Fall 2021 In Dance

of as oppositional poles, and traditional bachata and bachata sensual often peacefully coexist at festivals and clubs all over the world. Nonetheless, despite the utopian mission of dance festivals to provide a kind of artistic buffet for the enjoyment of their patrons who can sample every- thing from belly dance to voguing in a safe and inclu- sive environment, it is impossible to sidestep the polit- ical and moral associations with any of these forms of dance, and bachata is a crucial touchstone here. For many dancers committed to anti-racism, tradi- tional bachata represents a deeper appreciation of and engagement with Afro-Latinx cultural creativity and therefore offers an opportunity to embody pro- Black aesthetic and corporeal politics. Embracing or rejecting bachata sensual becomes an easy shorthand for marking out one’s ideological territory, and it is not hard to see how a performance or class by white European dancers, clad in leggings and high heels and showing off their ballroom-ized arm styling and chest isolations, might seem to contradict the commitments to anti-racist work that many of us profess to hold. It is certainly a fool’s errand to attempt to trace a straight line from pre-enslavement African rhythms to today’s bachata footwork, and there is undoubt- edly an essentializing element to any argument that traditional bachata, itself commodified and standard- ized for the circulation of forms of entertainment within capitalism, as well as subject to the inevitable shifts of historical and geographical transmission, is somehow perfectly representative of a mythical Blackness altogether absent from bachata sensual. However, if we take as a starting point the phenom- enological assumption that our body is our open- ing onto the world, along with the common refrain among dancers and dance scholars alike, that dance is one means of creating new worlds, then it so fol- lows that the postures we choose to inhabit, the movements we choose to incorporate, in many ways reflect the kinds of worlds we want to create, enliven, tear down, and imagine anew. It is the job of festival promoters, year in and year out, to decide for them- selves the role, if any, that European takes on Carib- bean dance forms should play in the Latin dance world, but it is clear that political commitments cannot remain purely in the aesthetic or representa- tional realm when it comes to dance. Dance, being naturally corporeal, necessarily embodied, carries within its shapes and lines the residue of centuries of violence and oppression, as well as the latent pos- sibility for reconnection and liberation. Even if it is not stated, it will certainly be felt. If we are to honor our commitments to social justice within Latin dance, we must recognize the processes of whitening,

commodification, and standardiza- tion we help to perpetuate every time we teach or take a class, or promote a dance form stripped of its historical and social context. A s we slowly return to dancing together in the world instead of purely on our screens, we must continue to make space for open conversations about politics and prioritize history lessons given by culture-bearers that enable us to truly grasp the signifi- cance of the “Afro” in “Afro-Latinx.” Further, we must be willing to ven- ture beyond familiarity and prestige when choosing dance teachers, and instead engage with voices who do not enjoy the same platform as many heavyweights in the field, but whose histories and movements have much to teach us about the dance forms we hold dear. Thanks in part to the increased access to virtual classes during the pandemic, we have more power than ever before to educate ourselves through workshops and reading, to form connections with dancers beyond our usual social sphere, and to use this moment of pause to reimagine our movement praxis once we can all safely dance together again. In doing so, we will move away from attempting to loosen the knots of historical mar- ginalization through name changes and hiring choices alone, toward a focus on the rhythms and freedoms we accord to our dancing bodies. A writer and critic originally from the United Kingdom, CHIARA GIOVANNI is a PhD candidate in Comparative Literature. She is working on an essay collection about desire, care, and intimacy, and how these concepts structure 21st-century novels, Latin dance clubs, and our post-COVID bedrooms. The pandemic propelled conversa- tions about the importance of desire, care, and intimacy into the mainstream; even as it wanes, Chiara intends to keep the spotlight on these themes within academic scholarship and beyond . Chiara writes a newsletter that blends scholarly criticism, cultural commentary, and personal essay; she also tweets at @carambalache.

The second in a trilogy of dances addressing the devastating effects of mass incarceration. Choreographer & Director: Jo Kreiter Lead Writer: Rahsaan Thomas Dancers: Bianca Cabrera, Clarissa Dyas, Laura Elaine Ellis, Maddy Lawder, Megan Lowe, Sandiya Sexton, Helen Wicks Composers: Jewlia Eisenberg, Shahzad Ismaily Set: Sean Riley Lighting: Jack Beuttler Costumes : Jamielyn Duggan October 14 – 17, 2021 Thurs, Oct 14 at 7 pm & 8:30 pm Fri, Oct 15 at 7 pm & 8:30 pm Sat, Oct 16 at 5 pm, 7 pm & 8:30 pm Sun, Oct 17 at 7 pm

As we slowly return to dancing together in the world instead of purely on our screens, we must continue to make space for open conversations about politics and prioritize history lessons given by culture-bearers that enable us to

truly grasp the significance of the “Afro” in “Afro-Latinx.”

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in dance FALL 2021 44

FALL 2021 in dance 45




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In Dance | May 2014 | dancersgroup.org

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