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Theresa Ruth Howard Dancer/Writer/Teacher Theresa Ruth Howard began her professional dance career with the Philadelphia Civic Ballet Company at the age of twelve. Later she joined the Dance Theatre of Harlem where she had the opportunity to travel extensively throughout the United States, Europe and Africa. She has worked with choreographer Donald Byrd as a soloist in his staging of New York City Opera's Carmina Burana, his critically acclaimed Harlem Nutcracker, as well as the controversial domestic violence work The Beast. She was invited to be a guest artist with Complexions: A Concept in their 10th anniversary season. In 2004 she became a founding member of Armitage Gone! Dance. As a writer Ms. Howard has contributed to Russell Simmons’ One World magazine (art), and The Source (social politics), as well as Pointe and Dance Magazine. While teaching in Italy for the International Dance Association she was asked to become a contributor for the premiere Italian dance magazine Expressions. Her engaging, no nonsense writing style caught the eye of both the readers of Dance Magazine and its Editor in Chief who not only made her a contributing editor and has collaborated with Ms. Howard in See and Say Web-reviews. Her articles about body image prompted her to develop a workshop for young adult (dancers and non-dancers) My Body My Image that addresses their perceptions both positive and negative about their bodies and endeavoring to bring them closer to a place of Acceptance and Appreciation. She recently launched a blog by the same name to reach a broader audience (mybodymyimage.com) As a teacher Ms. Howard has been an Artist in Residence at Hollins University in and New Haven University in addition to teaching at Sarah Lawrence College, Marymount, Shenandoah, and Radford Universities, and the historical American Dance Festival. As a result of her work at ADF Ms. Howard was invited to Sochi, Russia to adjudicate the arts competition Expectations of Europe and teach master classes, and in Burundi, Africa where she coached and taught the Burundi Dance Company. Currently she on faculty at The Ailey School but also extensively throughout Italy and Canada. Ms. Howard's belief in the development, and nurturing of children lead her to work with at risk youth. At the Jacob Riis Settlement House in Queensbridge New York, she founded S.I.S.T.A (Socially Intelligent Sisters Taking Action) a mentoring program for teen-age girls where she worked to empower them to become the creators of their destinies. In addition she developed a dance program, which lead to an exchange with the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Through her teaching and travels Ms. Howard began to observe a universal disenchantment and disconnection in teenagers that disturbed her, thus she set out to address it. Combining her philosophies of life and teaching, with the skills she garnered through outreach programs with diverse communities, she developed the personal development workshop Principles of Engagement: Connecting Youth to the Infinite Possibilities Within which gives teens a set of workable tools to increase their levels of success at tasks, and goals not only in dance, and all aspect of their lives. Theresa Ruth Howard is certainly diverse and multifaceted as an artist, and is moved to both write and create work; however she sees every student she encounters as a work in progress, and the potential to change the world one person at a time. The only was to make this world a better place it to be better people in it!

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DEFYING GRAVITY: The art of Indian dancer Sanchit Babbar

I am so happy for my former Ailey school PT pal!! Great Article!!

Via http://www.bkreader.com/2017/03/defying-gravity-art-indian-dancer-sanchit-babbar/

Dancer Sanchit Babbar Photo: Nir Arieli

“The Art of Seeing” by Michael Milton

I was husky when I was a boy; or at least, “Husky” was the word written on the label of the jeans my folks bought for me to wear when I was 10.  But, by the time I was 14, I sprouted skywards, the result, I imagine, of an eruption of teenage hormones; so it was that nature provided me with a new physique, aided in no especial intention or exertion of my own.”

When Park Slope habitue– dancer Sanchit Babbar—shared with me that he had been overweight until he was twenty years of age, I was shocked.  I mean, come on!  Look at these photos!

“I was so lazy,” he says, his Indian accent faint and delightful. “I was very overweight.  I never walked anywhere in New Delhi.  I took a car or went by motorbike.  I ate what I wanted, when I wanted.  And then one day I went to a dance class that friends were taking and the guest teacher from The Danceworx Academy of Performing Arts–Anthony Noa–did a single pirouette.  That’s what made me decide I wanted to be a dancer.  I couldn’t get over the perfection of that turn.”

And in 2 months, Sanchit (a Hindu name meaning “collected”) had shed 50 pounds through dedicated exercise and a thoroughly switched out diet.  “My teacher’s first instruction when I told him I wanted to become a dancer was ‘lose weight.’  And so I did. In India, we have great respect for our teachers.  We don’t question them.  We trust in what they say to us.  Actually, that has made my journey in ballet easier, really.   I do what they tell me.  Anthony (Noa) told me, “If you work hard, you can be a dancer,” and I have never doubted those words.  And I always work hard.”

