Author Archive | Dancers' Group

Tax Workshop for Dance Artists

Mon, Feb 11, 6:30-8pm
Google Community Space, SF

Cost: $15
DG Member Discount: Want to see this content? We want you to, too! or Join as an Individual or Company Member. Resources and notices for auditions, jobs, grants and discounts are a BENEFIT to our PAID members. To upgrade your membership or to join for the first time click here. Individual and Company Members do not have access to resources for fiscally sponsored projects. To learn more about fiscal sponsorship, click here. Questions? Contact andrea@dancersgroup.org

FREE for Dancers’ Group’s fiscally sponsored artists (email michelle@dancersgroup.org for code)

Join Dancers’ Group and Jaime from Oakland-based Treehouse Taxes as she walks through the complexities (and simplicities) of filing taxes as an independent contractor or sole proprietor.

Topics will include:

  • What is taxable income? (1099’s vs W-2’s, Venmo, Kickstarter, and other types of income)
  • How to treat money received from a fiscal sponsor?
  • Does the new tax law affect me?
  • What expenses are deductible? (from Accounting costs to Zip car rental)
  • Should I pay quarterly estimated taxes and how do I figure out how much?
  • The ugly stuff and how to avoid it (penalties, interest, liens, etc.)
  • Should I file on my own? Yes! no? Maybe.

There will be time built into the workshop to answer your specific questions, too.

Register

Welcome

Each new year offers opportunity to illuminate ideas, instigate new ideologies. A chance to be inspired so we can inspire. Dancers’ Group’s staff brings in 2019 with responses to the question, what is healthy?

Sprinkled throughout this issue are articles centered on this question, including Juliet Paramor’s coverage of ODC’s Healthy Dancers Clinic and its upcoming Day For Dancers’ Health on January 26; Ken Foster considering health in arts leadership; and Sima Belmar’s regular column “In Practice” transforms to share a personal journey towards wellness.

I grew up equating health with success and I’m working to unlearn this notion and numerous beliefs about what constitutes being healthy. As a dancer am I naturally healthy? No. Evolving, and aging, are complex and I work to believe—or is it to trust?—that my aging body is whole, and beautiful, and perfect in this moment. With the start of the new year I recommit to my body—I am not the person I used to be. Wayne Hazzard, Executive Director

A healthy life is about maintaining balance of all things that can affect a person’s mentality, physicality, emotionality, finances, and spirituality. Each of these selves are connected to one another, therefore causing a perpetual balancing act that we have to perform on the daily. Some are lucky to be able to support and be supported by others whenever they begin to teeter totter. However 2019 pans out, may we all find grounding, support and presence whenever we fall off balance. Valerie Mendez, Program Assistant

When approached about this opportunity to write about health as a dancer, my mind immediately started exploding with ideas. Where does one start? For me, the subject hit remarkably close to home.

This past summer, my immediate health was challenged by a fall I took during a performance at the Sun Gallery in Hayward. I was presenting a solo work, Terra Femme, about embodying the Earth as a goddess who was being attacked by smog, pollution, nuclear bombs, and other man made weapons to the natural soil.

During one of a series of spins, i fell down onto the wooden platform. Like any true performer, I continued through, as if the fall were a part of the choreography. The actual pain didn’t settle in until days later and even then i was used to my almost lifelong back issues so I wasn’t vigilant.

It was only when I couldn’t sit up straight without having excruciating pain going down the length of my right leg that I finally went to a doctor. They said without a doubt that I was dealing with sciatic nerve pain.

I had never felt anything like this in my life. Having been a fairly safe kid, I never broke any bones growing up so I had nothing to compare the experience to. This debilitating pain kept me up nights and made every day movement insufferable. Having initially no relief and fearful thoughts that I might become addicted to painkillers plagued my mind. It was in those moments I knew that I had to change.

With the help of prescribed medicine, alternating heat and cold packs, natural salves, constant stretching, massage therapy, and an overhaul of diet, over the course of 5 months, I was eventually able to walk, sit and sleep with much less pain.

This incident was definitely a wakeup call for me. I wasn’t listening to my body and it was calling out for help. As the new year approaches, creating new regimes for one’s body and mind may seem cliche but sometimes they are truly necessary.

Going into the next 365 days, there’s an ever-present call to refresh your mind state, grow in character, set personal goals, and yes renew that gym membership. Andréa Spearman, Program Assistant

In recent years, I have ventured into more nontraditional, Eastern, Indigenous, brujeria-spiritual based healing modalities to address my health-based concerns. This shift has arisen as a result of a severe concussion I experienced in the spring of  2017. My time in the offices of Western doctors had not been particularly helpful, primarily because I felt like there was a lack of embodied understanding and that my full self was not being taken into consideration. Whenever I’ve seen Chinese Medicine specialists, I’ve been asked about my diet, personal life, emotional state, family, metabolism, etc. This is not to say that I don’t think that there are many Western medical advancements that continue to save lives time and time again; I simply wonder if there will ever come a moment when the respective modalities\/ technologies will meet and converge.

I remember calling my mother post-concussion who immediately suggested we pray; this happened after I had performed my own full moon ritual at a friend’s dance studio earlier that same day. I also reached out to Hannah Wasielewski, choreographer and craniosacral therapist, who was giving free craniosacral therapy sessions at the time, which helped tremendously in getting my body back into its’ deep healing rhythms and potential. The impact of the concussion generated an interesting tension because prior to the moment of injury, movement had always been my medicine/methodology for survival and healing. Because the concussion limited how much and how rigorously I could move, I then had to find another way to channel movement’s healing capacity in order to ground and stabilize the symptoms I was experiencing.

When it comes to issues pertaining to mental and physical health, I have continued to turn to these alternative modalities. Discussions around the ways race / gender / class / citizenship / language intersect with being an artist and how these factors affect access to healthcare need to be had and examined more thoroughly.  I wish I could attend to the tuning of my body on a more regular basis, but sometimes am not able to due to lack of funds. So how does one get what one needs when the system in place is inherently designed to keep specific people out and others in? This is an ongoing question that continues to haunt me. One proposition is to create one’s own system. Currently, my system includes being in close dialogue with herbalists and Chinese Energetic forms along with meditation and prayer. Thankfully, the Bay Area continues to be a place where NOTAFLOF, trades, and exchanges exist both within and outside of the performing arts as one remedy in addressing the issue of accessibility to healthcare. randy reyes, Program Assistant

When I think of health, my mind turns to the word care and the idea of taking care. But, I resist the idea of “self-care.” Admittedly, it’s enticing – in a American Capitalist culture that rewards production, earnings, and acquisition, prioritizing one’s own body and mind sure seems like sage advice. But it sneakily perpetuates another dark aspect of the American idea: that there is an Individual Self and there is an Other, and we are in competition for every resource. I’d prefer to think of my “self” as an inextricable part of community and family. I reject the binary of self and other. Let’s build a culture, not of individualism, but of reciprocal wellbeing. Let’s take care of one anotherMichelle Lynch Reynolds, Program Director

New View: Carma Zisman

ODC welcomed Carma Zisman as its new Executive Director in September 2017. Zisman comes from a family of artists in Santa Rosa and has lived throughout the West Coast, but has been rooted in San Francisco since 2000. She remembers her parents bringing her to performances in San Francisco since she was a child and calls the city her “first arts community” and studied at ACT and attended SF State University. Dancers’ Group asked Zisman more about her experiences and inspirations.

