A Calling In

Aria Evans talks about the work that the dance community has to do inside of systemic racism and solidarity By Aria Evans
  • Evans / Photo co-created with Ximena Huizi

On Sunday May 31, I attended the march in support of “JUSTICE FOR REGIS KORCHINSKI-PAQUET,” an Afro-Indigenous woman in Toronto who fell off her balcony to her death, after police were called to her home.

Yet again, inside of COVID-19, I am left numb. I am left empty. I am left contemplating time: timeliness, timelessness, the things that have not changed and the things that change every day. I am thinking about the body – the Black and Brown body specifically. I am thinking about the history that lives in our bodies and the power of movement that is rooted in our experiences. I am thinking about the intertwine of pride and pain for bodies of colour.

As a mixed white and Afro-Indigenous body myself, I know the dance community has a lot of work to do inside of systemic racism and solidarity. I have personally experienced violence and injustice from the dance community, and I question the ways that the performing arts sector continues to perpetuate this brutality. As I approach these conversations from my personal perspective, I want nothing more than to be writing a love letter to the other Black and Brown bodies to say that together we are strong, visible and that we matter. Instead, I find myself instead using this platform to call in the primarily white majority that makes up our dance community.

I frequently witness complicity from predominantly white-run companies, institutions and organizations that are afraid to invite their audiences to have conversations about race. Our dance community has benefited from Black culture and Indigenous culture – from their dance forms, their music and the artists from these communities who we put on stages that exist and operate on stolen land. The dance community has profited from them. 

Ask yourselves: are you afraid to lose donors? Is money more important than human life? Is that colonial, capitalist value something you truly want to stand behind? You have the potential to use your platform to inform and enlighten. It’s not about pushing an agenda onto audiences, it is about upholding the notions of equality. 

To the companies, institutions and organizations that put out equity and diversity calls, while using bodies of colour as the image they disseminate along with a tag that reads “We welcome and encourage applications from 2SLGBTQAI+, People of Colour and Indigenous Artists,” where are your voices right now? What tangible actions are you making to contribute to change outside of sharing a sentiment or a hashtag? These are the kinds of difficult, uncomfortable conversations and questions that I want to see our community engage with. 

Always, but specifically over the past two weeks, I have been feeling really let down. Let down by the performing arts sector and specifically the dance community that I am a part of. Our practice is centered on the body, so I don’t understand the inaction that is being perpetuated in relation to the global events affecting Black and Brown bodies. 

I don’t believe in indifference.

Racial violence and discrimination are unacceptable. 

Neutrality can’t exist when it comes to race.

If you aren’t engaging in anti-racist work, you are complicit.

I know that the conversations currently emerging are challenging for white dancers, makers and audiences, that they confront your discomfort with racial issues. I think as artists we can often feel conflicted because the public wants a safe delivery system, an easy delivery system. But who are we protecting inside of that mindset?

Writing this was emotional labour that I wish I didn’t have to do. I don’t want bodies of colour to always be the ones giving the answers on how to make a difference, describing how to show up, how to engage. People of colour have been doing this labour their whole lives. 

It’s time for you, white people, companies, institutions and organizations to do that work. Look inward and ask yourself these hard questions. Talk to your colleagues, your board members and your collaborators. 

Make a difference through action. Amplify the voices of Black, Indigenous and people of colour who are and have been articulating their needs. Promote work of BIPOC artists and share your resources with them. Hold our governments and cities accountable for their actions and inactions. Silence and idleness are what maintain institutional racism and structural inequality. If we want things to change, we have to confront what is uncomfortable. 

We can do better, so let’s do better. It’s always been time, but now is the time.

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