Dance is Political

Dance, like sport, like everything in life, is political. Dabke, the line dance of the Levant, is not only danced in celebratory settings, but also danced in protests. Women who choose to perform raqs sharqi in Egypt are often doing so at the expense of being cut off from their families due to the stigma of being a female performer. Some women in Egypt who are belly dancing for their income do it because they have no other choice, and like most people, don’t have the option to ‘decide’ their social or class status. Many foreign working dancers in Egypt deal with the uncomfortable reality that Egyptians want to hire foreign (read: often white) dancers for their weddings and upscale events. If we are to be informed, responsible oriental dancers, we understand that this dance form is political, and brings different stigmas and rewards in different contexts, countries, and for different people.

I remind you this as a preface to what I’m about to say once again: As dancers and artists participating in an art form that is created and performed by people of colour, I believe it’s especially important for us to show up and condemn racist sentiment of any kind. It’s not enough to be “not racist.” We have to strive to be anti-racist. And as a white dancer like myself, that sometimes means getting uncomfortable, examining our privilege, educating ourselves, and doing whatever we can to support anti-racist organisations and the people who are hurting (money talks, so I’ve got some donation links below if you want to skip there).

All that being said, the black community is hurting right now. I think a lot of us are hurting for them right now. We should be hurting to see others in pain, whether we know and identify with those people or not. If you participated in #blackouttuesday, that’s great. But we’ve got to take action too. You’ll feel better for taking action, as well. It feels good to be kind, I promise.

Here are some ways I’m acting from afar in Europe, and some ways you might choose to act too:

1) Donate

Money talks. If you are based in Netherlands and don’t have a credit card, here are some of the organisations and non-profits I’ve supported this week, so I know you can donate to them with PayPal and/or iDeal

⚫Black Lives Matter: https://blacklivesmatter.com/
⚫Detroit Branch NAACP: http://detroitnaacp.org/donate
⚫Official George Floyd Memorial Fund: https://www.gofundme.com/f/georgefloyd?fbclid=IwAR1foVDFrLAHSuGPc6Mnb2dKefy5GEQS3Z9BxrYT0ZVF_BlM9ns5QTy5tuA (edit; this is indeed one of the ones that requires a credit card, but the other three don’t)
⚫Afrodisiac, The Black Belly Dance Show: If you specifically want to show your support for some of the black dancers in our global community (help them get paid for the art they work hard to bring us!) AND support the charities Movement 4 Black Lives and Live Pura Vida!, treat yourself by watching some of Afrodisiac, The Black Belly Dance Show over on YouTube (only available for 3 more days!) and send a donation their way. Sadira Ladyliquid gives all the donation details in this video aaaaaand you’ll see the opening sha’abi performance from the lovely Basinah!

There are scores more, so feel free to drop links for causes you’re supporting in the comments.

2) Educate Yourself

The big thing here to start with is to listen. It’s pretty much impossible to not learn something about how marginalised people feel right now. I personally have ordered myself a copy of Robin Diangelo’s White Fragility, which has been recommended several times over the years, plus Why I’m no Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge.

3) Speak Out

I haven’t posted heaps on social media this week. I feel like social media ‘activism’ is usually more performative than it is truly activist. I sometimes feel we share things because it feels good to look like good people, rather than because we are actually acting. I know there are a lot of people who have already made their minds up, and it can be frustrating to feel like some people will never act for minorities, or will never care. But share links to donate. If you’re white, have those uncomfortable discussions with your friends and family who don’t understand what’s going on.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I think it’s important that we take the time to educate ourselves on how to be a better, more supportive dance community, and that we stand up for those around us who are subject to racism and prejudice. Sometimes our actions may hurt others unintentionally, but that’s no excuse. We must educate ourselves so that we learn from our mistakes, and we must listen when dancers or people tell us they are being hurt, targeted or misrepresented. And then we have to take responsibility and do our best to grow and become more informed.

Once again: Let’s do what we can to build more compassionate, understanding and empathetic communities

Leave a Reply