What drew you to join the ODC team?

I’ve been drawn to ODC since the first performance I saw in the ODC Theater (Brenda Way’s Scissors, Paper, Stone). I thought Brenda’s work was electrifying. In the sea of multidisciplinary work happening across SF in the early to mid-2000s, I had been searching for performances that would show me a true marriage of concept, skill, technique and a thoughtful interplay between musical and visual elements. I remember being struck in the opening moments of the work by the feeling that I had, finally, found a company that would both challenge and reward me as an audience member. I had also taken my first hip-hop class from Rhythm and Motion in the early 1990s, and discovered a place where I could explore a physical vocabulary that went far beyond the ballet and tap traditions I had originally trained in. When I had a chance to join ODC last year, I jumped at the chance. The mission makes me eager to get up in the morning, and the ODC team embodies much of what inspires me most–a diverse group of people who are passionately committed to getting EVERYone dancing.

What were you doing before joining ODC?

Just before coming to ODC I served as the Director of Advancement for The Walt Disney Family Museum in the Presidio.

Do you have an artistic practice and/or background?

I fell in love with dancing at age four, inspired to beg for classes by the choreography of Michael Smuin back in the SF Ballet days. Hip troubles at age twelve drove me from ballet and tap classes to theater. As an actor, I focused on the development of original work. After seven years of helping create new works for stage and radio across northern California with playwrights, poets, musicians, journalists and authors, San Francisco’s Labor Archives commissioned me and labor folksinger Pat Wynn to showcase their collection of primary source materials, documenting the history of women in the Bay Area trade union movement. The presentation was designed as a single-night performance piece, but we ended up touring the work for two years. Those years opened my eyes to opportunities in producing and arts administration. I left touring and acting to lead the Amador County Arts Council and to co-found Main Street Theater Works which now makes its home in Jackson, CA.

Do you have a favorite performance?

So many works have inspired me! In addition to the first production I saw of Brenda Way’s noted above, Min Kahng’s The Four Immigrants at TheatreWorks SV last year remains a work I think about daily. It woke me to history and perspectives I was only partly aware of. Images from Garrett & Moulton’s Stabat Mattar continue to linger in my mind as do ideas from Sean Dorsey’s Boys in Trouble and ideas AND images from Brenda Way’s riveting Something About a Nightingale. I found the excerpt of Dead Reckoning (choreographed by KT Nelson) which ODC performed in Grace Cathedral for the opening of the Global Climate Action Summit beautiful and terrifyingly urgent. It reminded me again that some things are too important to be said with words–they must be danced.

What programs or activities does ODC have coming up?

I am excited about ODC/School’s offering of Aging Backwards classes. Through this welcoming (and fun!) class I’m re-discovering strength, flexibility and my physical confidence. On stage, I cannot wait to see Kate Weare and Brenda Way’s new collaboration with the old-time music group The Crooked Jades. The work titled World’s On Fire will have its world premiere at YBCA on March 7, 2019.

What’s the most rewarding part of your work?

I came to San Francisco because I needed a place that drew impossibly complicated, fantastically diverse people together. It was extraordinary to find myself surrounded by people who invited me to participate in exploring food, arts and nature with them. In the process, we began to work out who we were and what it meant to be community together. I loved the way San Francisco taught me to say “yes” to unexpected intersections – of subjects, disciplines, culture, gender, roles, flavors, seasons. It was prohibitively expensive to be here in 1989 as a theater student, supporting myself. It’s unsustainably expensive now (there’s a challenge waiting for a solution!). The most rewarding part of my work is to play a role in inviting people IN: into classes in the ODC/School which welcome 90+ year-olds and 2 year-olds, and everyone in between to discover and connect 365 days per year; into performances in the ODC/Theater or venues across the City that prompt us to expand instead of contract; into affordable space and nurturing residencies that dance makers across the Bay Area need–sometimes desperately. I’m grateful to be part of ODC’s on-going efforts.

What’s a future goal or dream that you have for ODC?

I dream of a fully funded space endowment for ODC (approximately $9.5M left to go) so that it will be possible to keep our building open to dance and dancers 365 days per year. When so many artists have lost their homes and their ability to stay in SF, maintaining this welcoming creative campus becomes ever-more personally galvanizing for me. 

Who is inspiring you right now?

Stacey Abrams (!), my brother Eben fighting a traumatic brain injury, Raean Gadonni and Troy Gassaway at Amador County’s rural Argonaut High for forging a culinary arts training program and a “farm-to-fork” school, as well as Brenda Way, KT Nelson, and Kimi Okada with their appetite for ODC’s work, endless wellspring of creative vision, and guts.

What’s a piece of advice you have been given that you still hold on to today?

Meane weil, speak weil and doe weil (the Urquhart Clan motto as taught by my grandmother, Violet).

What haven’t we asked you that you want people to know?

I’m always working to become more aware of the work of local and regional choreographers. I treasure suggestions for who and what to see next…

A headshot of Carma Zisman smiling.

Photo by Tanya Anguita

Did You Know?: Dasha Chernova

In 2017 Bay Area-based and Russian-born Dasha Chernova began Telaboratoria (in Russian, “telo” means body and “laboratoria” means laboratory), a program offering dance and theater improvisation classes and workshops designed to heal and empower LGBTQ+ communities in Russia. In November, Dasha heads back to continue the program, and before leaving they shared more about this work with In Dance.

How did dance enter your life?
As a child growing up in the post-Soviet economic ruins of a provincial town in the 90s, I was very physically active, climbing and jumping off fences, exploring abandoned construction sites, basements and dumping grounds. Looking back I can see where my love for site specific work and industrial landscapes comes from. My mother saw that I had a great need for bodily expression and put me into dance classes, but the authoritarian structure did not work for me, I was bad at remembering choreography and following the instructions, so was soon expelled.

I was able to pursue dance as a young adult after immigrating to the US fourteen years ago. It happened naturally: I moved to the Mission district of San Francisco and was surrounded by arts, my English was very poor and dance allowed me to express myself. I was also undocumented for the first five years of my life here and felt invisible on a fundamental level, therefore dance gave me a sense that I existed and was seen, through my body.

