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thoughts on (w)hole

February 22, 2011

Last night I went to Movement Research at the Judson Church (as I do most Mondays) and was genuinely moved for the first time in quite sometime. Since MR showings at Judson are works in progress, not up for review – I must admit I feel a bit funny writing about what comes out of those performances.  But at the same time, these showings are also meant to create a kind of dialog among the dance community, so why shouldn’t that conversation extend here? That’s my intention anyway.

It was the opening piece of the evening, Marya Wether’s (w)hole [ideas in process] , that sparked a call to move in me. I’m not just talking about emotionally “feeling moved” (although, it did that too). What I mean is to fucking MOVE! in the political and bodily sense of the word. As in a call to action to the folks at Movement Research and the dance community at large – it’s time to wake up and move our collective asses beyond a predominantly white lens.

There’s been a lot of talk about the need for racial diversity in MR programming ever since the overarching whitewash of performers in the fall 2010 festival TRULY MADLY DEEPLY. In fact, my partner, niv Acosta, wrote a letter to MR addressing the festival’s lack of racial diversity, but it’s still rather unclear as to what specific actions MR intends to take in order to ensure racial diversity in the future.

Thankfully last night, however, Marya Wether’s clearly focused our attention back to this very lack, simply by setting up her own row of chairs and flipping the perspective so to speak. In those chairs, Marya cast all people of color to sit and return the audience’s gaze as she danced throughout the space. Midway through the piece, the performers changed their seating arrangement by dragging their chairs downstage and turning their backs toward the audience. Thus, much of the audience’s view was obstructed as the bright Elena Gormley (who can’t be more than 9 years old) took Marya Wether’s place front & center to dance Blackbird – a piece choreographed by young Gormley herself. It was so powerful to witness this group of performers create, shift, and take back their own sense of space. I felt humbled and hopeful as I watched the performers see and be seen, and in short, declare subjecthood.

As the evening continued, a list of white choreographers followed, with casts of white performers filling Judson as usual. I looked around at the predominantly white audience (myself included), and Marya’s point was quite clear –

There is a big gaping ( )hole in the dance community that aligns itself with Movement Research, more blatantly – people of color are vastly underrepresented in this community. We have an immense need for the multiple perspectives of people of color to be frequently seen and heard. We will not be whole until we recognize this and make some substantial shifts.

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