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I like to think that the things I do matter.  I like to think that I’m operating on some sort of ethical system that allows me to think rationally and make decisions that will effect some sort of change for the better.  About a year ago images and text and a protest started going up around the Barbra Barker Center for Dance at the University of Minnesota.  Colloquially known as the “This” protest, anonymous dance students of Color commented on and critiqued institutionalized racism, white privilege, and issues surrounding casting.  This protest grew to include images of “invisible” bodies and stories ranging from dancers with disabilities to GLBT identified dancers and more.  After an incredibly heated post-University Dance Theatre discussion where I brought up the issue of race and casting particularly in Sarah Stackhouse’s restaging of Jose Limon’s Missa Brevis, the floor was taken by students of Color and white students alike.  Due to the insensitive and what could be read as inadvertently racist way of reacting to such allegations, dance students of Color began said protest.  As the instigator of the conversation I whole-heartedly supported the cause and the protest and tried fervently to further incite the conversation, stop the silencing, and raise new questions around GLBT issues in the building.

Because I don’t really want to recount the entire semester, I will give a link to the timeline provided on the protest’s website, which was used to document everything.  It is important to note that this timeline is infused with thick, critical language which is naturally biased and perhaps too myopic to serve as a sufficient history.  One day I would like to go through and add to the timeline, creating a multiplicitous reading of the happenings.  That day, though, is not today.

The reason I’m writing is because me, along with 2 close friends, removed the protest materials after what we believed to be a shift in the focus of the protest.  Moving away from issues of race and white privilege, the protest became exceedingly about U of M curriculum and faculty abuse of power.  What I find interesting is that nothing on the walls but for the occasional open letter addressed issues of abuse of power.  It’s impossibly easy to locate abuse of power in dance, notably choreographers like Balanchine forcing his dancers to become coke fiended anorexics.  What irked me the most was the spouting of inflammatory accusations toward the dance program’s Faculty of Color, three of which are world-renowned dance scholars who focus on issues of race and dance, without the positionally of referencing oneself.  I understand the threat of claiming a claim that is made to your superiors and in this specific case one of your bosses, but it seems less than ethical to me to put these professors who work diligently to fight racism on the line without properly self-reflecting and pointing out possible biases.

I feel like I’m getting nowhere with this post and all I’m doing is throwing myself back into the whirlwind of emotions and thoughts I was encased in last year.  I still do not regret my decision to take down the materials.  With the help of my 2 friends, we attempted and succeeded to set up two white privilege workshops free of charge for students, which were sadly poorly attended.  It’s hard for me to look back and say that what I did was affective.  It’s harder for me to look at what the protestors did and say it was affective.  True, the Office of Equity and Diversity came in and “worked their magic”, which proved to do nothing but put everyone on the defensive and to serve as a model for “these types of situations” (an actual conversation with a high-up in the OED.)

My question is what has been done?  A majority of the students who were so incredibly invested in this protest and these happenings graduated and have moved on to fight new fights.  What is being said now?  How has this protest affected other schools?  The protest was up during the regional American Collegiate Dance Festival last year and students from across the region witnessed the protest and what were their reactions?  What did they learn?  In one case that I won’t really share on here I found the reaction to be the adverse, pushing people further into racial ignorance and removing any sense of context or effectiveness.

I think what bothers me still is the inability of the protestors to build community.  In their “year later” post that I read today they wrote of growing tired and not being able to do it.  I guess what proves to be the truth is that we cannot fight the fight alone.  We must build allies, inform and educate newcommers to the program.  It cannot be completely up to the faculty and staff do this job.  And if it is up to them, perhaps a student-teacher coalition or alliance needed to be formed with this group to develop strategies.  I am  one hundred percent sure that it’s impossible to create that much change and sustain the fight with just 4 or 5 people.  Energy is required to stay that strong.

I hope that the students at the dance program will truly think about the messages of the protest.  I hope that they will take what has been done and learn and change the system.  It’s practically impossible for me to do anything from here.  I feel really helpless, though.

I hate getting pulled back in to these things.  I think I have to be done talking about this.  I don’t know if I was right anymore.  I can justify it, but I don’t know if it’s really done anything.  I don’t know what will.

Annotated timeline:

http://thisbyus.blogspot.com/2009/02/annotated-timeline-of-dance-program.html

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OK so here’s my BOSFRONZ blog post.  Prepare to cry…that’s more of a warning to myself because really no one else cries at these things besides Jeff and John.  In a nutshell 2009 was the year of the eyebrows.  I don’t know exactly what that means and I don’t have the desire to try to prove it, although I’m sure I could.  All I know is that I had eyebrows all of 2009, and so did my friends.