First I started working with Harupin-Ha, a Berkeley-based Butoh collective, then I continued in a duet with an artistic partner Deia DeBrito – we created clownish post-apocalyptic performance narratives that we showed at local black box theaters, bars, parks and backyards. I started formal dance training very late, at least compared to more traditional stories of entry into a dance practice. I took my first ballet class at 21, my first contemporary class at 22. By this point I was so immersed that started building my life, jobs and friendships around dance. I was lucky to live in a rent-controlled housing in San Francisco at that time which gave me the privilege to focus on seeking out dance mentors and to have time to usher at shows. At some point I performed extensively in dance and theater works around the Bay. I also have discovered my passion for teaching movement and eventually went back to school to study dance and pedagogy at UC Berkeley.

What challenges face LGBTQ+ people in Russia?
This is a complex question that I can answer on multiple levels. First, due to the infamous federal “anti-gay” law that was passed in 2013, LGBTQ+ Russians do not have a freedom of expression of their identity publically. The law is phrased quite vague but it basically bans any ‘gay propaganda’ to minors and thus gives the state a permission to target LGBTQ+ individuals.

Second, the majority of Russians still hold conservative views towards queer and trans* citizens. A lot of it is based on the recent government-imposed anti-Western views, neo-conservative wave that is on the rise, and also, a simple lack of knowledge and misrepresentation of queer folx [a gender neutral variation of the word “folks”] in media. We barely have any neutral to positive representation of LGBTQ+ people publically – our communities are still either demonized or exotified.

The level of stigmatization is so high that many queers never come out to their families, hide their relationships from co-workers and neighbors – remaining closeted is often the only way to stay safe and protect your loved ones. It is understandable as there are real threats of legal persecution and hate crimes. For instance, in recent years many queer educators were fired based on their sexual orientation or gender identity once outed by right wing homophobic activists through surveilling educators’ private social media accounts. Those of us who “look” or “act” queer live under a constant threat of being harassed or physically attacked in public places.

There are other challenges within LGBTQ+ communities such as internalized homophobia and transphobia, depression, self-medicating, lack of support, and financial struggles, especially for many transgender folx. Oppression is intersectional and older queers, queers with disabilities, queer and trans* migrants experience even more hardships. While the capitals, such as Moscow and St. Petersburg do have some resources for their LGBTQ+ populations, living queer and trans* in regional Russia is much tougher.

How and when did Telaboratoria get started?
When I left Russia at the age of 19 I wasn’t out, in fact, I did not know any other Russian queer/trans* people. I visited Russia seven years later, and to my great surprise, met several openly queer people that I’ve kept my connection with. Those connections started bringing me back to Russia and eventually resulted in my offering a three-day performance and movement workshop to a group of queers in Moscow and then a workshop to trans* people and their partners in St. Petersburg.

Somehow everything started falling into place, I realized that I could give back to my communities, that I finally had right resources and capacity to return and offer my skills and energy. Still it took some years to be able to commit to this kind of work in Russia. I spent 2016 looking for grants that would support the project at a larger scale, was extremely fortunate to receive a yearlong funding and I moved to St. Petersburg to start the program.

people standing still in a workshop

photo by Kathya Poloz

Describe Telaboratoria’s activities and programs.
Currently Telaboratoria is run by myself and Natasha Kim, the administrator of the program. The bulk of the program consists of two three-hour creative movement classes each week in ten-week sessions.

The program is open to all LGBTQ+ identities: cis-gendered LGB folx and trans* folx. Some participants identify as LGBTQ+ activists while others are closeted queers. We get about 14 to 20 attendees in each group. In addition to these regular classes we offer monthly workshops with guest teachers of different movement arts disciplines, such as puppetry, acting, performance, and voice. We also organize a bi-weekly Queer Authentic Movement practice, potlucks, site specific practice, Cuddle Parties. We have a social media group where we post readings, videos, assignments, thoughts. I also travel to regions of Russia and to Eastern Europe to lead workshops in their local LGBTQ+ community centers and would like to do more of it this coming year. Altogether we have impacted more than 220 LGBTQ+ individuals.

I believe that oppression happens through people’s bodies, and there are multiple studies that demonstrate that trauma is stored in our bodies. However, many trans* and queer folx in Russia do not have access to spaces where they can safely connect with their bodies, and even more so, spaces where people can have a collective experience of that connection. Telaboratoria provides ongoing collective creative movement practices. I am convinced that when those whose bodies are systemically and institutionally marginalized move together, have a courage to expose their soft and hard selves in front of each other, collective empathy is generated and strong bonds and support system begin to develop.

What has been the most rewarding part of this work?/ Can you share a story from your work in Russia that was particularly meaningful to you?
The work that I do is oftentimes hard, but I feel a strong sense of purpose, especially, when I hear about and see the impact of the program on the participants’ lives. One student shared that attending Telaboratoria classes made him feel grounded and brave enough to come out to his community as trans. Another expressed that throughout the program she learned that she could touch others and be touched in a non-sexual way and that discovery opened new ways of connecting to people for her. There have been a lot of ‘first times’ for all of us in this program. Some people danced in front of others for the first time, made choreography for the first time, took on leadership roles for the first time, talked about their bodies in a positive light for the first time, studied their anatomy for the first time. It was my first time designing a one year program through series of trials and mistakes, trying to actively listen to students’ needs, my own intuition and remain flexible and humble. The program applies the principles of both autonomy and collectivity in its methodology. The participants are encouraged to practice their personal boundaries, learn to listen to their own needs and the group needs. In fact, we spend a lot of time working on boundaries through a number of creative exercises and this practice offers people more freedom in trusting themselves and others. That process has been a very healing and rewarding experience for me personally.

Also, slowly, some really powerful things started to happen last year. People created friendships that they took outside of the dance studios. It has been wonderful to see people using our social media group page to invite each other to different events, share housing and job information, reach out for help. Classes opened space for celebration of multiple identities and expressions where everyone felt welcomed and safe. Telaboratoria became more than just a dance program, it became a community that has been growing.

What kind of obstacles has Telaboratoria had to face?
There are quite a lot of structural, institutional and now, financial, obstacles that we face. Access and safety are the main ones on our list. So far it has been impossible to find dance spaces that would accommodate people in wheelchairs. We struggle to find studios that would have gender neutral bathrooms. We always need to undergo several safety checks when looking for dance spaces and admitting new participants. Unfortunately, we cannot offer the practice for people under 18-year-old because of the “anti-gay” law (which is awful because teenagers really need a program of this kind) and have to check the applicants’ age when they sign up.

There is very little international funding that is allocated to queer Russian-based initiatives due to the worsening political relations. We started crowdfunding (gofundme.com/dance-for-lgbtq-in-russia) and are looking for other ways of funding the program.

two people in a workshop

photo by Katya Poloz

What programs or activities do you have coming up?
Classes begin mid-November (when I return to St. Petersburg from the Bay Area), although a few Telaboratoria participants have been organizing a regular Authentic Movement practice which makes me really happy. Once I am back we will resume the classes and workshops in a regular format. I am excited to involve more dance educators as guest teachers of Telaboratoria.

