Byron Tittle moves towards a white wall facing away from the camera. He has a lime green shirt tucked into the wait of his shorts and is looking down.

New York based tap dance company, Dorrance Dance, has pulled me back into 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. rehearsal days for the creation of new works. We are preparing for a few outdoor festivals that have been able to sustain themselves throughout the pandemic. Formally a company since 2010, we were on tour in Berklee, California when the first shutdown happened back in March of 2020. I’m elated to be back in a room with diverse but like-minded artists, and found the initial shock to my body after a full year without consistent activity difficult but manageable. However, the thoughts that arose within me of what it all means to be a performer set me awhirl through the spaces I occupy as a black, queer dancer. 

 

Anytime we are performing, it is likely that I am sharing myself with audiences who occupy different demographics than my own: part of the draw and the trepidation of the stage. I reveal myself, for audiences I do not know.  I try to connect with the work while feeding off of the energies of the audience. After a fifteen month hiatus, filled with the ongoing trauma of watching the senseless maiming of black bodies, I am different and must perform accordingly. I found solace in acknowledging the weight this holds in an industry that profits off of one’s inability to advocate for oneself. 

 

Now that the CDC has eased restraints and Broadway has announced dates to reopen, artists’ return to the stage feels closer than ever before. We are reminded that it is our duty as artists to reflect the times, a saying popularized by Nina Simone after writing and performing her civil rights war cry “Mississippi Goddam”. We will be a vessel for many people to escape their reality, while occasionally unable to cope with ours. In order to create art with integrity we need to look upon the misogyny and racism in our industries with disdain and work towards repair. 

by Byron Tittle

Black trauma has been infiltrated into our lives to the point of desensitization. The elderly Asian community is being viciously targeted in multiple places around the country. Transgender folk continue to be the most marginalized, with legislation being passed that upholds barriers on their health and safety. With performers populating all of these arenas, it is necessary to hold space for where they may be emotionally and mentally.

 

In Dorrance Dance, we have prioritized equality since our inception and our leaders use love for the art form as the paramount feature necessary to producing our work. Coming back into the room came with group reflection based on where we stand at the present moment, acknowledging the difficult time we’ve endured. We discussed the act of praise as a group, realizing the congregating of bodies as our biggest offering, whether in rehearsal or on stage. These conversations helped me realize the magnitude of the gift being on stage provides for both the performer and audience. I took a deeper look into the exchange taking place and found that any feigned emotions are a disservice to both parties.

 

As a generation, our place within the microcosm of the dance world proves both encouraging and harrowing. We  can choose to uphold the constructs that halt true equality or decide to be the advocates for progress. Returning back into the hamster wheel of previous roles and systems will not be seamless. Adhering to stipulations that I might no longer fit into or find necessary seems pointless. Even though I am empathetic to the different emotional hurdles that we as performers face daily, let’s encourage each other to prioritize honesty, validity, and ingenuity.