Author Archive | Wayne Hazzard

Welcome

September In Dance cover with WelcomeBe Here Now — Here Now Be — Now Be Here

These three words, placed in simple rotation, could be tips given by a caring teacher in class, or book titles advocating the power of living in the moment. I equally picture these texts associated with the likes of Ram Dass, Jedi Master Yoda, and a Shakespearean character.

Like this re-arranging of words, artists and creative thinkers are rightly re-visiting, re-imagining, and re-engaging with the power of terms, including nonverbal expression. With the first eight months of 2017 skewing assumptions of a sane and just world, we’ve entered a phase in time arranged in ways that are anything but normal.

Reactions and protests to national and international events are also transpiring at twitter-neck-speed. Each informing the future of politics, the environment, and our melting-pot multi-cultural society: an upheaval of past advancements that’s fueled by hatred, ignorance, and exclusion.

Thankfully there’s a renewed vigor to question authority and policy, with urgency framing each moment. Artists are positioned to provide voice to those targeted and attacked— verbally and physically—for their perceived difference.

While not all artmakers will consider their practice as politically based, all art is political. Especially art based in abstraction, which encourages creative thinking, allowing a multiplicity of interpretations. The viewer, or interpreter, is given agency to reflect on impressions and concepts that determine their stake in what is presented. With the moving body placed at ground zero, its own human stake that signifies a continued claim for liberty and justice for all. A provocation for more discourse and a demand to be seen.

A chorus of ideas resides in this September issue. If I were to pick a theme that connected the unique articles and features within, it would be the theme of perseverance. Persevering as a commitment to dance-making while digging deep. Persevere to identify resources (space, dancers, money, audience, and even accolades) that make the moments possible.

Kendra Kimbrough Barnes, the co-founder/director of the Black Choreographers Festival and director of her own company, talks with choreographer Raissa Simpson about Afrofuturism and Simpson’s work presenting artists during the now annual PUSHfest. We learn about Vanessa Camarena-Arredondo’s recent appointment at the Akonadi Foundation to further funding strategies that will support cultural work in Oakland for people of color. In a piece that pays tribute to the legacy of teachers, Eric Kupers asks questions about the move to increase class sizes in the university setting and puts a spotlight on reflections that speak to the power of giving back.

Since the death of founder Michael Smuin (1938-2007) perseverance has been a calling for Celia Fushille, the artistic director of Smuin Contemporary American Ballet, to continue the legacy of her mentor. Heather Desaulniers reveals the numerous paths that await the company, guided by Fushille’s passion.

Michael Nugent, a new writer to In Dance, is in conversation with choreographer Randee Paufve. They each bring their perspectives to XO, a mashup performance piece that is informed by today and tomorrow’s challenges that explores “archetypes and stereotypes as means of reorienting ourselves in these unsettling times.”

Always, my hope is that the words within provide touch-points to be in conversation, while inspiring and motivating each of us to deliver our message.

Dance and see dance with perseverance and delight.

Welcome

July August 2017 CoverSize matters, mostly.

I like my encounters to feel big and bold. In a space where bodies defy expectations in size, ability, race, and gender, while providing intimate physical moments that range from quiet tenderness to explosive fireworks. I also like the experience to last—an encounter might take 30 to 40 minutes. Not to be too detailed, but there may be props involved or theatrical toys incorporated to enhance the experience. All in service to what can be described as the dramatic pay-off, the climax, which concludes the performance.

Did this rudimentary rambling have you imagining a scene of carnal pleasure?

No, silly, it’s my way to describe how much I love to see dance. A chance to imbibe a variety of physical actions of all shapes and sizes. These instances are intimate embraces between performer and audience. And like most first loves—and those that are fondly remembered—they’re all part of experimenting.

I often question, how does physical proximity to a dance impact or alter one’s perception of that dance? Perhaps the closeness of moving bone and muscle forces unforeseen feelings and unimagined interpretations. Yet, how close is too close? Does an audience’s distance from performers more fully realize or lessen sensorial images intended by their creator?