I have been working with a Finnish non-binary drag performer Jaana Pirskanen to bring them to Russia and co-organize a series of drag workshops for the queer and trans* communities of St. Petersburg. I have also been collaborating with a queer performance artist from St. Petersburg, Marina Shamova, to design and offer a series of Gender and Body workshops for Russian dance communities this winter and spring.

What’s a future goal or dream?
In the end of last May, Natasha, the program’s administrator, and I designed an elaborate questionnaire for Telaboratoria’s participants. Among the questions there was a call for imagining the future of Telaboratoria in some other alternative reality where repressive economic and political systems of Russia were not in place. People loved that question and went on describing their visions of the program. Many dreamed of having our own dance studio or even a whole building, Telaboratoria dance festival, regular multiple teachers, classes that would include trans* and queer teenagers and elders, an opportunity to go on a week-long nature retreat together, a way to collaborate and exchange with queer/trans* dance programs in other countries. Who knows, maybe we can turn some of these dreams into reality.

Of course, my biggest goal is to find ways to make Telaboratoria financially sustainable so the program can continue, grow and develop.

I would like to make our classes more integrated and accessible, for instance, bring more queer and trans* folx with disabilities into classes. I want to continue and expand partnerships that we already have, such as working with some feminist organizations, political art organizations, and to make new ones, such as nonprofits that work with migrants and elders.

What (or who) is inspiring you right now?
I have been reading/watching Queer Dance, a multi-platformed project by Clare Croft and feeling very inspired. Cat Brooks who is running for Oakland Mayor right now and who co-founded Anti Police-Terror Project gives me hope. An emerging music artist from Kirgizstan, Zere Asylbek, who just released a brave music video statement about women’s liberties and rights recently blew my mind. I carry inspiration from my dance and performance mentors such as Olivia Corson, Hiroko Tamano, Sara Shelton Mann, Kathleen Hermesdorf, Joe Goode and many others. Those who inspire me are courageous to challenge the system and imagine a more just world through the process of active doing, by using the tools and resources that are available to them.

What’s a piece of advice you have been given that you still hold on to today?
My habitual pattern is to rush to a next thing after completing something, to not take enough pauses to recuperate and reflect. Recently I have been trying to live by my wise friend’s advice about pausing and remembering to notice what I have already done and what others who came before me did and have time for celebration and appreciation. That practice seems to be more important for me as I mature.

Did You Know?: Khala Brannigan

Headshot of Khala Brannigan

Khala Brannigan photo by Stephen Texeira

Khala Brannigan is a native of Santa Fe, New Mexico and alumna of the LINES Ballet Training Program. She founded Brannigan Dance Works in 2013 and has shared work at the West Wave Dance Festival, Summer Performance Festival, San Francisco Dance Film Festival, and SF International Arts Festival. Khala currently dances with Robert Moses’ Kin and teaches for the LINES Ballet outreach program. Dancers’ Group asked Khala about her current projects and perspectives. 

How did dance enter your life?

I started dancing at the age of seven in a little studio – Moving People Dance Theatre, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I begged my mother to take me to at least one ballet class for weeks. When she agreed, we purchased a pink tutu, pink tights, pink ballet shoes, and a pink leotard. We had no idea what was “proper” attire for a seven-year old’s first dance class. When I walked through the studio doors, my first ballet teacher, Layla Amis, couldn’t stop smiling at the sight of my ridiculous outfit.

It was then that I found home in my heart, a place I could rely on to always be there for me. I fell in love with dance immediately.

How would you describe your current work?

I aim to create contemporary dance that draws from our bodies’ innate knowledge and accumulated experiences to foster a deeper understanding of ourselves as vessels of history and ferocity. I believe in the power of dance as resilience, cultivating phrases of movement that access feelings of joy, humility, grounding, and spirit. Through creative process, I hope for the artists and audience members to experience a language that truly speaks to humanity – beyond gender, skin color, social status, or income. Since I started choreographing, a common theme I keep coming back to is the importance of empowerment – and this desire for empowerment is much deeper than fame or fortune.

Tell us about your upcoming project.

My newest work, Bones, reflects nature itself, accessing the innate wisdom and feminine intuition that lives within our bodies. As a series of solos and duets, this new work aims to identify the inner battles that prevent us from experiencing our wild selves. For me, bones are a symbol of death and rebirth ­– a research of the soul. Though we may not share the same personal histories in society, bones could symbolize the truth of equality – once we dig deeper, we find that we all share the same matter. Bones will premiere at the Joe Goode Annex September 7 and 8 alongside artists David Harvey, and Courtney Mazeika. 

Dance Shot of Khala Brannigan

Khala Brannigan photo by Stephen Texeira

If no one knew anything about your dance practice, what would you want them to know?

My creative practice never stops, even though I spend at least 20 hours a week in the dance studio. When I go home or I am working a job that has nothing to do with dance, I am still thinking about the ways in which it impacts my practice. The more experiences I have, the stronger my art becomes.

What has been the most rewarding part of your dance life?

The moments when I offer [dance] to others with my full heart and don’t expect anything in return. When I offer a class to kids who know nothing about dance, or perform on stage with nothing to lose, or witness a piece that I choreographed finally come to life, I realize that the impact is so much greater than myself and that is the most rewarding; being in the unknown, just giving, and going for it without expectations.

What’s a future goal or dream?

I dream of living wages and more opportunities for artists in America – that we can see art as a necessity instead of an option. My biggest dreams involve the greater whole of humanity, because in the end, we need community in order to survive.

What inspires you?

Oh man. Books, people, stories, music, an impactful experience, and even sometimes just a small interaction with a stranger. I am also inspired by the human capacity to overcome challenges that once seemed impossible, and the strength we gain through that process.

Do you have a favorite dance move?

I wouldn’t say I do, there’s way too many to choose from! 

A favorite song or type of music to dance to?

It definitely depends on my mood, but hip hop, or anything with a beat really gets me going.

Khala Brannigan Dance Shot

Khala Brannigan photo by Stephen Texeira

What advice do you still hold on to today?

Robert Moses once told me, “Be the leader that you are.” I am forever grateful for the opportunities he has offered me to practice that. Also, my dance teacher growing up, Ronn Stewart always said “keep going.” I still hold on to those words today, because it is so easy to feel defeated. The only choice we have sometimes is to just keep going.

What haven’t we asked that you want to share?

What do you know now that you wish you knew six years ago? I have learned that a career as a dancer/choreographer/teacher looks different on every individual, and art, in its true form, is not graded in a hierarchical system. Not only that, but things change, and they will continue to change. Sometimes you have no control over it. So many doors are open for opportunities, and often we look in all the wrong places. The answers we search for are already within ourselves, we just have to remember to listen.