Photo: Nir Arieli

Sanchit– who teaches ballet at Bridge For Dance and is a member of the American Liberty Ballet –came to New York City from India on a scholarship to The Ailey School, the official school of The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre.  “They are such a great dance company… Everything about Ailey inspires me.  I saw Revelations for the first time on my computer in New Delhi. It was the ONLY way to see it!” Sanchit explains, “…In India, there aren’t really any dancing schools.  Touring companies rarely come there.  There aren’t established ballet companies,” he said.

“Sure, there’s folk dancing; Bollywood movies are probably the closest you could get to dancing in India.  To pursue dance, you need to go elsewhere. Though challenging, I was willing to do whatever it took to dance…including convincing my parents that I was making the right move.”

“My parents would have preferred that I stayed in India, of course;  get a job, get married, have kids.  I have had to be so determined in my choice to dance—for myself, of course, but also to show my family I mean business, that there is no room for doubt.  When I hear my parents ask about my ‘fall back plan’ I say, “If you have a fall back plan, that’s the plan that will happen.  I have no fall back plan because one way or the other, my life will be about ballet.”

“I’m Hindu…we believe that nothing is permanent. So I knew my initial feeling in America of being a fish out of water would pass.”

Sanchit’s scholarship at The Ailey School included housing and when he finished his training there, he moved to Park Slope.

“I love it here,” he said. “One of my first memories of being in Brooklyn was seeing the Van Leewen trucks in the morning.  I don’t eat dairy but they have this incredible vegan coconut cream/cashew based ice creams that are creamier than anything I had ever had.”

“I grew up in my time at Ailey.  Remember, I was older than everyone else in class…I was already 22.  I was intimidated.  I was playing catch up all the time;  not just in class. Culturally; other dancers had knowledge they just took for granted.  I had to work for it.”

Sanchit explains that his teachers didn’t teach him how to dance so much as they taught him how to be mentally strong: “It’s so important to hold yourself to the task at hand,” he said. “You have to ask yourself questions all the time, about your body, about your technique, about the art of ballet, about your commitment, and to– above all– ignore the negative voices that always want to get in.”

“My mother is very strong.  When I first started at Ailey, I wanted to go home to India and she was the one who said, ‘No! Stay there and finish what you have started.’  I’m grateful for that advice.  But there was so much I didn’t know how to do; cook a meal, do my own laundry, how to shop in a Western grocery store.   My family isn’t rich but still, I was very spoiled at home in India.  Part of my dance training has been about getting stronger in taking care of myself at all levels.”

Sanchit Babbar

Photo: Nir Arieli

“I’m Hindu…we believe that nothing is permanent,” said Sanchit. “So I knew my initial feeling in America of being a fish out of water would pass.”

I ask, “But how do you deal now with challenging situations?”

Sanchit smiles.  “I turn to my mentor (Noa).  We skype.  We talk on the phone.  He doesn’t allow me to entertain negative thoughts.  He tells me that whatever I think, then I am right!  I only want to be right about succeeding so those are the only thoughts I have.”

Sanchit learned from Noa and passes lessons on to his own students. “I tell my students, “It’s not pain you are feeling, it’s your brain!”  What I mean is that when we allow ourselves to disappear into our art, pain disappears, too.  The brain focuses on the art, not the hurting calf or foot.”

I ask him who is dancing idol is and without missing a beat he says, “Baryshnikov, of course!”

“I get excited when I’m watching him do something breathtaking and I hear some part of myself whisper in my brain, ‘You could never do that, Sanchit.‘  That voice in my brain never stops me.  It energizes me!  I immediately want to rush back to class and do whatever I saw over and over again until I can do it.”

Pain, Sanchit explains, is a great teacher.  “Dancing, of course, can be physically painful.  But moving to America, leaving my family, having a dream which is hard to explain to my people at home… these all cause pain, too.  Americans seem to fear pain… not just physical, but spiritual and intellectual, too.”  He adds, “I’ve learned that the right choice is rarely the painless one.”

“My goal is to dance at the Royal Ballet.”

And by the way, he has no fall back plan!

