Dance/NYC as part of their Disability, Dance, Artistry initiative, has produced a series of conversations around the intersectionalities of disability and dance. Last week’s discussion was the second of the series on the topic of Disability, Race, and the Practice of Dance. Here Dr. Carrie Sandahl and Dr. Aimee Meredith Cox, moderated by Alice Sheppard, explored how different systematic forces of oppression have influenced dance practice and scholarship.
I personally found this conversation to be very interesting. There are a few ideas that I wanted to share from the conversation:
What is access?
Access can be a very broad term as it can take on different meanings for different groups of people. Access can mean getting the opportunity to be at the table, access to each other’s space/experiences, or access to educating the “mainstream.” Sandahl took it a step further to talk about how it’s not just about being let in, but what is expected of you once you are in. Cox noted that as we recognize how access plays differently for different people, we need to make sure that we don’t over universalize what it means to be excluded as different strategies can have different consequences for different people.
How does dance challenge the status quo?
Dance and art is always pushing ideas to the next level. It challenges us to really dig down deep to how we really feel. Cox talked about how the struggle often influences the artmaking process and brings challenging and controversial themes to the stage. Sandahl mentioned that dance challenges our experiences. So often we are told to avoid things, but dance forces us to touch each other, to feel each other, and even look at each other. Dance is sending out a different message than the norms we grew up with and came to know. We are recognizing our differences, but also identifying what those differences are.
What can we do to create an integrated community?
Dance can be a lens to see what is possible. But in order to see what is possible, we need to push ourselves and be courageous as look to create new ideas and understandings. There is a level of uncomfortability when we do this. But, as Sandahl mentioned, that helps us create a language to communicate to others. Now that language may be new and may take time to catch on, but it is a starting place. When we are at a place when we can take our focus off of what the performers look like, Cox said that we can begin to see the intersections between the performer, what they are doing, and be able to articulate what we see. I personally think we still have a long way to go in that department, but I challenge us as dance artists and lovers to go beyond the physicality of the performer and look at the artistry.
It’s not too late to join the conversation! If you have any thoughts or questions, please feel free to send them via email to DDATownHall@dance.nyc. Everything will be forwarded to the speakers. Also, if you use social media, please be sure to use the hashtags: #DDAVoices and #townhall!
The series continues with its third conversation on Monday, October 17th at the 92Y Harkness Dance Center at 6PM focusing on the topic of dance education and disability. Here Victoria Marks and David Dorfman will discuss the professional pathways disabled dancers can take to prepare and work in integrated dance settings as well as places made exclusively for disabled dancers. For more information, please visit dance/NYC’s website here!