Contact Improvisers Consider #metoo

The West Coast Contact Improvisation Jam in Berkeley (wcciJAM) has been a hub for the investigation of the form for over 25 years. Contact Improvisation (CI), which grew out of choreographic experiments in the early 1970s, is a relational dance form in which dancers improvise around touch, weight exchange, and the physics of equilibrium and falling. CI challenged assumptions about dance, but has since developed into a form practiced widely by both professional and recreational dancers around the world. “Contact Improvisation’s influence can be seen throughout modern and postmodern dance choreography, performance, and dance training worldwide, especially in relationship to partnering and use of weight” (Contact Quarterly)

Contact Improvisation’s open-ended physical dialogues between dancers offers a platform for critical inquiry of movement possibilities. Can it also cultivate a questioning of the cultures we inhabit? In wcciJAM 2017’s Statement on Inclusivity and Assumptions, teachers and organizers created a statement acknowledging that while our dance is not enough to change the larger sociopolitical context, we must grapple with the issues that are present in the room at every jam. Each of us arrives at the dance with our own personal histories, at an intersection of specific identities. Can awareness of how culture and socioeconomic structures inhabit our bodies, minds, and habits, help us avoid perpetuating inequities? How do we continue to question both our dancing and the subculture that we’ve built to support its practice? What are the form’s potentials for disrupting oppression and privileges based on identity?

The practice of CI is uniquely positioned to offer a space for the investigation of how we express our personal boundaries through touch and movement. A statement most often attributed to dancer and choreographer Steve Paxton says that CI should deal with “physics, not ‘chemistry.’” Nevertheless, this boundary is not always respected, nor is it easy to define. The dancing body and the social body coexist. Learning CI can involve learning to navigate complex experiences and interactions where a strong sense of personal agency is called for. This can be particularly challenging for younger women, gender non-conforming folks, dancers with disabilities, or other structurally disadvantaged groups. In this moment of #metoo, we – Cathy, Rosemary, and Miriam along with the rest of the team organizing the wcciJAM – are committed to empowering dancers to maintain healthy boundaries, to cultivate self-care and agency in their dance relationships. With that in mind, “De/constructing Power” was chosen as this year’s festival theme.

What follows are responses to the question, “How do you see the #metoo movement impacting the CI community, or not?” from some of this year’s female-identified teachers:

Jo Kreiter:

I stepped away from the contact community in 2004 when my son was born and came back to it in 2016, when he was old enough to stay home alone for a little while, so I could go to the jam. When I came back, I was so delighted to see a younger generation had taken up the form, and to see tremendous thoughtfulness around inclusivity and power. There are many more brown bodies on the dance floor then when I left. And gender non-conforming bodies. There is spoken, articulate language, and even written declarations, for how to be in a jam with respect for all. I think dancers are some of the best creatures on earth, so I am not surprised by these evolutions of thought and practice. Sadly though, I still hear from young women about the ‘creepy guy’ factor at jams. Women, especially younger women, are still feeling a need to dodge certain men at certain moments. So we do have some work to do, still, as a community. What gives me hope is that the jam is a place where I learned to practice strong boundaries and to keep myself safe. It is a fertile learning ground for finding one’s best self.”

Taja Will:

“I personally have not seen it impact my primary CI community but I’ve been hearing from other communities that the #metoo movement has liberated incidents and feelings around safety and respect in their communities, some folks have been called out for recurring behavior that makes others feel unsafe.”

Anya Cloud:

“It impacts everything. As dance artists I believe that we are the material of the work. And that includes our complex histories that often relate to trauma. I think it is exposing the need for more explicit and nuanced consent practices with CI. I think that the #metoo movement is facilitating some space for more transparent questioning/discourse of patriarchy, white supremacy, and heteronormativity that can be quite pervasive in the CI community. It is ongoing and incremental work to move against these dominant systems. The current statistics are that someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds. We can’t ignore this within the CI community. And I do notice people talking more about power, consent, agency, predatory behavior, gender, and assumptions now than I have in the past. We can do better. It is vital and important work in terms of visioning and manifesting the kind of CI culture and practice that we want in the future. It is all quite intense and necessary.”

Cathie Caraker:

“I can’t speak for the whole CI community but I can say that my own approach has changed. I’m much quicker to speak up now when my ‘ick radar’ goes off. I recently approached an organizer who had invited me to a workshop with a male teacher who’s long had a reputation for being one of “those guys” who hits on female participants. I told the organizer that I wasn’t comfortable being at an event with this teacher, and told him why. His response was quite defensive. However, he passed on what I’d said and that teacher reached out to me. We ended up having a very good conversation, in which he shared with me that he’s been working on changing his behavior. It was one of those moments where I felt a clear shift because I’d spoken up. It feels awkward and even scary to stick your neck out. As women we’re socialized to be nice. We want people to like us. We’re afraid of offending, or god forbid, making a mistake. We can teach young women about healthy boundaries and consent and blah blah, but we’re still not addressing the core problem, which is patriarchy, male entitlement. The imbalance of power is very old but we can change it. We can support female-identified artists and boycott dance institutions that don’t. We can ask our male peers to take a step back, to listen more and ask how they can help. We can facilitate discussions on diversity and power sharing at our dance festivals. It’s happening – there is a sea change afoot.”

Diana Lara:

“Even though I found the facts and roots of the #metoo movement very valid, I think that the press and social networks have found, again – as in previous social movements – another way to sensationalize it and commercialize it. I hope that in general the movement provides more awareness in the population and the CI community about the social norms that perpetuate sexual harassment and violence. Only by being aware of these social norms, can we have more accountability. I am a fan of Paulo Freire’s pedagogy of the oppressed, and I agree that we have the duty of understanding the systems and mechanisms that perpetuate the status quo in order to change it.”

Ronja Ver:

The #metoo movement has emboldened me, as a teacher, to bring up the issue of boundaries in every class, and to have a chat with every new student. I feel strongly about this, because what I constantly hear from young dance students is that they love CI, but would never go to a jam because the one time they went they were touched inappropriately by an older, more experienced male dancer.

I’ve been hearing a lot more requests for education and guidelines around touch and consent in the CI communities. It seems like this time around some of the cis male facilitators are also getting on board, which is a huge step forward. I’ve sat in circles where women who were violated by unwanted inappropriate touch in a CI setting have spoken out, and where the perpetrators have actually been barred from coming back. This is a change from the age-old system of denial and victim blaming, but it will take time for people to also start trusting facilitators to take action against violations and assault. It is still necessary for a network of sisters to warn each other about teachers and dancers with whom they’ve experienced hurtful or uncomfortable situations.”

Jen Chien

Before answering this question, I first need to state that I don’t necessarily feel like I am part of the “CI community.” I have practiced CI for a long time, and it’s meant a whole lot to me as a human and as an artist, but I don’t necessarily feel like part of a community based around CI. It’s not fun to be the only POC in a room, and that’s unfortunately been all too prevalent in the communities that arise around CI. I’m not mad at it, it’s just felt like it’s not for me.