3 Pearls- Steps to Recovering Your Sense of Self


When I started this forum there were certain things I was clear about and aware of in relative to the subject of body image because I had made a study of mine in particular. I have always been infinitely interested, it matters little the subject I just have to know. By nature I am a highly introspective person, and have always sought to understand the deeper meanings of things whether personal or worldly. I have never been one to simply “take things at face value” instead I prefer to take a concept, idea, or belief, hold it up to the light slowly rotating, and analyzing it until all sides have been scrutinized and all angles revealed. When I started My Body My Image it’s fair to say that I had done my personal “due diligence” in terms of my own issues, I had identified them, uncovered their roots and tributaries, I had mapped my emotional, psychological and experiential terrain thus I felt comfortable enough to share my findings openly, and honestly with whomever stumbled upon the site. The most delicious thing about this process is that I almost everyday I learn something new, either about the subject, myself, or about how others in this struggle come to a better understanding and harmony with themselves.

Throughout the years I have managed to craft a workable philosophy that has been one of the keys to creating a sense of balance for me in a world (and my mind) that is in constant flux. Through trial and error and the “working” of it in my daily life, personally I know it to be effective. After years of suffering internally with feelings of inadequacy on many levels, (achievement, body image, relationships) and struggling to make some sense of it all, trying desperately to survive it, I arrived at these, my coping tools: Acceptance, Appreciation, and Respect, these were the elements I strung together like raw pearls on silk twine, and wore them around my neck for protection. In times of uncertainty or pondering, I could touch them lightly or roll them between my fingertips and remind myself that there was something larger. That for whatever was going through my head or heart there was a more substantial idea, something real though unseen that had the weight to anchor me into myself. These three concepts reinforced my sense of worth, and validation by reminding me that the simple act of being meant that I was enough, perhaps not perfect but enough.

When I touch the pearl of Acceptance I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes by the indomitable Eleanore Roosevelt “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” When I start to feel not good enough, unworthy, or small, I finger that pearl and ask myself: Is it the situation, the circumstance, or the person making me feel this way? or is it a feeling I already harbor about myself that has somehow been agitated? Does that sense of inadequacy sit at the bottom of my spirit like a finely ground power, benign and stable so long as it stays dry, cool and tucked away in the darkness, but add water, just a drop- in the way of a side glance from a woman, or a trigger word from a parent or friend, and it begins to bubble up into a corrosive, caustic brew that quickly and silently eats through the self esteem and empowerment that just moments before was the solid foundation upon which I stood? The question is, which is the active ingredient the water or those things that lie beneath? Water is just water, as human beings it is 80 percent of our biological make-up, my money is on that powdery substance of insecurity and doubt that like pollen in the springtime gently settles upon us as we go through life until one day it makes us sneeze.

Throughout our lives we tend to collect things without thinking, thoughts, ideas, and beliefs. Periodically we need to purge. I have learned the importance and the necessity of “Spring Cleaning”. I have to go into the recesses of myself and assess what works and what doesn’t, what fits, and what I have outgrown, this includes everything from behaviors to friends. I must clear out the baggage; discard the issues that I had unwittingly subscribed to. Month after month kept arriving, and I like a mindless snacker kept consuming without question. I had to dust! Recently I committed to taking better care of the antique furniture that I inherited from my Great Grandmother Ruth. I went to the hardware store and bought some old school Liquid Gold Wood Polish. Not the spray kind but the type you have to pour out and get a rag to spread, the kind that makes your furniture gleam. Upon opening the canister the scent wafted out and I was instantly thrown back in time to when I was little girl. I was the baby of nine and on chore day it was my job to “Do down the stairs” with a dustpan and brush, and to dust. I hated dusting! First of all it took too long and secondly everything in our three-story house was made of wood! When the aroma hit my nostrils I was 8 years old again, and there was a rush of innocence and weightlessness that came over me. That is what happens when you dust…

It is through this pearl of Acceptance that I realized that, before I begin to judge myself I need to first know who and what I really am. Maybe its not so bad .We tend to spend so much time looking at other people either in the act of coveting or judging we lose sight of ourselves. It reminds me of the title of Erma Bombeck’s book from 1976 “The Grass is always Greener over the Septic Tank” If we stop straining our eyes and necks trying to see what some else has we might realize that we already have all that we need. Once you know who you are, you can then decide who you want to be, and make choices going forward that support that. Through Acceptance I understand that I control not only the way that I feel emotionally, but also the way I feel about my Self. This understanding creates my reaction and relationship to how others feel about me. If you don’t know–if you don’t decide who you are, then anyone can make you believe anything about yourself, good bad, or unimportant. Eleanor Roosevelt also said, “Remember always that you not only have the right to be an individual, you have an obligation to be one.”

