Wherever you are in the world, if you are a dancer who wants to write about dance or you know a dancer who does, please message me. I have an opportunity for you/them.
I tweeted this request on July 10, when hot (flash) mom summer seemed to be on. But the hope, calm, and excitement were short-lived. Variants. Inequitable global vaccine distribution. Afghanistan. Bezos in space. Texas. Nevertheless, dozens of dancers from around the world responded to my call, each with a story to tell.
As the pandemic inches toward one thousand and one nights and beyond, stories have the power to get us through to morning. The people of Boccaccio’s Decameron, fleeing a 14th century plague, have moved beyond the pages of college literature syllabi into our contemporary imagination. Stories, especially true stories, seem to settle us when the ground won’t stop shaking. Whenever I respond to a story with an “Oh, yeah? Me too!” or “Wow! I had no idea,” I feel less alone.
The stories in this issue represent voices from and perspectives on the dance world often left out of the historical record. When one writer worried that her story wouldn’t be of interest to anyone, I said, “Do you think the largely white, largely cis-male, largely straight voices that dominate the archives ever worried whether their stories would be of interest to anyone?” The active silencing of stories naturalizes the idea that only some voices matter. And the ways we in the West have long privileged the written word as a locus of knowing over bodily wisdom has made it all the more urgent that we tell our dancing stories.
Sarah Nguyen and Hallie Chametzky engage in a feisty, transcontinental dialogue over archival practices in dance and the concept of the body as archive. On opposite sides of the world, unbeknownst to each other, Bianca Mendoza and Thobile Jane Maphanga reflect on their circuitous dance journeys through the Western canon to the indigenous dances of their cultural backgrounds, while Ishika Seth mines her dance training to uncover an ever-evolving definition of Indian Contemporary Dance. Chiara Giovanni addresses the challenges dance presenters face as they seek to align their political commitments with their programming practices through the example of Dominican bachata. Emma Garber and Ashley Gayle turn their ballet and jazz backgrounds over in their hands to examine the ways their respective dance forms are habitually historicized. Julia Davidson argues that the oft-maligned Strip Mall Dance Studio is a space of real dancing. And Alyssa Manansala charts the extraordinary journey of Alleluia Panis and KULARTS, thinking through questions of indigeneity and diaspora in the context of Filipinx art-making.
Together, these essays convey frustration, anger, wistfulness, confusion—the stories they tell are unsettling and unsettled. And yet, underneath (or alongside, or mixed within) is a boundless love for dance. So as we continue to traverse tremulous ground, I hope you’ll find some solace, if not stability, in dance.
– Sima Belmar, Guest Editor
This article appeared in the Fall 2021 issue of In Dance.