FALA was like a precursor to gear up for this life,” Gallegos said of his alma mater. “It really helped me make sense of all my influences and learn how all forms of art go hand in hand.”
Since moving to L.A., Gallegos has also been able to work as a choreographer and artistic director, helping put concerts together and build stages. He has teamed up with brands like Puma and Converse to promote their products on social media, working both in front of and behind the camera.
“Being able to utilize my art background and put it into my career is a blessing,” Gallegos said. “I want to continue my work on an even greater scale and impact the industry in such a beautiful way.”
One way Gallegos believes he is impacting show business for the better is by “crushing” gender stereotypes.
“The industry can be very particular. People try to put you in a box or a certain category of what we’re capable of,” Gallegos said.
Working as a dancer for Grande has given Gallegos an opportunity to publicly break out of that set mold. For Grande’s Sweetener tour, Gallegos was asked to play a “more feminine role” and dance in heels alongside the females.
“In this particular job it doesn’t feel like I’m just dancing but doing my part to change the world,” Gallegos said, adding that representing the LGBQT community is much bigger than himself. “I’m not the first to do something similar but I am continuing the momentum.”
After finishing the U.S. and Canadian portions of the Sweetener tour in August, Gallegos and the dancers will spend two months touring Europe. Although Gallegos said constant traveling and almost nightly shows can “definitely feel tiring,” he said he loves hanging out and chatting with the 12 other dancers on the tour bus. Between shows, Gallegos said the dancers get out and explore whatever area they are in, going to staple restaurants, the mall or a beach.
Phoenix was one of the first stops on the tour, and Gallegos took advantage of the proximity to Flagstaff, driving up with all the dancers to introduce them to his grandparents.
“It really just depends on the year and what project I’m working on that really allows me to go back home,” Gallegos said, adding that he makes sure he is always in town for the winter holidays and tries as much as he can to visit during summer and his free time.
“Flagstaff will always have my heart; it was such an incredible place to grow up, with all the art community and how open the town is makes for a brilliant place to be,” Gallegos added.
Gallegos admitted that while he got much of his technical dance experience from schools, most of his personal dance influence came from partying in Flagstaff as a teen.
“Since Flagstaff is such a college town, I’d go to all the parties and dance with everyone,” he said, adding that he was able to meet with tons of diverse people and pick up tidbits from their styles.
When back in town, the “little bar scene at Monte V” is his favorite, he said. “If a really good song comes on, you can definitely catch me on the dance floor.”
Although Gallegos cherishes his time home, he said traveling has opened his eyes and expanded his creative influences.
“Art is like a pallet of colors and wherever you travel you take a color with you and you add it to your pallet. The way that you paint your world is so based of off the colors that you have,” Gallegos said. “And that’s really how I see my world – my world is very colorful and it’s very bright and there’s a lot of texture and a lot of shades.”
Arizona is out of drought for the first time in nearly 10 years.
The mosaics of yellow, orange and red that highlight the location and intensity of drought in Arizona disappeared this past week from the U.S. Drought Monitor, a map produced by the National Drought Migration Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
And while that sounds promising, experts say it's not a sign that all is well with water in the state or that people aren't grappling with long-term drying trends.
"For meteorologists, that's a statement of where we are now, but it's not a statement of the future, of where we're going," said Brian Klimowski, who heads the National Weather Service in Flagstaff. "It looks like we're headed in a good direction and should maintain the status for a while, but the weather can be quite fickle."
The map is updated every Thursday, factoring in precipitation, temperatures and impacts on the land from the week before.
Nationwide, about 4% of the U.S. is in moderate to extreme drought, one of the smallest footprints since the drought monitor was created 20 years ago. Conditions across much of the West also have improved over the past year.
Nevada and Utah are free of drought. New Mexico has improved, but still has a large pocket of moderate, long-term drought along the western part of the state. Some ranchers in eastern New Mexico reported hauling water for livestock and poorer conditions for crops and pasture grass.
Above-average snow and rainfall, along with cooler temperatures into the spring helped lift Arizona out of short-term drought. Reservoirs that people rely on for drinking water and recreation have been rising quickly. Still, the melting mountain snowpack won't fill all of them, including Lake Mead on the Arizona-Nevada border that both states heavily rely on for drinking water and agriculture.
City planners, federal and tribal governments and ranchers use the map to respond to drought or determine who is eligible for drought relief. It doesn't give an indication of long-term water supplies.
The latest map is a stark change from this time last year when all of Arizona was in drought, most of it in the two most severe categories. Back then, dozens of horses died after getting stuck in a muddy stock pond in search of water on the Navajo Nation. The U.S. Forest Service had also banned the public from large swaths of four forests to lessen the chance of big wildfires.