What I would hope for, in terms of the #metoo movement’s impact for the practice and teaching of CI, is for us all to be more and more aware of how gendered and sexual power imbalances operate at all levels of our lives and experiences, even when we have the best of intentions, even when we are purposefully trying to create spaces that stand apart from society’s ills. CI is a practice that intentionally crosses normative socialized physical boundaries, in a mostly unstructured way. This can bring a lot of stuff up for people, good and/or bad. And if/when there are sexual or sexualized energies present in a dance, we need to be able to talk about it, and to negotiate and respect boundaries and consent, just as in any other physical interaction. Personally, my practice of CI is completely non-sexual, and that’s part of what I love about it. I know that other practitioners may have other thoughts, feelings or opinions. Knowing that there’s a range, it’s important for us to not bury this stuff under the rug just because it may be uncomfortable to talk about.

I myself had a #metoo moment, early on in my practice of CI, at the Tuesday night jam at good ol’ 848 Divisadero. I and another young female friend were dancing in a trio with an older man who we both felt was behaving in a sexually violating way. We confronted him directly in the moment, he apologized and also denied what we were accusing him of, and then my friend and I processed it together later. I feel lucky that I and my friend experienced the same thing at the same time, and we could empower each other to speak up and state our boundaries. If it had just been me, I’m not sure I would have had the courage to do so, or even to trust in my own experience of what was happening. This person was a regular attendee of the jam, and we had mutual friends/acquaintances. It did not end up turning me away from the practice, but I will say that at the time I didn’t feel comfortable sharing the experience with more than one or two close friends. I hope that the spirit of clarity, honesty, and accountability the #metoo movement has brought forth can inspire more discussion and empowerment for everyone and anyone who practices.”

San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival Celebrates 40 Years

three female Cuban dancers in brightly colored dresses and headbands

 

This July, the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival will return to the War Memorial Opera House for its 40th anniversary as the largest, longest-running, and most comprehensive world dance and music event of its kind in the US.

“[The Opera House] is a magnificent setting to celebrate the awe-inspiring Bay Area artists who are sustaining the world’s cultural traditions, shining as a powerful beacon for the power and beauty of diverse cultural inclusion,” said Festival Executive Director Julie Mushet. “It’s deeply gratifying to celebrate four decades of presenting these inspiring artists to ever-growing audiences, from the Festival’s modest beginnings in community centers to the grandest stage in San Francisco.”

two Eskimo dancers, one standing, one seated

One of the highlights of this year’s Festival is the performance by Chuna McIntyre and the Nunamta Yup’ik Eskimo Singers and Dancers, who will present a dance that will be seen for the first time in over 200 years, in regalia that has taken nearly four decades to create.

Additionally, the Festival has announced a trio of new Co-Artistic Directors: Patrick Makuakane, Latanya d. Tigner, and Mahealani Uchiyama, as Carlos Carvajal and CK Ladzekpo become Artistic Directors Emeritus after 12 seasons as Co-Artistic Directors.

two ballet folklorico dancers, one male with a straw hat and tied scarf, one female with a flower headdress

Makuakane is founder, Artistic Director, and Kumu Hula of San Francisco’s renowned Na Lei Hulu i ka Wekiu Hawaiian dance company; Tigner is a dancer and choreographer at Oakland’s venerated Dimensions Dance Theater, directs Dimensions’ youth company, and serves on the dance faculty of UC Berkeley; Uchiyama is founder and Artistic Director of the Center for International Dance in Berkeley, Kumu Hula of Halau Ka Ua Tuahine, and is an award-winning choreographer and composer.

AERODANCE – Indian Folkloric (Gujarat)

AguaClara Flamenco – Spanish Flamenco

Ananya Tirumala – South Indian Kuchipudi

Antara Asthaayi Dance – North Indian Kathak

Arenas Dance Company – Afro-Cuban

Bolivia Corazón de América – Bolivian Folkloric (Tarabuco and Potosí)

Caminos Flamencos – Spanish Flamenco

two female flamenco dancers in blue and white polka dot dresses and 1 male musician

 

Charya Burt Cambodian Dance – Cambodian Classical

Chinyakare Ensemble – Zimbabwean Traditional

Chitresh Das Youth Company – North Indian Kathak

De Rompe y Raja Cultural Association – Afro-Peruvian

Ensambles Ballet Folklórico de San Francisco – Mexican Folkloric (Tabasqueño)

female Tahitian dancer with bright orange and purple grass skirt and headdress

Hermanos Herrera – Mexican Folkloric

Kim Shuck ‡ – Poet Laureate of San Francisco

Leung’s White Crane Lion & Dragon Dance Association – Chinese Dragon Dance

Los Danzantes de Aztlán, Fresno State – Mexican Folkloric (Huapangos)

Mussel Rock Cloggers – Appalachian Clogging

Nimely Pan African Dance Company – Liberian Folkloric

Nunamta Yup’ik Eskimo Singers and Dancers – Alaskan Yup’ik Eskimo

OngDance Company – Korean Traditional and Contemporary

Parangal Dance Company – Philippine Folkloric (Meranao)

Te Pura O Te Rahura’a – Tahitian ??te’a and ?Aparima

Vinic-Kay (La Gente y El Canto) – Mexican Folkloric

Ye Feng – Chinese Contemporary

 

The Festival’s Malonga Casquelourd Lifetime Achievement Award for excellence in ethnic dance and music will be presented to four artists who have had extraordinary impact on the field:

Welcome: Hopes for 2017

Jan/Feb In DanceWhat awaits? A simple question that involves speculation, hope, worry and certainly doing much of what is always done—work with what we have, while doing what we love. While I imagine what awaits, it felt vital to ask Dancers’ Group’s staff what their hopes are as they begin a new year.

Mine is—throughout 2017, find time to participate in life’s wonderfully awkward moments that inform my work and provide the laughter and tears that make life so grand. —Wayne Hazzard, Executive Director

I closed the door to 2016 and open the door to 2017. Before entering I remind myself that the hard work is just beginning. I feel in myself a superabundance of energy, which finds no outlet in a quiet life. Even energy runs out at one point, so for that reason I want to focus on how and where I use my energy. My biggest investments will always be my family, friends and dance—my trinity of happiness. In 2017 I hope to build my family up to their highest potential, enrich my friendships, and continue my allegiance to the powers of Dance. —Edgar Mendez, Artist Resources Manager

I hope for sore muscles, sand on my feet and good books to read. I hope to see my family more often. I hope for the pain to stop so I can dance again. I hope for self-discovery, patience, and courage. I hope for new friendships.

I hope for all of us to disconnect and value silence and introspection. I hope for the city I live in to become affordable again. I hope for something real to be done about the people in the streets. I hope for 2016 not to be the precursor of a downward spiral. I hope for perspective, dialogue and kindness. I hope for more doing. I hope for the warrior in all of us to awaken. —Natalia Velarde, Program Assistant

I recently watched Rick Prelinger’s Lost Landscapes of San Francisco at the Castro Theater, an annual event now in its 11th year. Over a thousand people filled in the seats: we all watched with nostalgia and awe at shaky home videos, old street views, parades, and fog from the 1930s-80s—light leaks, film clutter, scratches, lint and all. This brief experience left me reeling so to speak; enveloped by the past and in community, I thought about 2017. Yet another year in the existence of this city. A new year.

