It can be hard to be an optimist in a country and world with deep injustices. “The arc of the moral universe,” said Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “is long, but it bends toward justice.” How long does it take?
Conversations about equity in the arts are ubiquitous, and it’s easy to be cynical: talk is not change. Beyond the best of intentions for greater diversity, there lies structural discrimination—racially biased policing, paltry support for maternity leave, educational systems that benefit the wealthy, ableism and ageism that limit access to intellectual and physical opportunities (oh, and the list is so, so much longer). Collectively, they become a fortress of privilege.
This month, Dancers’ Group steps into the murky yet essential terrain of equity, with a particular focus on women in dance. A topic that is a mere thread of the fuller web of inequity, and an enormously complex issue on its own, more than any one publication can contain.
The theme of “Women in Dance”—in all of its nuance and interpretations—is a response to recent headlines and personal conversations about ongoing challenges facing women in our field, namely access to fewer and less prestigious opportunities, artistically and institutionally. It is also our opportunity to celebrate the extraordinary strength, ingenuity, and artistry of the woman-identified artists in our midst.
For its part, Dancers’ Group’s engine is largely powered by women: more than half of our staff and nearly our entire Board of Directors are women. And more, the ecosystem of dance artists, writers, administrators, and advocates we serve is built on a foundation of activism and feminism, of matriarchs. Upon that foundation sit … or rather, move … thousands of strong women-identified artists sharing their stories, producing socially-engaged work, and generating artistic and financial opportunities. We are accompanied by men, and those who identify non-binarily on the gender continuum, who also resist misogyny, embracing feminism.
Our deepest thanks go to all of those who contributed perspectives in writing and photographs within these pages, representations of artistic lives that push towards greater understanding every single day.
Beyond articles and interviews probing the theme of “Women in Dance,” this issue provides an opportunity to go deeper into an artistic practice. It includes our annual Summer Workshop Guide, featuring nearly 80 Bay Area workshops across a myriad of dance forms, taking place from May through August. Plus, highlights of performances taking place throughout this month, opportunities to explore the traditions and innovations that can be provocative and breath-taking.
A publication is inherently limited to words and images; at best, it can articulate challenges and inspire action. Replying to a call for responses on this issue’s theme, choreographer Christy Funsch put into words her hopes for what will change in the dance world (you can read more responses here):
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.
Or, as Melissa Lewis and Courtney King put it in their interview with Katie Faulkner, “feminism involves race, class, gender, culture, history, lineage—it has to, otherwise it’s nothing; it’s a shared her.”
While it is true that talk is not change, may these pages lead toward empathy, toward action, and ultimately, toward justice.