Acceptance, is not just about accepting yourself but also about accepting the responsibility you have for and to yourself. If you want to take the credit for the success, then you have to be willing to take the blame for the faux pas and failures and know that either way it’s all right. We also have to accept that we are human, and that is a messy and imperfect state of being. When we cultivate an acceptance for ourselves we instantly begin to have an acceptance and allowance towards others, enter compassion…

Sometimes in fragile moments my finger finds the second pearl on the string, that of Appreciation. This is one that I have mostly experienced through the feeling of guilt “You never miss a good thing until it’s gone”. Whether it’s people, things, situations, eras, or health, this adage is so true. As I mentioned before I am the baby of nine, and one day a group of us were hanging out in the kitchen. Somehow we landed on the fact that our mother had nine of us one at a time. There are no twins in our clan. So someone calculated that our mother had spent 5 1/2 years of her life pregnant. We all looked at her astonished! A bit self-conscious My mother replied “Well when you put it like that it does sound horrible, it didn’t feel like that” It started a whole discussion about would you rather be pregnant for five years straight and be done with it or do it normally. My mother said if she had to do the time straight, she wouldn’t have. When you think about it like that, all strung together it’s seems impossible to fathom, but it’s odd how thinking about something slightly differently can change the perspective of that thing. If I linked all the times I have sat and complained about my body, either as a dancer or as a woman I probably would end up with a number that was double to that of my mother’s collective pregnant years. I feel like most of my life has been spent obsessing or bemoaning what I had didn’t have, or wanted, in regards to my body. Conversely if I strung together to times I loved what I looked like, saluted myself, or acknowledged that I was good (as a dancer) or beautiful, lovely, gorgeous, or even not so bad, that timeline would be of no comparison at all. It is not until you lose something that you comprehend its value. As a dancer when you are injured, or age sets in and one’s facility is not as facile, when your health is compromised, or when some one you love is ill or dies, it is only then that you realize that even in your seemingly imperfect state, you are ultimately still blessed. Blessed simply because you are, and really as horrible as it sounds— as long as you are alive it can almost always be worse.

I was 26 when my father died. Though it sounds a bit trite, he was my best friend. More specifically he was a friend to my mind, he understood not only me, and the way I thought, but also the world I lived in and my particular point of entry, therefore he had the ability to council me with a depth of comprehension, compassion and always with utter honesty. I recall the bittersweet moment when he told me that the man I loved did not love me, “At least the way you ought to be loved” he added to soften the blow of reality. He told me when I was getting “chunky” and I needed to watch it. He told me that I tended to see the world differently then most people (including my family members) and that might always to have me standing on the outside but he assured me that it was okay, contrast creates context. After all, the only thing that makes the inside the inside, is the fact that here is and outside. My father was a ballet father and would drag me to the theater, or make me watch the PBS dance specials when I preferred to watch Three’s Company, he often wore me down with discussion and debate, and his is corny jokes, he was exhausting!!! As his illness began to claim his body, and a disturbing frailty replaced what had always been sinewy strength, I was confronted with the reality that the body, though extremely resilient, has its own vulnerability and was subject to breakdown. Weakness has always been more disturbing to me then the idea of death. Death I had experienced early on in my life weakness never. At the age of eight I had been introduced to death when my brother of twelve passed away. It was then that I learned that not only old people die. When I watched my father draw his last breath and I witnessed the peace that came over him upon his soul’s release, it was then that I fully appreciated how full of life he had been, and how much passion for parenting he had possessed.

Since that time, there have been other instances, other losses that have acted as reminders that one should always live with a certain level of appreciation for one’s body, one’s life, in whatever form it takes. Through this forum I have learned to extend that concept to the appreciation of one’s body regardless of its form, weight or size. There is no such thing as perfect, and we may never be what we want, but if what we have works, it more than good enough. I always say that I practice Bikram yoga begrudgingly and it is true, there is a part of me that hates it. I do it not so much because I love it, but more because it works. I get annoyed when I think, “Damn and I going to have to do this for the rest of my life if I want to hold on to what I have left, and prevent losing more?” I am pissed to have to get up, pull myself together, get all sweaty and overheated just so that I can walk with a bit of comfort from my hip, so I can teach class and manage to demonstrate, and so that I can look somewhat the way that I want to physically. But then I take a breath as I trudge up that hateful hill to the studio, and I work towards appreciation by changing my “have tos” into “get tos” I get to do this and I am blessed that I can! I get to do Bikram as much as I’d like (or require) and I can afford it, I have to appreciate that. I get to practice, and I am physically able to and at this point it’s pretty much a breeze (if you have ever taken Bikram you will appreciate the irony of the word breeze in various respects) I have to appreciate that. I get to experience the results! I have to appreciate that I found something that works, some people aren’t that lucky. If I look at my Bikram practice the way we figured my mother’s years of pregnancy, basically I have to endure Bikram for about 7 hours a week. That’s 28 hours a month, which amounts to a little over one day. That’s not so bad.

