I am going to be transparent.
I had been nervous for some time about participating in the Power, Privilege, & Perception: Voices on Race and Dance session at this past Sunday's Dance/NYC Symposium. The invitation itself felt like the latest iteration of putting Sydnie, token black girl on the Dance/NYC Junior Committee, up front, even if that was not the intention of the Dance/NYC staff and session curators. When I brought my participation on the panel to the table of my JCOMM peers, I told them just that. They, in turn, acknowledged my feelings. We talked about my leadership in JCOMM's various diversity initiatives over the past few years. We discussed how this panel was an opportunity not just for me to represent the committee, but also myself as an artist and the work I do around race and gender equity within my practice.
That series of conversations is why I accepted the invitation. The fact that my peers continued to check in and offer support over the several weeks leading up to the symposium is also why I accepted the invitation. Four years ago when I began my relationship with Dance/NYC, I could not have had that kind of frank conversation with my JCOMM peers. At that time, I did not feel my voice was valued at that table, although I was heavily recruited to be in that space of power, access, and privilege; in a space that purported to represent the needs of the broader dance community ages 21-30, and yet the majority of those actually in the room most closely identified with Clare.
We still have a long way to go, but in 2015, I sit as a leader on a committee of individuals who are questioning and instigating and organizing both within and outside the committee sphere. Folks who are working deeply on issues of equity outside the committee are bringing that learning to the JCOMM table, and likewise, those who do not have as much experience are bringing the learning from JCOMM to their individual practices and places of employment throughout the field. Our committee openly discusses our precarious position of gatekeeping. We are deepening our individual understandings of racism. We challenge each other, support each other and learn from each other in this work.
I was disappointed that I was not able to more fully share that story with the Symposium audience. So, over the next few posts I will instead share that story here, as well as other thoughts specifically regarding my panel, and this conversation on "race and dance"- at large.
More to Say: Reflections on the 2015 Dance/NYC Symposium (part 2)