Dancing Around Race
My choreographic work complicates and provokes questions surrounding colonialism, cultural amnesia, whiteness and privilege, and the tensions between the invisible/perceived/obvious structures of power. For this residency, I engaged with artists as co-interrogators to look closely at the role race plays in dance production and presentation. We asked how our work as artists functions in society and how the communities we engage with are considered, internalized, and reflected through our work. Employing a 'systems thinking' approach, I connected with sectors of the Bay Area dance ecology and beyond to engage in invigorated dialogue to better understand how all are interconnected.
We invited curators, critics, scholars, dance writers, grantors, collaborators, publicists, and audience members to come together to spark conversations around dance. We addressed systems of support, power and privilege, race and colorblind racial ideology, issues and problems around diversity, resilience and sustainability, and more. Working with the premise that all sectors are interdependent, we promoted a culture of empathy so that every part of the dance community feels more visible, heard, and understood. Finally, we identified issues that dancers, choreographers and their collaborators face and will try to create solutions to problems that may be attributed to misunderstandings, uninformed assumptions, and myths.
Members of the artist cohort for Gerald Casel’s Dancing Around Race were: Raissa Simpson, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Sammay Dizon, Yayoi Kambara and David Herrera.
Gerald Casel (he/they/siya) is a Bay Area-based dance artist, equity activator, and antiracist educator. As director of GERALDCASELDANCE, his choreographic work complicates and provokes questions surrounding colonialism, collective cultural amnesia, whiteness and privilege, and the tensions between the invisible/perceived/obvious structures of power. Casel is an Associate Professor of Dance and is the Provost of Porter College at UC Santa Cruz. A graduate of The Juilliard School with an MFA from UW Milwaukee, they received a Bessie award for sustained achievement. Casel founded Dancing Around Race, an ongoing community engaged-participatory process that interrogates systemic racial inequity in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. geraldcasel.com
Photo by Robbie Sweeney
Dancing Around Race included monthly gatherings of the cohort with invited guests and a series of three Public Gatherings that invited the community into the cohort’s process. Guests at public gatherings included Aruna D’Souza, Barbara Bryan, and Thomas DeFrantz. These public gatherings were:
Thursday, September 20th | Humanist Hall | 7 PM
Featuring Aruna D'Souza, author of Whitewalling: Art, Race & Protest in Three Acts
September Forum Press Release
Friday, October 26 | Joe Goode Annex | 10:30-12:30 AM
A discussion about how institutional thinking and models can advance equity in the field.
Featuring Barbara Bryan, Executive Director of Movement Research in New York
Thursday, February 28th | 518 Valencia | 7:30 PM
Featuring Thomas F. DeFrantz, Professor of African and African American Studies and Theater Studies at Duke University
These gatherings were held in the spirit of long table discussions. In the words of Eva Yaa Asantewaa:
A Long Table conversation--as first conceived by theater artist Lois Weaver--is initiated by an invited core group of participants who "set the table" with food for thought, but it is open, throughout, to other folks, sitting around the perimeter, who can come up and take seats at the table to share their experiences, ideas, questions and insights in a non-hierarchical, non-panel/Q&A setting. They are not so much "audience members" as a listening and contributing community. In this spirit, guests to the gathering are invited to bring a snack or food item to share.
RESOURCES, READINGS & PRESS
Dancing Around Race READER
Dance writing around race
Building accountability in the dance field
Article about the project by Sima Belmar for In Dance
Blog post about the project by Bhumi Patel
Blog post on Dance Matters by Julian Carter