Does it matter?

I’m on a roll with questions. And there are more, like: what draws an audience to attend one event over another? Is it good marketing? Artistry? Affordability? Money certainly is a factor in making a decision on which event, or events, one can afford to attend. Access? Can someone in a wheelchair even enter the performance space?

No answers readily available here—open for discussion.

Happily, this is a time when moving bodies, and the events that showcase their artistry, are valued and seen in ways that past generations could never have imagined. This includes having audience embraced in a bar, museum, park, gallery, on the side of a buildings wall, and of course at theaters (inside and outside). Performers now have the opportunity to dance on Facebook or move in such close proximity that only inches separate the viewer from the performer. Dances are now crafted for one person’s pleasure or for hundreds of thousands, as in the case of online media.

Over the next two months, reflect on these questions, and your own, as you consider which events to attend: at spaces small, alternative and grand.

In this issue you will read about productions taking place at the San Francisco Opera House (SF Ethnic Dance Festival) and performance events that are being built for only 12 people (For You). Learn about outdoor events created in public parks that investigate how disabled and non-disabled performers are seen (Occupy). Then there are the festivals, which are part of an ever-expanding format that speaks to the power of coming together to share multiple viewpoints in one setting (Bay Area International Deaf Dance Festival).

So, size, scale, magnitude, and intent does indeed matter because it plays an important role in gaining access to as many options to create and see dance in as many ways as we can imagine.

A final reflection on size: big is sometimes small, and small can lead to something bigger, therefore, size, like beauty, (cliché alert) lies in the eye of the beholder.

Dream Big and Hope Often.

Welcome

Looking Back with Love

Dancers’ Group has been home. For thirty-five years I’ve worked on and off, mostly on, for this art-full organization. Learning on the job has always been a tenant that allowed for, and foretold, exchanges with graciously gifted dance artists, funders and fans. As I sought a career path, it made sense to add arts administration to my dance-desires, because the work—writing a grant for a presentation or learning a part to dance on stage—supported me and many of the artists I wanted to work with, like Aaron Osborne, Emily Keeler, June Watanabe, Ed Mock, Joe Goode and Margaret Jenkins.

In the 1980’s, those first years of imagining the entity that is now Dancers’ Group, the cost of living in San Francisco was much gentler for workers on a budget. Assuredly, this laid the groundwork for arts entities of all kinds to add their vital visions to a growing, and now rich, landscape of generative artistic activity that’s experienced today. I will say, I did love a monthly rent of $150 that was easily paid by teaching dance classes each week and was augmented with a few cater-waiter gigs (to pay for daily dance classes).

A bevy of committed individuals envisioned and helped shape what would become Dancers’ Group, now celebrating three and a half decades of work. Of these teachers, choreographers, community activists and students, three primary founders emerged to create a new entity. The founders were Vernon Fuquay, Aaron Osborne and myself. Both Vernon and Aaron succumbed to the heart-breaking wreckage that the AIDS pandemic played on several generations of gay men, many working in the arts. With lives cut short and visions stalled, there were numerous creations and radical ideas that were lost.

This devastating loss of creative lives, felt in the Bay Area and worldwide, painfully adds to our dance history. A frame of loss that reflects inevitable changes and cycles, deaths and births, each tied to celebration and grieving with kaleidoscopic moments in-between. These instances will continue to inform a boundless and unstoppable love for our art and artists.

Let’s remember those who have come before. Not only my dear Vernon and Aaron. Names of those lost to us from a variety of illnesses, young and old, locally. We haven’t forgotten you, you’re why we are here and do what we do. A recalling of names:

LUCAS HOVING • NINA FICHTER • ED MOCK • KERIAC • REMY CHARLIP • DELLA DAVIDSON • MALONGA CASQUELOURD • SUSAN CASHION • RODNEY PRICE • TRACY RHOADES • BEN COLLINS • JOAH LOWE • CRUZ LUNA • FRANK EVERETT • PHILIP HORVITZ • RUSSELL HARTLEY • MICHAEL SMUIN • CHRISTOPHER BOATWRIGHT • AARON OSBORNE • MICHAEL KOOB • VERNON FUQUAY • JOHN HENRY • TOMM RUUD • HAFEEZAH A. DALJI (A.K.A. BOBBIE D. WATSON) • CHRIS HELLMAN • MICHAEL JONES • RAOUL PAUSE • ELEANOR LAUER • MANFRED SCHAECHTLE • MARY ANN KINKEAD • STEVE MERRITT • MEL WONG • CHITRESH DAS • THEA FAUST ANDERSON • VICTOR ANDERSON

This is an imperfect list of deceased dancers, teachers, friends, colleagues, lovers, and yet it seeks to pay respectful tribute in the way that headstones, and quilts, and other markers of death do—to righteously remember. Victor Anderson, co-founder of the Shawl-Anderson Dance Center, receives a righteous remembering in this issue, lovingly penned by Sima Belmar with community input.

For reasons that are so easy to describe—a love for dance-making—I have always made my way back to an artistic home that proudly provides much to me and many.

My wish for this 60th year since my birth is to find ways to honor dance, to persist in identifying resources for dance-makers while continuing to learn, love, and find daily delight in wondrous movement.

Courage, and Happy Anniversary Dancers’ Group!

— Wayne Hazzard

Welcome

Movement and moving were one of the few constants I had growing up. Throughout childhood I found myself—literally and figuratively—at a new residence and school almost every year. This continuous movement led me to myself.

My sole parent was married and pregnant while still in high school, and then divorced with two kids at the age of 21. Mom was a youngster herself, growing up alongside my sister and me. This odd parallel parenting/growing track shaped her non-parenting style of parenting, as she tried to survive the emotional and financial perils of parenthood. When Mom was offered a new job, it was often in a different part of town or new city. So we moved.

For many children growing up in less than ideal circumstances, adaptation becomes a way of life. In my case, these relocations prompted me to create various escapist techniques. Like pretending I was from another country, even though I had never traveled outside of California. This young kid played at being a “foreigner”, dressed in a suit, and spoke a kind of gibberish to prove his specialness. Clearly I sounded silly, fooling nobody.

Reflecting on this time and the educational settings of the 1960’s and 70’s, I realize that had I been introduced to dance or other creative learning opportunities earlier, I might have understood that a fantasy life wasn’t about excluding myself from others. I was trying to be seen, to feel real, to learn, and the only way I knew how to do that was by making things up. My childhood fantasies always involved transforming into the other —a super-hero, a princess, and, of course, the foreigner speaking non-existent languages. Growing up with little structure and few interests at school, I retreated inside a body that longed to connect.

Moving was also a way to start over, with a new audience waiting. Moving is an apt metaphor for dancers and one that many have explored. Fortunately, notions of both parenting and teaching kids with overactive imaginations have evolved to encompass a variety of methods that support and encourage children who move and think differently, through outlets like dance, fantasy play, or other forms of physical expression.

It’s been proven that individuals must learn to move and, at the same time, move to learn. Doesn’t that sound like rehearsal? A life filled with practice speaks to applying the basics over and over again, a concept that finds root, then growth, in every creative endeavor.

For 46 years, if you wanted to teach dance in a California K-12 school, you needed a physical education credential. And to teach theatre, an English credential. Shamefully, California was one of only two states that did not issue a single-subject teaching credential in dance or theatre.

Luna Dance Institute Director of Community Engagement Nancy Ng writes about the years of dedicated hard work that it took to change those outdated requirements. The Theatre and Dance Act (TADA!), SB 916, that passed this year, addresses the gap in arts education by establishing a single-subject teaching credential for dance and theatre.

I can hear a collective sigh of relief. A special thanks goes out to the many gifted teachers that provide quality and caring instruction to young minds. These educators and their ideals bode well as we move toward a future where everyone will learn to dance and dance is seen as equal to any other basic subject offered in school. Creative potential abounds in every mind and body.

