Dear Dance Community,
Our Founder and Executive Director, Emily Running, is an active member of Cohort 1 of the White Arts Leaders Confronting Racism group started as an ally group for Arts Workers for Equity.
This is an invitation to join cohort 2! DEADLINE JULY 15, 2020
About the group
This group is a peer-to-peer learning journey. Jenny, our facilitator, will guide us through an arc of learning over the course of six months. The hope is that we build a sense of connection and rapport so that people are able to be vulnerable and real with each other in a “brave space.” This work is deeply personal. It is also interpersonal, organizational and systemic — and we will weave it all.
Focus areas and activities will include:
* Facilitated reflection: learning from our personal journeys with racism.
* Pattern mapping: what are the trends, systems and stories that we keep running into in this work?
* Arts focus: how does racism show up in the arts? How have groups worked with these dynamics? Where do you have leverage to make change?
* Deep dives: We will pick two topics to focus on for the six months. We will assign homework to learn about those topics, with a focus on hearing from authors of color. We will also invite participants to bring a personal challenge or organizational conundrum specific to that topic so that we can learn from and support each other’s current questions.
* Attend all six monthly sessions (August – January). If something comes up and you have to miss one, you would commit to finding out what the conversation was about and doing some kind of homework (that Jenny would suggest) to keep practicing the work. There is a strong expectation of full and active participation in the six month journey.
* Participate in as open, authentic, personal and vulnerable way you can – this work is about changing ourselves internally as much as it is about changing the world.
* Do homework: some kind of reading or reflection activity.
* Offer compensation: we want this to be accessible to everyone who wants to participate, and we want to value Jenny’s time planning and running these meetings. We also want to value our counterpart group, the AWE BIPOC affinity group, and as such we will be splitting the money we bring in 50/50 with them. Suggestion is $300 for the six months, and if you are unable to pay this amount we are happy to work together so that you can participate at a level you can give.
Optional addition: book group
Both cohorts will be invited to join a shared book group that will meet every other week. Once we know who wants to participate we will choose the book and timing.
How to join
Please fill out this application by July 15th to share with us your interest and availability. We will let you know the last week of July if you are invited to join and which day the group will meet.
Please email Kirsten Collins at email@example.com or our facilitator Jenny Leis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the facilitator: Jenny Leis is a white, Jewish, middle class woman and professional facilitator but not a formal trainer around equity, diversity, inclusion, white anti-racism work. She is, however, immersed in her white anti-racist journey and has years of lived experience with this work within a non-profit organization, communal land project (with two residential collectives, one specifically for people of color and currently populated mostly by Native people) and informal groups/friend circles. She is not part of an arts organization; her work for the past 19 years in Portland has been based in neighborhood community organizing, forest conservation, fundraising, sustainability education, cooperative businesses and grassroots social change. She is now a full time group facilitator and consultant. Jenny brings enthusiasm and compassion for this work, and her style is based on interactive and visual activities, reflection and learning from each other.
At the beginning of the year, the concept that this year would represent 20/20 vision resonated deeply with me. Vision. Self-reflection. Clarity. It was going to be a welcome change to the political finger-pointing and smoke and mirrors that have dominated the past few years. I envisioned society bursting with growth, creativity, and a fresh realization of the things we value – like dance!
In my optimistic dream-land, I almost forgot that we don’t get to the vision without a process. The moment where we SEE, HEAR, and ACKNOWLEDGE the people, the messages, and the systems that SHOW us where self-reflection needs to take place, where to look for clarity, and how to come together to begin building a new vision – together.
The racially charged murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor have been a devastating reminder that white supremacy remains pervasive. Against the backdrop of COVID-19, this month alone has been a harsh and urgent reminder that our systems are actually built to serve everyone.
As we sit with these realities, we must each examine OUR ROLE within them before we come up with our new vision. There’s A LOT that we’re moving through, individually and collectively. There is no right or wrong way to process.
As dancers, we will recognize this as the creative process. Long, arduous rehearsals and extensive training will be required. There will be pain. There will be conflict. There will be mistakes. There will be disagreements. People will fight over “stage-time”. There will be a lot of grey area.
The most influential art comes from a creative process where dancers work together, listen deeply, RESPECT each other, and HONOR different experiences within the group. While a powerful soloist is exciting, a powerful ensemble is breathtaking.
It is with this process and collective action in mind that I hope we can move forward together. We must each identify our areas of influence and take action to directly support the Black community and the people most impacted. Black Lives Matter.