I hope to observe—record, capture, listen to, admire—2017, via our city (our artists, our landscapes, our families, our dances) with the wonder I felt looking onto the beauty of the past. How can we witness and emulate 2017, in all its textures, imperfections, and beauty? —Melissa Lewis, Administrative Assistant

In the close of 2016, I felt forceful waves of change repeatedly crash before me personally, communally, and societally. The instinctive, physical response I experience is to close my eyes, retreat, flinch. I have discovered that this discomfort with change is more palpable lately than in my recent history, and I feel others struggling with similar and varying pains of their own.

As 2017 arrives, I hope to refocus my energy on cultivating an ability to navigate ever-shifting surroundings for both myself and others. I hope to remember and remind that there is power in any gesture made with empathy, and that change can be met not by mourning losses but by readjusting to the potential of a future sculpted from pillars of the past and driven by love. I hope we come together. I hope to dance more — let’s take class! —Chloë Zimberg, Administrative Assistant

More than all else, may the tide turn toward love, justice, and joy. May we be patient with ourselves, yet urgent in our work. May our art help carry us through. —Michelle Lynch Reynolds, Program Director

From 500 Capp Street: Dancing with David Ireland

Editor’s Note: Performances at 500 Capp Street have been postponed until further notice. Updates will be posted here and on the DG Weekly e-bulletin once confirmed. Contact melissa@dancersgroup.org with any questions.

THE HOUSE
The faintly grey house perches on the corner of 20th and Capp Street in the Mission District of San Francisco. A man, an artist, a community member, a friend—used to live here; his name was David Ireland. The house endures as what most consider his most important work. I know it as a living breathing self-portrait of David’s practice that we have been invited to move with.

WE VISIT WEEKLY
To make a new piece titled Moving Not Knowing, Being Not Making, Ongoing Not Finished: Not=Nothing Owns Time. Site-specific, house tour, dance-theater, movement installation; all words to describe what we are after in the David Ireland House.

 

SPLINTER / STILL
In rehearsals, a timed ritual has formed. 1: We begin every evening in stillness. 2: We tend to our spines. 3: We generate heat. 4: We stretch. 3 minutes, 3 minutes, 3 minutes, 3 minutes. We all do this in our own methods, to sync together: older man (Yope), older woman (Sharon), young boy (Zenon), another man (Don), three women (myself) (Amelia) (Natalie), 500 Capp expert (Antonio). The stillness always becomes quite loud as the sun sets: my watch clicks, the skateboard rides by, the watermelon slices get sold just outside the window. When I lay down to take this self-portrait in the first still 3 minutes, a small splinter wedges itself into my leg, a hello from the house.

DAVID
“You can’t make art by making art” —David Ireland

“From the time that I stepped out of the house after that first visit, I looked at the world differently. He disregarded the erudite, rarefied element of what art should be. His ethos was that anything could be art. He looked at cracks in the walls and regarded them as beautiful. It made me look at the world in a different way… Movement was hugely important to David. Yes, he collaborated with choreographers and dance companies, but I think he also regarded the movement of his body within the space as performance. Sweeping the front steps was a meditative thing and it was also a performance. He called it action rather than work, imbuing it with a more forward-thinking attitude versus it just being drudgery.” —Carlie Wilmans, 500 Capp Street Foundation Director

“Art occurs in the practice of life” —David Ireland


LISTENING AS WE DANCE
We’ve been listening to the house breathe. We’re trying to trace the cracks in the walls, the curves in the halls. We’re following the impetus each wire / sardine tin / Dumbball / splinter / reflection / pillow offers us, towards defining a movement or a sequence or a choreographed image. Inside the amber glow of David Ireland’s self-portrait, we’re listening—like you listen in contact improvisation to the weight of your partner.

 

They [Ann Hatch and Ed Gilbert] walked me through the house, and I just started experiencing it. I had seen it in photos, but seeing it in photos is nothing like being inside that house… I walked through the house and experienced different features of the house, I was moved, in particular by the upstairs copper window, the Untitled (View from the window) piece. When I experienced that piece, there was a little kind of light bulb that went on. I thought, this piece is AMAZING and it will lose any kind of meaning if somebody were to attempt to cut it out and put it in a museum, or a gallery or something. We did the tour in kind of a similar fashion to your performance: starting in the hallway and moving upstairs, moving back down the stairs, and finishing up in the dining room.” —Carlie Wilmans


SEE (IT, US)
We will lead you through the David Ireland House, in small audiences of 10, twice a night. We, as in all the performers, and the project’s collaborators: Amie Dowling, Elaine Buckholtz, Natalie Greene, Sebastian Alvarez. And David in spirit.

Open your eyes. Look for things you wouldn’t expect. Look. Just look. Look at the house through the lens of your own life and your own experience” —Carlie Wilmans

Community Dialogue: Women in Dance

In developing this issue of In Dance, Dancers’ Group hoped to gather and share an array of perspectives on a topic as complex and open-ended as “Women in Dance.” Thank you to all who responded to our survey questions, sharing experiences and perceptions.


What are the challenges and/or opportunities facing women in dance today?

I am a 20+ year dancer of Argentine tango who has worked for over 12 years in tango-modern fusion largely focused on women partnering women (almost 11 of them as a co-founding member of Tango Con*Fusión). I have experienced doors opening by degrees. As recently as 2007-2008 there was a dearth of support for women partnering women in tango in Buenos Aires. The idea was that a man must be in the equation for it to truly be tango, so if you had two men partnering each other – OK. Two women – not so much. 2016 marked the 4th year that my colleague Christy Coté and I were featured teachers and performers at the annual Congreso Internacional de Tango Argentino (CITA) in Buenos Aires, the 2nd year that we were given a spot in the CITA Theater Show at the Teatro ND, and the 1st year that we were granted the opportunity to teach not one but two (!) classes in Lead-Follow Exchange. In 2010 we were the first female pair to teach, and to present Lead-Follow Exchange as a topic, at CITA. The backstory being that just prior to 2010 – we had nearly given up hope that we would ever be granted the chance to teach such a class at CITA. Today Buenos Aires and the tango world at large are much more accepting of women partnering women, and of gender-neutral lead-follow, than was the case when I began dancing Argentine tango back in 1994.
Chelsea Eng

I believe that there are certain stereotypes that surround women who dance. Whether it is the objectification of our bodies, especially in commercial art forms, or the expectations of what a female body is supposed to look like and move like. Gender stereotypes do seep into the world of dance as well because after all art is but a reflection of life.
Ishika Seth, Mona Khan Company

A new opportunity facing women in dance today is to step away from limited thinking about what is an appropriate aged and sized dancer’s body. This opportunity invites women to embrace the idea that any aged or sized body can express the essence of movement. As this opportunity creates a new paradigm, there is no longer a need to retire from dancing when one reaches a certain age. Likewise, if and when one’s body changes from pregnancy, illness or sudden disabilities, dancing can remain a valid path towards fulfillment whether it is expressed in a class, a performance, in one’s living room or at the beach.