Resilience, steadfastness of spirit, embodied wisdom while moving forward—these are grand wishes for a celebratory time. Enjoy the moves that move you.
—Wayne Hazzard

Welcome

In Dance Nov 2016Everything is political. And personal. This year there has been one especially momentous moment and that is the nomination, by a major political party, of our first female Presidential candidate. As a gay man brought up by a single mom and sister, and identifying as more female than male — I tend to identify as gender variant — I am ready to cast my vote.

Countries around the world have long voted in female leaders, from Presidents to Prime Ministers; there are currently women led governments in Chile, Austria, Liberia, Germany, Bangladesh, South Korea and Norway with a total of 20 female heads-of-state in all. Yet, our country, with its good ‘ole American patriarchy in play — that also dominates the arts — is terrified of giving up power to allow a woman to lead. It’s beyond time for this to happen in the U.S. and to set in motion more change towards equality, ensuring that gender does not define one’s ability to be a successful, caring and powerful leader. A new level of equity is required and the only way this will be accomplished is by electing more diverse representation within our governing bodies of power.

Artists play an important role as instigators for change towards an equitable society and I was reminded of this on a re-reading of a 1992 poem that starts out with the sentence, “I Want a Dyke for President.” Google it and be amazed by the poignancy of the message, which has resurfaced on social media posts, has recently been read at the White House in October, and has even been placed on a billboard in New York City. The piece was written by queer feminist activist Zoe Leonard, who recently stated that, “I still think that speaking up is itself a vital and powerful political act.”

If you are a San Francisco resident there is a very important measure on the November ballot that needs your support. Prop S will restore Hotel Tax funding for the arts and work to end family homelessness in San Francisco, without raising taxes. A “yes” vote will help ensure more funding for cultural equity grants, create a new neighborhood arts grants program, and provide housing and prevention services for homeless and at-risk, low-income families. Additional details on this proposition can be found at bettersf.com.

No matter where you live, it can’t be overstated that casting your vote is speaking up powerfully.

Creating dance that reflects your history is certainly a powerful way to speak up; these stories shared through movement reveal issues of diversity that lead us closer and closer to equity, which is a vital imperative.

Please enjoy the wide range of articles in this month’s issue that provide just a glimpse into the array of artists working hard for change—their way. Dance continues to have the power to impact many in boundless and joyous ways.

I plan to continue to speak up in my own unique way— join me.

Welcome

Theatrical delights abound in so many unexpected places. Some of the best theater-like moments can come from children. Especially when they respond to the sudden stops and starts, jerks and lurches, that are a natural occurrence of riding streetcars in San Francisco—luckily for me these action-filled moments take place almost daily on my way to work on the J Church line.

On the often packed streetcar—filled with workers as well as mommies and tourists—I regularly see a gaggle of tousled younglings that when jostled respond like freshly struck bowling pins, banging into one another and almost knocking each other over, with delight. All the while they feel the excitement of being off-balance and like any good improviser, they adapt quickly to find the next position that is leveraged by their friends for support.

Like live theater, these communal interactions are as fresh and of-the-moment as it gets, and I never tire of experiencing these types of encounters. That they happen to take place on public transportation is akin to how moments are shared in other equally special spaces that make up the wide array of, expected and unexpected, performance venues. And it’s in these places that I long for and religiously seek out scenarios that will move me in unexpected ways, like rides on the streetcar.

Another aspect of encounters inside crowded moving spaces is how it alters the decorum of behaving in public. With movement, sudden or not, comes change, and it’s in this situation that I often see happily flushed faces that invariably put a smile on my face and set up a renewed bond with my fellow travelers.

Placing dance in unusual settings is in no way a new concept and it could be argued that site specific work—outside of enclosed theatrical spaces, with fixed seating—is the most ancient of presentational formats.

Dancing in nature or on the streets to the sounds of songs and percussion to entertain passers has happened since there were trees and streets. Dances performed at dinner parties, inside homes and within religious temples have for thousands of years reflected how embedded dance is in cultures through-out the world.

