Non-professionals and Professional dance-artists Maintaining connection

STRATEGIES OF SOLIDARITY – WHAT I’VE FIGURED OUT SO FAR (Re: Non-professional and Professional Dance-Artists Maintaining Connection)

Strategies of Solidarity–what I’ve figured out so far is a series in which I share my (practical) strategies of inclusion in the professional dance context. These strategies are some of my most cherished tools of destruction, with which I destroy colonialist (capitalist, racist, ableist, transphobic, homophobic, sexist, etc.) habitus, in order to then imagine and build different models. Alongside these strategies, I share my reflections as to where institutional as well as my own internalized systems of oppression are situated. The context I am referring to is the Central European independent dance and performance scene. Even if this isn’t what you are involved with, or where you are located, I hope that reading this series can support you in your own process.

Reflection

Although Tanzvermittlung is a german word and concept that never quite clicked with me, I define part of what I do through what I practice as a community organizer in the dance field: One of the main motivators of why I remain in the dance field is my wish to encounter new people and to share dance – something that brings me so much – with them.

That being said, access implicates privilege, power, and the associated types of ignorance/expertise. This is all blended together with #nothingwihoutusisforus, which, in my work, leads me to a strategy of connection which involves the ingredients “I don’t know everything, or rather I am not an expert in everything,” “I don’t need to know everything,” “I can ask for help,” and “Let’s do it together.” When it comes to our society and its systematic discrimination, it is more practiced at segregation – see neo-colonialism, neo-liberalism, ableism, nation building, visas, among other things – than connection. Therefore, I find it is a beautiful practice to research with others, with trial and error, how to maintain a connection if the desire is there.

The Conversation

In late summer this year, I collaborated with Natalia Torales, a fellow dance-artist and community organizer with whom I have collaborated and seek every opportunity I can do so again. We organized a gathering* of the “amateurs” (in relation to dance) with whom I have collaborated, specifically in the non-visual pieces “Subjects of Position” and “Worn and Felt”. Their roles within those projects span from fellow movement researchers, performers, dramaturgs, to test audience members. I instigated this gathering with the interest of reconnecting with them and posing the questions: 1) How was the experience of being involved in the creative process of the production? 2) What additional forms of exchange would they be interested in the future? 3) How can we stay in touch that doesn’t have a timing that is project-based?

Upon receiving the invitation to join the gathering, all agreed and were happy about this proposition to ask for feedback and brainstorm together about how we could stay connected!

We started from the beginning. Everyone shared the reason why, when they heard the offer for visually impaired/blind/trans/non-binary/BIPOC people (whether they have or haven’t any experience in dance/dramaturg/etc.) to join as collaborators in a production of mine, they said yes. For most, it was curiosity about the question, “how is it even possible to make dance accessible or visible to visually impaired people?” that motivated them to join.

In terms of the process itself, they pointed out the following as things that made the experience comfortable for them:

– The curiousness and openness with which I dive into the artistic process, such that the process was actually participatory, which made it easier to understand the theme and relate to it.

– The care and patience in the work process, particularly in the way the work was communicated, which allowed them time to experience the concepts in their own bodies. (The work process, even if they were collaborating as a dramaturg, was to engage with the concepts of the work through discourse as well as physically through the movement practice.)

– The nice feeling of not missing any knowledge, such they could get “the real” experience from the very beginning without needing to have prior knowledge

– To experience things with their whole body, going past just the eyes and hands as the main perception channels

– Practice manifested through discursive thought and action in relation to racism, ableism, and decolonization

One thing that was challenging:

– Relating to people/bodies that they didn’t know before, e.g. by the dress rehearsal when a large number of people outside of the team were invited

We took a moment to discuss their engagement with dance during the pandemic. Someone pointed out that “digital dance” is not visually-impaired-person-friendly. As such, in-person meetings when participating in artistic processes were emphasized as necessary to maintain interest and possibility of engagement. Some sighted participants noted that in the last years that they had been exposed to many new digital possibilities.

I went further to ask the question if anyone had watched performances with audio description. Note the large majority of the participants are visually impaired. The answer was a resounding no, with only knowing about a couple offers made by Sophiensaele in Berlin over the last few years.

When talking about the amount of time that is appropriate in relation to number of meetings/rehearsals, they brought up the necessity of monetary payment to participants for the time, feedback, and everything else they give. This is one way of respecting their labor and contribution, as well as counteracting the economic discrimination of the labor of disabled persons.

In terms of facilitating the meetings, the importance of staying authentic.

Talking about the possibilities of continuing with an exchange in the future, there was the idea to share the research that is done prior to a piece, to share the books related to it, or to share the concepts or the stories related to a particular piece, for example. We decided to start a digital platform, where every person in the group has access to the information and where everyone can put information in about a particular theme. Of course, all the information should be accessible to all persons in the group (non-disabled or disabled persons).

We realized a theme and a time frame for the exchange, as well as some input about it, would be of interest. The possibility of regular zoom-meetings was also considered, but for the beginning more accommodative options like audio-description pieces and feedback per e-mail, would be easier to realize.

We also agreed to post in this platform, interesting workshops or dance pieces, art pieces etc. that are presented by the people in the group or by others of interest for the group.

What that means for next steps is that I will start soon with a newsletter to the group, giving the first impulse with a concrete theme or input. I will also research about which platform is accessible for all, that we can use. Our group will strengthen its base and look forward to inviting others into the space.

*This gathering was made possible through the #takepart program of the Fonds Darstellende Künste with funds from the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media.

Recognition, Accountability, and Triggers

I am someone who understands themselves as having internalized oppression, in that I recognize that I have been conditioned to act and think in a certain way based on colonialist (i.e. transphobic, ableist, capitalist, racist, etc.) ideas. And that lays out a path—a worthwhile, beautiful one I’m happy to choose —where I learn more about conscious destruction, such that I reflect more, learn more, consider more, and love more. So, within this never-ending process, I know that there is always the possibility that discriminatory language or ideas are present in what I write. Please reach out to me via the contact form if you feel that is the case.

To all marginalized persons doing community organization+art+activism. Thank you for existing! You deserve all the space you carve out and more!

No Comments

You can be the first one to leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

EN