In this new paradigm, the size of a woman’s body is not going to limit her from participating in the world of dance. There will be a reduction in valuing women’s dance abilities based on her body and shape. She can express her truth through movement with whatever size body she may be inhabiting at any given time. The path to freedom is through that very body.
-Lucia August

Women are challenged in dance (as in society at large), by navigating financial and logistical steps to achieving all their career and family goals. When gendered cultural norms place a heavier burden of caregiving and domestic management upon a woman, this can affect her ability to focus on career goals or to be seen by her superiors as competitive or committed at work.

A recent tide of interest in diversity and female representation in arts leadership has inspired large-budget and prestigious dance companies to invest in women choreographers and directors. However, female dancers struggle to be cared for and paid at the same rate as male dancers, and women dance makers fight to have their work recognized at the same pace as men in choreography.
-Lauren Hamilton

As an intersectional feminist and an artist, I seek to provide voice to the struggles of my communities and myself: working class, queer, dancing women of colour. This is a position that I carry in and out of the studio and plays an imperative role in the development of my artistic voice. As someone who lives within the shifting landscapes of diaspora, yet again I see myself as a foreigner: Women’s work has historically been co-opted by men, and those men are more often represented. This is especially true in the field of dance. I believe that we are at an incredible precipice for change right now. There has been a trend of women, though outnumbering men in the field, not surpassing men in the field when it comes to taking on leadership and directorial leads. We have the opportunity for this to shift now. Akram Khan recently wrote that he doesn’t “want to say we should have more female choreographers for the sake of having more female choreographers.” How easy to state when you benefit from the systematic privilege of men in your field and fail to recognize the greater obstacles that women face in their journeys to notoriety. What’s more, emotional processes that dance is meant to address are often consigned to the “feminine,” and never was composer Alex North more wrong when he stated that “[Anna Sokolow’s] ideas about what was going on the problems in society were emotional rather than intellectual.” To which, scholar Mark Franko suggests, “emotion was fundamental to radical culture and foundational to the radical ethos.” Emotional landscape is the basis off of which we create radical dance. And after all, isn’t all dance radical?
-Bhumi Patel

In a girl’s early training, girls are not empowered; and because of the disproportional number of female dancers versus male dancers, many women feel like that they are easily replaceable.
-Milissa Payne Bradley, The Milissa Payne Project

Age…think that is true for woman in general but especially in dance when your body ages out just as your creative prowess begins to peak. basically, a feminist look at dance reveals many of the issues with the added complication of loss of work because of the body aging out.
Deborah Slater, Deborah Slater Dance Theater

Feminism and the aging Baby Boomer wave have helped women (and everyone) broaden their ideas beyond traditional models of dance and dancers. Awareness continues to grow that dance is a practice that can inform a lifetime of art making and serve communities of all kinds, not only dancers.
Greacian Goeke, Impromptu No Tutu Elder Movement Ensemble

I hope that institutions and individuals will reflect on the choices, attitudes and behaviors that promote elitism in dance culture. While we might be able to thank recent TV shows for keeping dance in public consciousness, those shows also promote the idea that dance is inherently competitive. Dance artists need to consider ableism, access and privilege in the myriad ways that we connect, train, teach, create and produce. With fewer spaces and resources available to share, we need thoughtful collaborations and innovative solutions to the challenges we face in this place at this time. For women, especially, this is not a time to put each other down. This is a time to lift each other up, connect and evolve!
-Natalie Greene, Mugwumpin & USF Dance Generators


What do you hope will change in the dance world?

I rue the condescension I have sometimes felt directed towards teaching as ‘selling out’, as somehow ‘less than’ pursuing the path of ‘pure’ art. I often feel at my most joyful when engaged in the art of teaching.
-Chelsea Eng

I hope that the conversations about equity and diversity will begin to ACTIVELY include and embrace disability and the huge community of people with disabilities. I hope that access will be more enforced in the dance world. We wouldn’t operate in places that LGBTQ or people of color or people of different religious beliefs can’t come but there are still inaccessible venues–more than 25 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Judith Smith, AXIS Dance Company

I would like to see less heteronormativity, less gendered casting and character development, and more complex, humanizing roles for women in dance artistic content…I hope the dance world, and the rest of the world, will move away from seeing female bodies as passive objects and instead embrace their power, radiance, and rich potential for uncovering truths about the human experience.
-Lauren Hamilton

As a female choreographer I experience disproportionate opportunities daily. The creative world seems to still, be largely, male dominated. In ballet, women have been discouraged from being the creators of works so many young female dancers seem to think that if they can’t make it as a professional dancer that they have no future in the dance world…Opportunities in dance can ripple out in waves like a stone thrown in still waters. Opportunity is available it just has to be given fairly and consistently.
-Milissa Payne Bradley, The Milissa Payne Project

That women will continue to call out patriarchal abuses and biases. That women will work with other women as allies in creating and supporting opportunities for each other. That men who are similarly en garde against sexist policies are welcomed to work with us. That we read our dances as objectively as possible for the gender politics embedded in them and own what we are putting forth. That we continue to hold as unacceptable institutionalized sexism (what is it .78 to the dollar women are making now?) and advocate and vote only for elected officials who are committed to disciplined gender equity.
Christy Funsch, Funsch Dance

Hidden gender bias – which is a function of the world in general, but oddly prevalent in the dance world in terms of who runs successful dance companies. (nationally, internationally) particularly odd when you consider the matriarchs of contemporary dance. i think SF is a bit unusual in that in the modern dance world, the ‘tough broads’ are hanging in…
-Deborah Slater, Deborah Slater Dance Theater

More recognition (financial and otherwise) for the powerful messages of dances created by and for elder women.
Greacian Goeke, Impromptu No Tutu Elder Movement Ensemble


Are there additional questions or ideas you would like to add?

I would also like to see the dance world become more trans-inclusive.
Lauren Hamilton

Who are your role models for financially and artistically successful women making dances?
Zahava Griss, Embody More Love

The question of “where are the women ballet choreographers” can create frustration. We’re here, we’re creating, but we are not getting the opportunities on the country’s main stages or with the big budget companies. Our work is not supported to the same financial degree, which means the work is often denied the strength of a strong collaborative creative team. For example, I’ve been in situations where the company is commissioning an evening of women choreographers, but presents the work at their studio theater with a condensed creation time and no access to costume or lighting designers. While the creative work might be excellent, what could it have been with solid resources supporting the process?
Amy Seiwert, Amy Seiwert’s Imagery

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