Now, most of Arizona remains free of restrictions on campfires, smoking and target shooting. The Tonto National Forest east of metro Phoenix is the exception, implementing the first stage of restrictions last week, while a 63-square-mile wildfire is burning.
The drought conditions should hold until heavy rain starts falling next month during the monsoon season, said state climatologist Nancy Selover.
"It's cause for celebration because it means the wildlife situation on the rangeland is doing better at this point, the forest is still wet so there's probably a little less danger for wildfires," she said. "So we're hopeful we'll get another wet winter."
But experts are still advising caution.
"For one thing, the Southwest U.S. is a desert," said Richard Heim, a meteorologist with the NOAA. "You don't want to waste any water at any time."
The last time Arizona was free of drought on the map was in late 2000 and into 2002, followed by an intense period of drought. More than one-third of Arizona was in extreme drought — the second-highest level— in July 2002. The state's longest stretch of drought was from August 2009 until last week, according to the drought monitor.
A small portion of the Navajo Nation in northeastern Arizona, representing less than 5% of the state, remains abnormally dry.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump could have a tough time making good on his threat to deport millions of people living in the U.S. illegally. But maybe that wasn't his point.
Trump's late-night messages Monday promised that starting next week his administration "will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States. They will be removed as fast as they come in."
That was a pronouncement likely to excite his political base just as he was formally announcing his reelection bid Tuesday night. It also scared immigrants in the U.S. illegally — and could deter others from coming.
But it came at a cost.
Trump blatantly exposed an upcoming enforcement operation, potentially jeopardizing the kind of sensitive effort that takes months to plan and relies on secrecy. The president's tweets put new, fresh demands on Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency in charge of removals, which is already overwhelmed, lacking staff, funding and detention space for its current work. And any massive roundup that includes deportation of families would be sure to spark outrage.
The tweets suggested the start of Trump's reelection campaign is likely to have much in common with his 2016 announcement, when he accused Mexico of sending rapists to the United States and pledged to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it. The rhetoric was widely denounced, yet the tough anti-immigration message struck a nerve with many Americans and ultimately helped carry Trump to victory.
At his rally Tuesday night in Orlando, Florida, he said millions of low-wage workers who come to the U.S. illegally are competing for opportunities against the most vulnerable Americans.
Trump also claimed that schoolchildren across the country are being threatened by MS-13 gang members and blame "Democratic policies." He said if Democratic officials "had to send their children to those overcrowded, overburdened schools, they would not tolerate it for one minute."
Trump's tough talk hasn't led to a drop in border crossings since he took office. The flow of Central American migrants has risen dramatically during his administration. He recently dropped a threat to slap tariffs on Mexico after the country agreed to step up immigration enforcement efforts.
The "millions" in his tweets referred to the more than 1 million people in the United States with final deportation orders, meaning a judge has decided they be deported, according to an administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity to explain the president's tweets.
Pew Research Center has estimated there are about 10.5 million people in the U.S. illegally, with long-term residents outnumbering recent arrivals. The record for deportations over a full year is 419,384 in 2012, under the Obama administration.
Some in Trump's administration believe that decisive shows of force — like mass arrests — serve as deterrents, sending a message to those considering making the journey to the U.S. that it's not worth coming.
The new acting director of ICE, Mark Morgan, recently signaled a willingness to deport families during enforcement sweeps, though past Trump immigration officials hesitated over concerns about logistics and the public reaction.
U.S. officials with knowledge of the preparations say the operation wasn't imminent; it was to begin in the coming weeks and be nationwide. But ICE officials were not aware the president would make public sensitive law enforcement plans, and it's unclear whether the operation now will go off as planned.
Enforcement sweeps require months of planning. Officers work from recent addresses and don't have search warrants. Immigrants are not required to open their doors, and increasingly they don't. Officers generally capture about 30% to 40% of targets.
Plus, ICE needs travel paperwork from a home country to deport someone, so immigrants often end up detained at least temporarily waiting for a deportation flight. The adult population of detainees was 53,141 as of June 8, though the agency is only budgeted for 45,000. There were 1,662 in family detention, also at capacity, and one of the family detention centers is currently housing single adults.
Also, publicizing law enforcement operations can jeopardize officer safety and tip off potential deportees.
When Oakland, California, Mayor Libby Schaaf learned of an operation in Northern California and warned the immigrant community, Trump railed against the disclosure. He suggested prosecuting her for obstruction of justice. And the head of ICE at the time, Thomas Homan , said his agency could have arrested more people had she not warned them, calling it an "irresponsible decision."
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said his threat of a "mass deportation dragnet is an act of utter malice and bigotry, designed solely to inject fear in our communities."
Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, part of the GOP leadership, said, "I think our energy is better exerted, one, taking care of people at the border who need to be taken care of and, two, looking at securing the border as our principal obligation."