Several featured articles this month touch on the theme of “Site,” exploring places where dance is presented and how they influence the concept of an audiences’ access to dance, in surprising or untraditional ways. This theme is central to Dancers’ Group’s ongoing work: particularly within the objectives of our ONSITE program that annually commissions artists to work in spaces outside of the theater.

Due to the lack of harsher seasonal weather that happens in parts outside of the Bay Area, we are home to many wonderful outside presentations year-round. This summer you can find free annual events at the Stern Grove Festival, Yerba Buena Gardens, the Rotunda Dance Series and our 2016 ONSITE program that will feature NAKA Dance Theater’s latest work entitled RACE. NAKA co-directors Debby Kajiyama and Jose Navarrete think of this work as focusing on the “thematic framework of disenfranchised communities fighting for social justice on a global scale.” Sections of the new work will be presented on Friday, August 5 at SF City Hall and then through-out that month in locations across the Tenderloin in SF.

During your travels this summer be prepared for shifts that will hustle, bustle and groove. And if you happen to make contact with a stranger, improvise, smile and enjoy the dance—and of course the fog.

Welcome

in dance welcome screenshotAre you feeling overwhelmed? Do you have long to-do lists that loom large as something you want to accomplish and yet don’t get done? Does the constant information streaming—on your phone, computer, and other visual delivery devices—make it hard to focus and stay on task? By posing these questions, I am, of course, referring to my own sense of feeling inundated—maybe even perniciously pressured— to consume more and more data/imagery/random facts. I’m eager to find ways to winnow down some of my constant consumption of such sourced information: I imagine then that I can restore, recuperate, and revitalize my self to then feel refreshed and get back in the game of overloading with visual goodies.

I had a nagging recollection that there was a term for when a person poses a problem that they then answer right after asking the question. So my monkey mind searched and searched and when no concrete answer formed, I entered a query into the ultimate authority on information gluttony these days, the Google search bar, and re-learned that the term is called Hypophora: when a speaker poses a question and then answers the question.

Is this one of those human-nature things, that we really know the answer but by asking a question we are somehow reinforcing for ourselves how astute we are? Maybe, maybe not. I need to Google some more.

This time last year, in a quest for more moments for restoration and reflection, I imagined what it would be like to take a three-month vacation. This was prompted by the opportunity to submit a grant application to a local funder that provides sabbaticals for nonprofit executives, supporting them with the funds needed to take time off from work—and not work.

As applications go, this one encouraged me to respond to questions that inquired why I do the work I do, what motivates me, what lessons have I learned on the way, and where I saw myself in five years. A few simple questions—not. Each challenged me to reflect deeply about my experiences in the dance field. The effort it took to describe past and future journeys proved useful as it allowed me to articulate the myriad ways that dance has provided a fantastic haven—reinforcing my understanding of why I do what I do.

Is reflection the ultimate tool for learning how to move forward?

This month, the editors of In Dance, which is everyone that works here, provide entry points on a variety of expressions reflecting on how dance artists navigate building platforms for their inspired and inspiring work.

Frequent contributor Heather Desaulniers is astute to draw attention to the fact that in the dance world there are phrases being batted around to describe works that are “‘questioning assumptions’ or ‘challenging expectations’. Sometimes these words are a response to innovative physical vocabulary; sometimes to a structural departure.” This prompted additional questions like, “So how does this outside the box thinking apply to age and body type in dance performance? Are these barriers slower to be broken down?Desaulniers speaks with Lucia August about ways she has navigated the contested ideas of a perfect dancer’s body, and the aging in, or out, of a dancer’s career.

My hope is that as you move through this issue you will be lovingly overwhelmed by the many questions poised about how, why and where work is made. Let the words refresh you and provide moments to reflect on your own interests and journey.

Did I get the sabbatical? No. But I am planning on taking a very long vacation. Next year.