For me, personally, 2009 was meteoric considering accomplishments.  I am so incredibly lucky to have had such amazing opportunities.  Things I was able to do: went to China, lived in NYC for a month and a half, performed at the Northrop, showed choreography at ACDFA and was extremely well received, and countless other things that I’m sort of blanking on right now.

So I thought I’d go through these photos and sort of non-chronologically explain the year.  I’ll go top to bottom left to right.

1.  China was INCREDIBLE. This pic was taken with all the company, guests, and spouses who were along for the ride.  What an AMAZING adventure.  We literally flew over the world to get there and back.  Without a doubt the memories from this trip will never leave me.

2.  OF COURSE if you’ve ever seen my besti, Jeff, and my wall to wall on facebook, you might notice the trend of starting every statement, question, remark, and basically anything with “remember whens”.   I mean, it’s impossible to remember something that hasn’t happened yet, but it’s not about “making sense”.

3.  This was Ra’mon and I’s first night in New York!  We were in Times Square looking for someplace to eat and he stopped me and said, ok before we do anything else we need to take a picture here. 🙂 So cute and happy.  We look like we belong there, no?

4.  This was my FIRST Limon company experience back in March.  The dancers were staying at the Westin and us U of Mers went to hang out and take them out for a night on the town the Minnesota (which equals freezing, naturally) way.

5.  So this is really cut off but it’s John Sand and I posing at the Citypages photobooth on the 4th of July at Too Much Love.  Clearly we were dressing down that night and thinking rather conservatively.  Also, we were by no means drunk.

6.  Another John Sand and Brent Radeke classic.  The U Otter was the perfect night before I headed to NYC.  We sang karaoke and drank whisky cokes and generally had a brilliant time, like always.  What I remember most from that night is my clever tactics in avoiding a trip to White Caste and instead directing hunger toward the wonderful and always open McDonalds.

7.  FORD HALL. Besti Jeff and I posed in front of the infamous and fordable Ford Hall on the Fierce Purple Cardigan holiday known as Gay Easter.  Of course no GE could be complete without a trip to Noodles.  We walked all over campus but eventually we ate and finished off the night watching Jesus Christ Super Star for Pjsesus.

8.  (2nd row furtherst right)  2009 UDT and I believe it was opening night.  Duncan, Kat, and I were sporting our fierce costumes for Shapiro and Smith’s “A Moment Before”.  Starr’s in the background making fun of our wedgies, I’m sure.  An amazing cast, an amazing dance, and an amazing UDT.  I miss dancing with everyone back home more than a little bit.

9.  My favorite part of the summer is my “vacation” up north to Nisswa.  Riding on the jetski with my cousins and getting tan in my tiny swimsuit was the goal and i SUCCEEDED.  I also succeeded at getting drunk by noon and taking shots with my mother.

10.  Biggie Slims and I rockin out the NYE 2009 at the Crystal Ball. OH WHAT A NIGHT.  Let’s just say that BEP song was pretty true 4sr.

11.  Me and my hero, Ananya on my last day at work at ADT.  Miss her and that work and those amazing women and doing some social justice but trying to forge my own path now.

12.  Jesi and I were 2cool4school eating lunch on the steps of the Met.  Gossip Girl XOXO.  That’s right, I’m the queen bee.

13.  (bottom left)  Harry Potter 6 was probably one of THE highlights of the summer for me.  Dressed up and going to the midnight showing.  I swear I went with the most creative group of costumes.  I was the least creative, but I at least wasn’t like Ron or Harry or something.  IT WAS SO GOOD.

14.  Honestly, 2009 (and part of 2008) were the years of Missa Brevis.  I have been doing Limon work now for over a year. CRAZY.  It brought me to China, though so I can’t really complain…at all.  The part in the pic is from the sextet.

15.  STATE FAIR DUH.  Me and the ladies went to the state fair and stuffed ourselves with entirely too much food and I ruined a pair of shorts dancing and we got SOAKED on a water ride.  One of THE BEST days of the year.  I am definitely coming back next year for some more food and laughs.

16.  (Last but definitely not least) Transmission.  Kara, John and I (the sprfshn trio) invaded Jager for 80s night.  Of course we were the most fabulous people there, but we didn’t win the Madonna discography for best costume.  Not cool.  Of course we went to McDonalds after and of course we had a fabulous time.  There’s always drama, of course, with some ex or another showing up but what’s fun without a little FLARE?  (If I don’t stop writing soon I’m going to throw up)  I was clearly an 80s dancer and John was some country star or something.

OK those were my 16 pictures.  2009 is done and i’m ovr it.

BaI

In 2010 John Sand WILL watch Cats.