Emily Running – Founder + Executive Director
How are you? That’s not a rhetorical question. Please write back! As Dance Wire pivots to focus on actions we can take that have immediate impact as well as our long-term plans, it’s helpful to hear stories from our donors, members and supporters.
Here’s Dance Wire’s story.
Just before this COVID-19 crisis we were making wonderful progress on our Strategic Plan. We were able to hire a Funds Development Consultant, we moved into an office building shared with multiple arts organizations at Zidell Yards, and we were just starting to seek funding for our Membership Restructure and Expansion plan.
Then it all shut down. We pride ourselves on being nimble and I believe we have been through this. Our first area of focus was helping to support our many members who’s entire income was wiped out for the next few months.
- We joined a consortium led by Portland’s Creative Laureate and Oregon’s Poet Laureate working on a relief fund for Portland artists and have continued to connect artists and organizations to resources for funding on our new Resource Page.
- Then we noticed many of our members starting to teach online classes and have been building up a YouTube channel of Living Room Dance to share both the classes and links to the artist/company’s donation page.
- We have also launched a “Power of Dance” campaign on social media to remind people how powerful dance is in expressing, communicating and processing, especially in a time like this.
That last part brings me to how I am doing personally. My emotions are running high for sure, but as a dancer I am trained to listen to my body for clues and answers about how to support myself. Some days I need to lay still in complete silence for 15 minutes to settle my nerves, other days I need to MOVE fast and frantic to shed built up energy. The two things I am reminded of on a daily basis are how resilient and resourceful artists are, and how critical it is to connect to our bodies in times where our brains struggle to make sense of what’s happening.
I whole-heartedly support everyone in the Dance Wire network – staff, members, donors – focusing first and foremost on the mental, physical, and emotional health of themselves and their loved ones.
Please let us know how you are handling all of this so we can stay connected while we wait to learn more about what is ahead.
Be well, stay safe, happy dancing!
Emily Running – Founder + Executive Director
The Embodied Archive
Is choreography about the steps, or the expressive essence of the work? If two bodies do choreography differently, how is choreography preserved? Are dances time-sensitive or do they remain relevant over time?
Shaun Keylock, Artistic Director of the Shaun Keylock Company, acknowledges that when you see a dance on stage, you will never see that same dance again exactly as it was performed. But for him, that’s part of what makes the preservation and history of dance interesting.\
“A lot of it is about understanding the cultural history of the community. I’ve been seeing the city change a lot from what I remember as a teenager, so for me, it is significant to learn the history and see the lineage across time.” There’s a group of choreographers who were the pioneers of modern dance in Portland during the 90’s. They produced incredible work that had a substantial impact on the dance scene of the city. “But now new audiences are moving here and they don’t necessarily know this history. One of the goals of our company is to preserve this legacy and to continue to learn from and build upon what came before us.”
Coincidentally, in the midst of pondering what his company would do next, Shaun found himself at the same coffee shops as one of those Portland pioneers, Gregg Bielemeier. They began talking, Gregg came to the Shaun Keylock Company’s first evening-length show last year and was impressed with what he saw, and the conversation evolved into a full-on collaboration. “It’s very much in progress right now, but we are trying to reconstruct seven different dances of Gregg’s,” Shaun says “When I’m watching these dances, I find them just as exciting, engaging, and relevant as they were in 1993.”
One of the first dances they learned is the first piece Gregg created with his own company. Still early on in the process, they haven’t got to the point of changing anything, but Shaun emphasizes that they are trying to preserve it more than upgrade it. “Of course, it is going to look different. It’s a different group of dancers, different genders in some of the roles, the costumes will be different. There are LED lights that didn’t exist in 1993! Part of the excitement is learning what things are going to work and how these dances have changed over time.”
Not only will the dancers be working with Gregg, they will also be working with his former collaborators and dancers to gain a better understanding of what inspired each dance, the context surrounding its creation, and ultimately, the essence of the work. The company will also be hosting public panels with Gregg and his dancers during the creation process to talk about the work and share stories about it. “It creates a nice exchange between generations, which is both fun and important.”
Shaun adds, “What I’m really interested in is creating an ongoing series, every two years, called The Embodied Archive, where we revisit work from more pioneers of Portland’s modern dance history.”
Dance Wire will be tagging along as this creation unfolds. Be sure to follow us via the newsletter, on Facebook, or on Instagram for updates and opportunities to see Shaun Keylock Company in action!