black dancing body

Finally, A Sisterhood

I’ve spent the last few days completely surrounded by pure Black excellence. Inundated and wrapped up tight in it.

This was my first time at the International Association of Blacks in Dance conference , and while I was very excited to go, along with a group of 7 other students from my Department, I am struck now (as I am writing this on the plane back to Columbus) with how important IABD & spaces like that are, especially for young artists like me.

Yesterday, I sat in a workshop led by the indomitable Dr. Brenda Dixon Gottschild, one of my personal idols and a pioneer of Black dance theory, & a panel of five other Black women. One had just received her doctorate from Temple University. Another is a professor at Appalachian State University. Gaynell Sherrod, from the dance department at Virginia Commonwealth University was there. Zita Allen, one of the best dance critics to ever enter the field, and a pioneer for writing about Black dance/Black dancing bodies, spoke. And Vershawn Sanders-Ward, graduate of Tisch School of the Arts at NYU and founder of Red Clay Dance Company in Chicago shared as well. There were so many other important, notable dancers and artists in the room…

…and everywhere I went. I took class with folks who had studied with Alvin Ailey and Martha Graham personally. Folks who travel all over the world to work with royalty. I sat in the room with some of the primary figures is Black dance — Karen Brown, Cleo Parker Robinson, Joan Myers Brown, Lula Washington, to name a few.

But as I sat in that circle of women, I found myself becoming emotional. All these women are where I want to be one day. They have lived the life I want, walked in the places I hope to go, and are sharing their wisdom with me. I sat there choking on tears as woman after woman spoke life into me, thinking, I want to know you all. I want you to be my aunties and mothers and sisters. For the first time in my dance life I felt like I had a sisterhood. I felt supported. I felt loved by a group of women who didn’t know me, or know anything about me. I wanted to stay in the safety of their embrace forever, and the truth is, I can.

That’s why all Black art spaces like IABD are important. There are the people who know, who understand our common struggle. There’s no cliché in our truth, there’s no doubt about the validity of our stories. I’ve spent so much time wondering whether my stories are okay. Whether it’s okay that all I want to talk about, write about, make about is completely wrapped up in my experiences with race, class, and gender. And at IABD, I was reminded very clearly that my artistic voice and perspective is valid.

I’m so grateful for this experience. It was such a necessary blessing.

Love & Light.

Commencing 

Well, year three is in the books.  I am sitting at (my new) home, in Utah, still sort of in shock over the fact that I have completed yet another successful year at The Ohio State University.  OSU has actually become more home to me geographically than anywhere else.  It’s where I have spent the majority of my time and energy over the last few years.  I remember the first time I actually called it “home” and how weird that felt. Now, I have one year left until I will be making a new home somewhere in the world.  

I titled this post “Commencing” because a few days ago, I finally began work on my senior project.  It eerily became real because now I am actually doing all of the things I have been talking about doing for the past year. (You can click this link for more information about my project) The end of this past semester was full of so much confirmation that I am exactly where I am supposed to be.  I took two classes that paralleled my interests in blackness in dance and helped me to explore blackness more generally in America and musically throughout the Diaspora.  It was so powerful for me to make connections and to see that the things that I observe at work in the dance field have larger, societal roots as well.  In my Music of Africa and the Diaspora class, we had a guest lecturer, Dr. Denise Noble, talk about Dancehall music in Jamaica.  I was intrigued by the way in which Black women’s bodies functioned within this Jamaican context, and I immediately felt that it had some connection to the ways in which Black women’s bodies in America function as well.  Dr. Noble and I  connected later as I interviewed her for my final paper that I wrote for that class. One of the biggest things that I took away from our conversation is that this thing — this particular structure that surrounds and suppresses Black people — is global.  It’s a part of the legacy left behind that touches every single country in the African Diaspora and every African nation that has been colonized by Europeans.  I am now struck by the vastness of what I want to do. 

I think I have found (one of) my life’s work(s).  I simply cannot get at everything in a year while taking general education classes and trying to graduate on time.  But what I know is that my work will not end simply at the end of my final year of undergrad.  I wrote in my senior project proposal that I want to work to ensure that no other little black girl has to grow up feeling the way that I did/do.  As a woman, finding peace with your body can be hard work — especially when your body is encased in black skin.  This applies broadly in America where black bodies still are under attack, but more specifically in a dance studio. I had know clue how much meaning this statement would take on when I said this three years ago as I wrote my artist statement for this blog, but dance is for everyone.  There is no perfect body or size.  No one should every have to question their place or if they belong here for any reason. My sister, you will fit, because I am breaking the mold for you. 

So as I commence this process, I am very excited, very nervous, and borderline already overwhelmed, but I am motivated.  I’m not just doing this for me.  I am taking the first few steps now, but I refuse to be timid.  I can’t wait to see what the future holds for me! To God be All the Glory!