Eurocentric dancers and performers have long held the priority within university and concert dance space s.
My next dance class was a stu- dent-run class called Workshop. I would come to love this class over the years, but this first year was abso- lute hell. In my first quarter in this class, I clashed with my professor’s ideals of colonization and Eurocentric stan- dards. In my second, I fought against my fellow peers and classmates. Workshop was a class in which stu- dents taught the curriculum. I was so shocked to see a class of students be given that much freedom still confine themselves to colonial expectations of what dancing should be. We had a whole studio to ourselves, and a class period from 2-6pm. It was four whole hours of dancing in a studio taught and ran by the students. My disappointment in how little we differed from our professors that upheld such damaging ideas of danc- ing hit hard. That’s what we were, generation after generation, receiving and handing down these colonized ideas without question or protest. Trauma teaches trauma. To my upperclassmen, do you remember the environment you set up for us as we came in? Do you remember how competitive you made the class out to be? Do you remember how every day of rehearsal was an intense audition? Do you remember how much you overworked each of us for the sake of putting up a show to make money? Do you remem- ber that one dancer that twisted her ankle due to the intense work envi- ronment of the class? Do you remem- ber how she was told she was no lon- ger needed in the class and how she was excluded from returning? Do you remember cutting one of our best dancers out of a piece because she had gotten pregnant? Do you remem- ber fighting each other, choreogra- pher with choreographer, compar- ing whose piece was superior from others? Do you remember claiming that dancers who weren’t fluent in English were difficult to teach chore- ography too? Do you remember how
weight to be a bet- ter dancer? Do you remember splitting our final projects into groups of all males or all females? Do you remember when you told a group of my friends to dress more Hip Hop for their final, telling them to wear hoodies and add accessories like chains and bandanas. Do you remember how there were dancers in the class way more capable of teaching a Hip Hop class, but because of the arbi- trary way we legiti- mize dance educators, their expertise was seen as illegitimate? I remember this clearly, and I bet
choreography showcase and per- formed a solo entitled “ Prayer. ” This piece was an ode to the limitations in life that we get to meet, resist, and accept. I felt like in a way, this was my entrance into the dance world no longer as a student held by educa- tional institutions; I was finally danc- ing for myself. Professor, you invited me back the following year to showcase two dif- ferent choreography pieces. I invited dancers to join me that were not of technical, traditional, or classical train- ing. In other words, their dancing was not Eurocentric. Instead, this particu- lar dance collaborator studied street dance as his primary dance form. We created a dance piece together and submitted it to the choreographic advi- sor. The duet consisted of beautiful partner work, angular movements, sharp and solid textures, and heartfelt story lines. Upon receiving the feed- back of the submission reviewer, I was disappointed in their response. “You need to find a more articulate dancer.” “I agree. We need to be at the highest level especially with Diablo Ballet dancers on the same program.” I was infuriated. I felt insulted. I was insulted. Who are you to tell me I must find a more technical dancer for our own choreography? When you have no idea about what the technique to this dance form is in the first place? I was deeply disap- pointed in this reviewer’s comment. I was flat out appalled. Street dance has its own technique, style, and form. Because this reviewer’s eye was not keen on street dance forms and its aesthetic, our choreography was seen as less than, unworthy of shar- ing a stage with ballet dancers. The hierarchy made me uncomfortable.
The comments made me feel undervalued. This is why I made the decision to pull the duet out of the show. I refuse to take part in something that has no com- mitment to uplifting the artistic healing of dancers of color. I won- dered, who are these directors try- ing to appease? The donors? If so, who are the donors? Why would they not be interested in viewing street dance on stage? Any partic- ular reason why? Were they trying to appease their own biases? I am not interested in artistic endeavors that continue to gate-keep dance spaces from folk or street dance and only hire “professional” danc- ers that are “classically” trained. Eurocentric dancers and per- formers have long held the priority within university and concert dance spaces. I am constantly pondering the reason why? Why is ballet and modern considered to be the most supreme dance form of all? And all folk dance or street style dances are considered to be second-class or less-than? It is clear that you do not value or bat an eye at the impor- tance of culture folk and street dance forms uplift. For this reason, I am divorcing from your work and your community. I no longer wish to participate in your events, nor give you my energy, hard work, art- istry, and talent. There is so much more to say, but I will leave it at that for now.
REMEMBERING DANCE To the school that I trusted my mind and body to. A trust that would dwindle down year after year. As a school, thou- sands of students, every year, trust you to provide for them, to nurture a space for us. Were you aware of what me and my peers went through during our time with you? How useless sometimes it feels to try and guilt trip an establishment that only cares about money, but the feeling to do so is cathartic. I’ve always thought of dance as an art that frees the mind and body, and I still do, but the systems that help us navigate through dance seem to work in the opposite direction. I remember my first quarter quite well. I remember being excited, in awe of the beautiful studio. I remem- ber feeling grateful to finally be housed in a studio, with full mirrors built in the three walls, with a boom- ing stereo system to match. I remem- ber the padded floors that would protect our bodies. Little did I know
all of my classmates do, too. I’m sure that we’ll all carry that bag- gage into our future endeavors with dance. To our professors, you have the comfort of starting new every semester. You have the comfort of forgetting us, your impact on us, while we have no choice. We are left with the world of undoing the dam- age you caused. This was my first inkling that something was wrong with our dance program, but I disregarded it. As a student who holds nearly no power in the system, dismantling the system seemed almost impossible. Guilt also followed me as I hid away from directly opposing the ideas and standards imposed in our class. The next year, I thought things would be better. He was a substi- tute for the quarter after all. I trusted you, the school, again, with my mind and body, still sore from the year before. But I trusted you again, not because of curiosity, but because sim- ply, I wanted to dance, and I would do almost anything to do so.
that the quality of these materialistic things were not indicative of the qual- ity of the teaching I would receive. I remember meeting everyone else, friends that I had ‘til this day, also excited to be dancing in the studio again, or even for the first time. I also remember our professor com- ing into our Hip Hop 1 class and tell- ing us he was a substitute and not the regular teacher for this class. I remem- ber him telling us, “I don’t really know what I’m doing, but how hard is it to teach a Hip Hop class?” To my professor, do you remem- ber us? The students you neglected. The culture you co-opted for your benefit. The professor who refused to acknowledge he didn’t know any- thing about a discipline but decided to assume the power of position any- ways. The same power you used to impose Eurocentric ideas of beauty on us with? Do you remember how you told some of my friends that their bodies were too awkward to be danc- ers? Do you remember how you said one of our classmates should lose
Sincerely, Dela Diwata
DANIELLE GALVEZ (she/they) founded Archive Dance Collective, a space where artists and educators foster self discovery through dance education. We cultivate authenticity and nurture trust in body’s expression by providing time and space for connection, conversation, and movement. All facilitation is informed by Responsive Body™
in dance WINTER 2022 42
WINTER 2022 in dance 43
In Dance | May 2014 | dancersgroup.org
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