To live in the San Francisco Bay Area is to reckon with striking paradoxes. Rising wealth contrasts with persistent homelessness. Socially progressive values butt up against NIMBY (not in my backyard) individualism. Residents of “Sanctuary” cities continually face biased policing. Conversations abound about racial equity while the sizes of local black communities are shrinking. This list alarms me, yet is incomplete. We are far from being untethered from historically damaging ‘isms’ – classism, sexism, racism. Within this context, the current landscape of social movements like #metoo and #blacklivesmatter is long overdue – worldwide, nationwide, and locally.
When #metoo started gaining steam, I celebrated as abusive men fell from grace. I winced when those I had respected were called out. I had multiple soul-searching conversations with fellow female-identified friends about what consent means to each of us. We talked about desire, women’s lib, and deeply socialized tendencies to feel responsible for other people’s emotions. And I groaned at the reality that as a society we need a hashtag to raise awareness of the lived experience of no less than 50% of the population.
In contrast, I find myself humbled to be learning more about the ‘isms’ I am privileged to ignore at my choosing. Being white, the #blacklivesmatter and concurrent racial justice movements have illuminated aspects of the lives of people of color I hadn’t previously considered. This is particularly the case in news stories involving police interactions but expand beyond that quickly, to day-to-day agressions. In a recent interview with Terry Gross, comic Roy Wood Jr. described his dismay when a white cashier at a Best Buy was adamant that he didn’t need a bag for a small purchase. Wood’s response was similarly adamant: as a black man, he would never leave a store without a bag and a receipt in hand, for fear of being accused of theft. Needless to say, I decline bags and receipts all the time without recourse. This anecdote is also worth a groan: how could I be that oblivious to the lived experience of so many?
It is no one’s job to teach me, or anyone who is part of a structurally advantaged population, about the ways in which systemic oppression and injustice reveal themselves in daily life, yet I am grateful for any opportunity to continually learn and grow. This is why I’m particularly excited for readers to dig into this month’s issue of In Dance. Several of the articles within grapple with these social realities and the broader context within which dance artists practice, teach, create and present work.
Heather Desaulniers writes of Gerald Casel’s eponymous company as it prepares for its 20th anniversary season, with work that interrogates the racial politics of postmodern dance. Casel’s Not About Race Dance will have its first showing, calling attentions to what he describes as the “invisibility of whiteness in postmodernism.”
Sima Belmar’s “In Practice” features a conversation with acclaimed performer and producer Tonya Marie Amos, who recounts the racism she encountered throughout her ballet and modern training in San Francisco and New York in the not-so-distant past. Her annual Juneteenth show in Oakland seeks to remember and celebrate black artists.
Seven female-identified teachers at the upcoming West Coast Contact Improvisation Jam respond to the question “How do you see the #metoo movement impacting the CI community, or not?” Their responses are varied and rich, reflecting the complexities of participating in a physical and oftentimes intimate movement practice.
And on the back of this issue is a piece by Jochelle Pereña, who considers how her teaching practice relates to the “systems of injustice and oppression” that her students are growing up within. She asks “What do people need in order to feel the exhilaration of freedom and power in action?” and forms strategies for the classroom.
I continually learn from choreographers, teachers, performers, and writers – among many more – who bravely share perspectives each month and all year long. Thank you!