“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.