To my Dancer, Dance Teacher, and Dance Maker Friends,
When I pulled myself out of a fetal position on Wednesday November 9, 2016 to teach a dance class at the college I currently work at, the hardest part was that my work felt pointless. Why teach dance in a world this divided and violently hateful? I considered going in and telling all my students to drop their dance major. “Study something useful.” I would say. But a few breaths later, as I imagined those words actually coming out of my mouth, I realized that to speak from a place of fear and disillusionment was to allow myself to be defeated. I know that I owe my teachers, my students, my peers, my ancestors, and my self much more than that.
Here is what I said instead:
Do not forget for a moment that the arts have been on the front lines of the culture wars in this country for generations. When government swings to the far conservative right, artists are more important than ever. Artists take conversations about diversity and make them tangible. They allow us to see a world rich with nuance and color, wherein conflicting energies are harnessed into vivid content, which through its subjective nature inspires discourse across all kinds of boundaries.
Art making builds communities and through that, safe spaces for those who feel marginalized and unheard.
When we study dance specifically we are reminded that change takes time, and that the path to progress is not a straight line.
When we look at dance history we see figure after figure, who worked in obscurity for decades before being recognized as a game changer.
Our culture changes how we inhabit our bodies, and as a result, we are continuously in need of dance artists who have the courage to offer new ideas and perspectives.
I encourage you, now more than ever, to take daily technique classes not because you want to fit yourself into some kind of historic ideal, but because the practice of dancing, no matter what the technique, is an opportunity to make yourself stronger, to increase your physical and intellectual range of motion and to enhance your ability to articulate complex ideas with clarity and passion.
As dancers, we fortify our bodies so that they can be effective vessels for the communication of issues and perspective of our own time.
Technique class isn’t about looking good or getting a job, it is about learning how to listen to our bodies, communities, and spaces. It is about learning how to embody and embrace multi-faceted and multi-dimensional ideas. It is about learning how to get up after you are knocked down, and how to organize yourself in order to use energy efficiently. It is about practicing working with others, learning how to communicate effectively, and finding the courage to be open to desire.
Dance technique class is a forum to investigate how your own voice and perspective can reach as wide an audience as possible.
It is not an act of selfishness or vanity to dance. If we do not take care of ourselves we will never have the strength we need, to do the work that needs to be done in this world.
Throughout human history people have danced together in solidarity, in protest, and in love. We have danced through war, through discrimination, through the gutting of the NEA, and through economic depression. Dance lets us perceive and embody the beauty in effort, the integrity in tragedy, the power of resistance, and the enduring hope in our spirits.
Our work matters. Together, let's dance.