Welcome

Consider your response, if someone said the following: “Here are the keys to the space, use it however you want. And, here’s a check with which to do whatever you want.” My guess is that you might say, with a matchless smile, something like, “Right on! Please give me those keys and that check.” That certainly would be my response, as well as jumping for joy. Artists in need of resources await such conversations generously proffering the freedom to continue creative endeavors—and, sadly, some artists never hear those words.

But we are fortunate because those very words of tangible encouragement can be attributed to a local curator and visionary thinker, Dena Beard, who has recently helped reinvigorate a multi-use space called The Lab, in San Francisco’s Mission District. Robert Avila interviewed Dena for this month’s issue and their conversation chronicles some of The Lab’s storied history of supporting a variety of disciplines, now getting an advance given Dena’s clear-headed far-sightedness for how artists can be supported.

At what point does an act of conviction—creation or curation—provide results? There’s an inherent hopefulness that must come with any new imagining of a singular idea, placing some thing, tangible or not, where once there was a void. It’s crucial to have a slew of advocates to bolster those evolving visions. These concepts, often filled with unique movements, costumes, sounds, images, props, and other theatrical elements, need backing in any imaginable manner, which provides the potential for greater success.

Along with the aforementioned resources, artists can find creative inspiration for a work in another artists’ efforts; books, music, paintings, sculpture and architecture have all stimulated the minds of a choreographer with dreams of more than once was. Dance-makers have long found visual art and the spaces that showcase this medium a vibrant vehicle for choreographic investigation. Writer and critic Claudia Bauer spoke with four local artists, Christy Funsch, Peiling Kao, Lauren Simpson, and Jenny Stulberg about their explorative exchanges with visual art, and how this prompted new thinking of their approaches.

Cuba’s cultural doors are opening more, and this will assuredly impact access and understanding of the many dance forms shaped in a country known for a diversity built from Spanish, African, French, and Asian influences. For the past twelve years, Ramon Ramos Alayo has gathered artists to reflect on the many intersecting passions of those calling Cuba their home, or home of inspiration, to present the CubaCaribe Festival. Rita Felciano spoke to Alayo about this year’s festival that draws its theme on how Cuba has influenced the featured artists’ artistic practices.

As evidenced in the many articles and events within, openings can originate in many forms: the instigator that purposefully provokes questions to be answered; the benefactor that makes resources available; the limitless ideas that abound in the hearts and minds of the creator—yes, we are our own creative gods—setting up the two-way street that is an act of faith on all parts when it comes to ensuring that there will be creative accomplishments. The interchange is limitless, and at some point, each of us will be presented with the opportunity to figure out when, where, and how much to open the door.

Trust me, it feels mighty good to learn what’s behind the door once you’ve walked through it.

Welcome

YOUNG AND EAGER, and younger-acting and more eager than many at 19, I taught my first lesson, a beginning tap class, to a fledgling and enthusiastic group of students at a studio located within a strip mall in Cupertino, California: this was the place that introduced me to my lifelong career. Like most newly- minted teachers, I was overly cocky and full of ideas that I knew would blow the minds of my students. My goal was to wow them with complex rhythms and show the way with favorite steps that moved across the wood floor—full body explosions of tappyness. I didn’t know that I didn’t know much about tap—and thankfully it didn’t matter. The year was 1976 and dance was an all-consuming passion. Well that, and boogieing to disco songs and dating boys.

Learning a person’s way in to dancing—or the ways dance found them—are my favorite stories to hear. These chronicles provide such wonderful insights and remind me that there is not one direct path to fulfilling dreams of an artistic life. Common themes amongst these stories are that perseverance and repeated practice provide results.

Putting practice to practice continues to resonate for me as a motivator that can provide wonderful results. As artists we practice in virtual and physical ways: remembering learned steps, reviewing choreography, revisiting given instructions, or actively re-working material that is either given to us or manifested from our own sweat-inspired imagination.

Practice permeates all we do—artists or not— and each of the featured writers this month delve into viewpoints on ways to seek it and ways to support it; practices that engage deeply with the structures being developed for stage, which then assist to achieve precise focal points that engage each eager audience.