Ok,

Here goes.  I’m in Minneapolis for the time being.  I don’t know how long I’ll be here, but it won’t be more than a few months.  Nyc, China, Nyc were AMAZING.  I’m going to upload some pictures, but all of my photos are going to be on facebook, so you should probably check there.  If you don’t have facebook, IDK, that’s really not my problem.  ❤

I feel like writing about China doesn’t do it justice.  I’ll have the memories forever; and as much as I’d like to share these memories with everyone I know, I haven’t figured out the best way to do it.  I can tell you though, that jet lag is HORRIBLE.  I’m still not sleeping right, and I’m hungry at weird times and can hardly finish an American meal.  I also have an awful craving for Arby’s pretty much at all times: unfortunate.

I have a boifranz now.  He’s amazing.  It’s been a while coming.  We’ve been back and forth between Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and NYC.  I’m uber excited to see him this weekend in Milwaukee to have our own little Christmas.  I have to get the presents ready.  I don’t think I could be happier in that respect.

This is a pic of Ra’ and me in NYC the first time we were there together.  He was staying at the Sofitel and we painted the town singing and dancing away at places like Duplex and eating amazing meals at STK and sharing delicious cheesecake at Juniors.  New York is an amazing place to fall in love.  The lights, the music, the electricity: it’s all there.

The second trip to NYC we got to go to MoMA.  Omg.  Can I just say how spectacular it was?  There was a Tim Burton retrospective with and also Monet’s water lilies.  We weren’t allowed to take photos of Burton’s exhibit, but I got some of the museum in general.

We did some shopping also in Soho.  I’m missing the city already.  The fashion, the lights, the excitement.  If I chose not to do something, it’s because I had a choice.  I’ve only been gone a few days but I’m already itching to get back.  I am gonna miss the accessibility to all the shops and all the stores I loved going into while I was there.  Minneapolis is great, but it’s not NYC.

SO the reason for the whole trip was dancing with the Limon company.  It was quite an amazing experience.  I LOVED dancing every day and getting paid to do so.  I didn’t have to have another job to support me while I was there, I could just focus on my art and getting my body in tip top shape for performance.  Speaking of my body, my hip hurts like a MOFO. I need to get it checked out for hip surgery while I’m here.  I really need to do it this time because I can’t have this keep happening.  Anywhoser, (my new phrase picked up from some girl in Coffman) Ok I just lost my train of thought because I walked away from my computer.  Whoops.  Oh yes Limon.  Dancing with them was AMAZING. I loved feeling part of something like that.  THe dancers are amazing and great and treat you like an equal even if you’re merely guest dancing with them.  I feel like I formed some really close bonds and long-lasting friendships which I hope to continue to grow when I move back to NYC.  Again, I will keep updated as to when that’s happening, but it WILL happen and it WILL happen soon.

Jesi and I had a blast in NYC too.  We had movie nights, blockbuster visits, we went and had lunch on the steps of the Met on saturday and pretended we were famous.  We ordered sushi to get a diet coke, we ate Thai food in the dark, we watched lots of Star Trek, and we had an amazing Thanksgiving next to Central Park.  I am so thankful to her for allowing me to crash there.  Lots of love go out to her and also for letting Ra’ crash there a few nights the second time he came.  The best thing we did, though was after I flew back from China.  We spent my last day in NYC the right way: shopping, skating in Rockefeller Center, and then an evening of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at City Center.  It was spectacular.

NOW FOR CHINA!!

It was an adventure of a lifetime.  I’m surprised by how little culture shock I experienced.  Even though everything was pretty much in Chinese, and few people spoke more than a few words of English, I was able to get myself around with a lot of ease.  That’s probably because of China’s attempt to make the city tourist ready for the Beijing Olympics.  The theatre was out of this world amazing.  It was huge and everyone who worked there was incredibly kind.  Backstage everything looked the same.  There were multiple theatres in the large complex and it was very easy to get lost.  Luckily, the floors were color coded based on the theatre you were performing in…we were in the red theatre…so i never got FULLY lost.

I did a lot of touristy things.  I saw the great wall, which is where the top pic is from, obviously.  It was breathtaking.  Probably one of the most beautiful things I’ll ever see in my life, at least manmade.  I was taken by the thought that had to go into the construction of the wall, the angle, gradient, depth of the steps.  I would love to go back some day and spend more time there in the summer, but I’m not sure if that’ll ever happen.  I also saw the Forbidden City.  Beautiful.

Basically everything about China was interesting.  The pollution was incredibly thick, the people were generally pretty kind and helpful, but there was a lot of “Where are you from” and “Have you seen the Foribidden City” sort of English.  My favorite was when I was at the Silk Market, a highly touristy location with a lot of shops and imitation luxury fashion goods the merchants used “hello sexy boy, hi handsome, you want purse for your wife” a great deal.  I don’t have a wife…duh.

Ok, I’m running out of steam.   This may be my only China/NYC post.  I had an amazing time. Now I’m back for a short while, going to enjoy the holiday with family and see some friends.

Ok, time to vamboozle.