Leaving things in 2020 means we have room to pick up new ideas and fights in 2021.
Here are some things we think need picking up in the new year.
Positive Body Awareness
As Abra Myles wrote in her Dancegeist article, “A Room for All,” we need to center bodies of all types in 2021. Positive Body Awareness is an expansive idea. It ranges from body size to trans inclusivity to amplifying the voices of BIPOC, disabled, and other typically marginalized people. In 2021, we need to move beyond proclamations of inclusivity and work for actions of inclusivity.
Dancers Taking Acting Classes
We pride ourselves on our ability to communicate ideas with our bodies. Let’s incorporate a better understanding of conveying emotions in 2021. Let’s normalize acting classes for dancers without it being under a pretext of a prescribed “style” of dance (like musical theater). That goes for kids at dance studios, too! Your next summer intensive should have an acting class (the kids will love it!).
For many, dance starts as a hobby or passion that we love so much we turn it into a career. As it transforms from a craft with our friends to a way we make our living, we must fight to keep boundaries both between our work-life balance and between bosses and employees. In 2021, let yourself take breaks, tell yourself which dancing is for fun and which is for work, and leave the studio relationships in the studio.
Land Acknowledgements with Action
It’s important to acknowledge the Indigenous People whose homes we have taken and now live and work on. Acknowledgement is an important step, but in 2021 lets follow these acknowledgements with action. Are theatres that make this acknowledgement donating a portion of ticket sales to Indigenous Peoples? Are dance studios making this acknowledgement allowing Indigenous People to take classes for free? We’re a creative industry—how can we do more than talk the talk?
Higher Standards for Instructors
We need to demand better for our own and the next generations’ training. We should demand our instructors know the true history and influential people of the styles they are teaching. In 2021, let’s understand that a classroom is a place to learn. If dancers are going to a class to watch the teacher and their friends dance then they should really be spending their money going to that choreographer’s shows. We should fight for more incorporation of circular and community teaching. A teacher is not better or more qualified simply because they come from somewhere else.
In New York State, any employee at a dance studio must go through training on preventing harassment in the workplace. In 2021, Dancegeist Magazine is calling on these dance studios to also require an online course specific to dance training. We pride ourselves on the uniqueness of our craft yet make no requirements specific to what we do. Check out the (free!!) StEPS Initiative Course and consider it for your studio’s employees. There are programs for addressing racism in dance, sexual abuse, gender inclusion, nutrition, and more!
Acknowledging the Climate Crisis in How We Work
Many of us use our art to make statements about the climate crisis, but are the systems we use for work and creation actually walking the walk? Are you bringing a plastic water bottle? Are you flying every week?
In 2021, we want to push bigger organizations to build carbon offset programs into their budgets. Carbon offsets invest money in projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The proportionate cost to offset the emissions created by a single dance convention or festival can be calculated easily using websites like Terrapass.
On a smaller level, studios should consider their own carbon footprint. Start with something as simple as encouraging reusable bottles (hello! Sell one with your logo on it!) to looking at how often you fly in dance teachers. Consider building carbon offset costs into tuition (it’s not as expensive as you’d think!).
Funding Individual Artists
It’s not exactly a secret that getting a substantial grant from a major organization is not something that happens out of the blue. Funding largely goes to the “safer bets” of bigger, established choreographers and companies. This method makes it more difficult, if not impossible, to plant the seeds for up-and-coming talent unless they have the means to fund themselves for years. Oftentimes, the “new talent” that gets funded has worked with the older, established companies. On its face there’s nothing wrong with this practice but it guarantees that the work comes from, at least to some extent, the same viewpoint. To vary the makeup of the industry, we must look in different places.
Let’s incorporate more systems of non-hierarchal collaboration in 2021. (slowdanger wrote a great article on this in our very first issue!) True collaboration is born of symbiotic and equal work. Let’s incorporate more equality in collaborators in 2021, both in the studio and outside. That means everyone involved, from grantor to performer, feeling like their only employer is the audience. This guarantees that multiple voices and perspectives can be heard in the work.
Showing the Hard Work
This one is closely tied to our call to end perfectionism in the studio. In 2021, let’s not be afraid to broadcast the effort that goes into creating professional, high-quality work. There are major aspects of our world that are built around instant gratification but that is simply not how the arts work. We must continue to make that clear to audiences and up-and-coming generations of artists. Tell them how long you spent creating, how hard it was, and how it will be hard for most others. (Added benefit: this also tells people why your work has the monetary value that you give it!)
Reflecting a Dancer’s Wage in Costs for Dancers
We’ve already established that we’ll be leaving low wages for dancers in 2020, but as we work towards more respectable wages we must also work to reflect the average wage dancers earn in costs that they incur. Specifically, the cost of dance training should exist on a sliding scale for dance professionals. High costs of training make it harder for people who don’t come from money to sustain a career in our industry.