Possibly the most apparent reference to practicing is the way that choreographer Christy Funsch has devised a frame- work for generating a 100 day score that seeks to provide a time-based finish line for the practitioner, with the scores serving as a way for artists to push against their own assumptions of why, when and where work is made. Rowena Richie provides insight into this open-sourced exercise that looks to support nimble creativity, and promises much.

Frequency of rehearsals assuredly has an impact on the various characteristics of a crafted creative output. Levels of access to resources, like whether an artist can provide more payment for more time with their dancers, or be able to pay for additional studio time for rehearsals, adds to the complex issues of how to bring work to the stage. Patricia Reedy, founder of Luna Dance Institute, has been testing a new pro- gram that looks to address support for a wide range of dance makers. In her article CHOREOFUND: A Work in Progress, Reedy is working, through this evolving endeavor, to disrupt assumptions of who decides what work is valued and financially supported.

Rob Taylor’s conversation with local legend Lily Cai reveals how her commitment to her students provided a rm footing in progressing her company, one that draws on her singular style from training in traditional Chinese dance. Glimpses of Cai’s practiced aesthetic can be seen during the free noontime Rotunda Dance Series on March 4th.

My recollection of teaching my first class was prompted by reading Gail Barton’s article, Finding Tap, where she sets out to bring attention to the rich rhythmic landscape of instruction and performances that are fueled by this multi-faceted tradition.

These reminders of great tap dancing have me imagining slipping on some tap shoes and taking a class or two.

First loves are always the most fondly remembered. Enjoy your own tappyness.

Welcome

Welcome

“La la la la la la, La la la la la la, My cherie amour, lovely as a summer’s day ….” There are times that listening to music is all I need to feel like I can move forward, and today, Stevie Wonder is doing it.

I dance every day, so music—imagined, live, or heard on my headphones, the radio, the streets, or streaming on social media—makes for lovely accompaniment as I shimmy inside a body that recalls and expresses in surprising ways.

Well, when I say I dance every day, you might have gotten a certain impression. For me, to dance each day takes no effort. My body moves. Therefore, I dance with an informed history of studying a variety of dance styles that are imbedded in my muscle memory, which are articulated in ways that can be both spontaneous and planned. Given this information, you might think I overstated my daily dancing. That’s okay, I’m prone to exaggeration. My definition of dance is quite broad, in fact I think of dance as all things—whether there is movement or not.

If a dancer dances in an empty room, are they dancing? Or does it take a witness, or audience, for dance to be a dance? This is of course a not-so-subtle riff on the rhetorical question about the tree falling in the forest. At the core of each is a question of how we perceive, and possibly, how much we believe in the unknown. I like to think that dance is everywhere; that we can believe something happens whether or not we have proof.

So much of what an artist does is imagine the unimaginable, the impossible, and the improbable. Artists play with perception, time and energy, and usually without an economic incentive tied to the outcome. It’s not that artists don’t want to get paid, they really do, it’s just not what impels them to create.

Taking the perception question further, if audiences were never to come to another show or someone were never to donate to a dance company, or all grant funding were to cease, would there still be art, and specifically dance? Yes. A resounding yes. Those who create will always find a way to do what they dream about doing. They must.

These words speak to the resolute spirit that thrives within the dance community.

Artists like Randee Paufve articulates her intentions to make work where her dancers can “live in the material, …[so] they can take risks and blow it out.” The committed leadership of laura elaine ellis and Kendra Kembrough Barnes is adding to the legacy of Black Choreographers Festival by “looking back” and of course, resolutely moving forward. The powerful voice and work of Rhodessa Jones will be adding to the line-up of the “Blessed Unrest” Festival, profiled by writer Rob Avila. Jones asks, “How do we create space for people to feel like they are a part of the culture? Especially with all the shame around getting busted, going to jail. There’s so much shame and fear.”

The fear is clear, and the tools I use to get through the messiness of life is to forge ahead, inspired by my colleagues’ questions, adding my voice and spirit, and dancing, with a little help from Stevie Wonder.

Prepare that playlist and dance.

2016, here we are.

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