There is a line in the classic movie Marjorie Morningstar (Natalie Wood and Gene Kelly), someone asks Marjorie’s Uncle Sampson how he’s doing and he replies “I have my health, the rest is mud” that’s kinda my how I feel about it sometimes. If the best or the worst you can say is that you have your health you’re doing all right. Can you imagine being broke or homeless (two conditions that are bad) while you were ill? I have seen people who lead lives of plenty and for all their money they could still not buy their health. In the end even though they could afford the best medical care (which is really important) it still wasn’t enough. If you have your health you have to learn to appreciate the importance of that, because the rest…is mud!

Which brings me to the last pearl on the strand Respect. Respect is so complex and layered; it is a complicated matrix of reasons why we respect something or someone, and why we require it ourselves. Respect is the thing that gives us a sense of validation, acknowledgement and value. It not only implies that you have been seen but that you have been accepted and are held in high regard. It holds within its definition an idea of power, and prestige. Even though on one hand we talk about how no one else’s opinion should matter, in truth we don’t live in a vacuum, humans thrive and rely on one another for physical and emotional interaction, and ones standing within the “tribe” is of paramount importance. However we should not place or replace the opinion of others before or above that of our own. When it comes to respect for our selves, and our bodies it is about creating an intimate relationship with ourselves (mentally emotionally, spiritually and physically) that cultivates an understanding of our functionality and how optimum functionality is arrived at for us. Self-respect if about doing what is best for one’s self and making the best choices possible, be that in people or food. It is learning to take care of ourselves, inside and out. We often expect others to treat us well and yet we abuse ourselves in a myriad of ways daily, from negative speak, to eating badly, not exercising, or getting involved with people who don’t have the best intentions towards us. Respect really does start at home by drawing boundaries that define what is acceptable and what isn’t, and demanding it from ourselves; then we can demand that other tow that same line. When we honor our own beliefs, our values, our philosophies, we begin to stand in our power. When we begin to see our bodies as the vessel that houses the essence of our being and more then a reflection of the ego, or something that is used to attract, perhaps then we would begin to see others in another light as well.

When you respect something you take care of it. I am finding that with age conscientiousness towards one’s body begins to develop. When my father was sick someone once told me,” Well if you keep something for 60 years something is bound to go wrong” and it true. I am beginning to understand why whenever you talk to older people they are always coming from the doctors, going to the doctors or making a appointment, that’s because the older you get he more frequently you have to get things checked out. I have reached a point where I am (in respect for my body and fear of cancer) starting to be more diligent about going to the doctors, the dentist, the gynecologist and ophthalmologist. The irony is I think about how I am happy to get a facial, laser hair removal and will spend copious amounts of money on creams and make-up but when it comes to going to the doctors I have to push myself. T’ruth be told, part of that is I am always afraid that I am dying of something. Respect is a pearl that is a bit heavier than it’s sisters as the other two (appreciation and acceptance) are housed within it. With respect for ones self comes a sort of facing of reality, if we are so lucky, we do get older and things change, we don’t look the way we once did, and we might have to work a little harder at it. We have to appreciate that we are living to see the history of our lives etched into our foreheads, that every moment of laughter now parenthetically frames our mouths, and that though we move a bit slower we still get there…But then the words of Uncle Samson echo in the back of my head “I have my health, the rest is mud”

These three pearls as I like to refer to them as are the foundation of my philosophy and the tenants that My Body My Image is based on: Acceptance, Appreciation and Respect for one’s self, for one’s body. They are not easily arrived at, they are by-products of constant work, and personal housekeeping- dusting, and polishing if you will. We as a society have an addiction of sorts to the body and its image, the commercialization of which perpetuates the issue. We cannot seem to create a relationship to and with it that is healthy and balanced. We share the same sort of relationship with food; it’s either too much, too little, good for you or bad. We obsess about it; it shadows almost every area of our lives. These pearls I have discovered help quiet the chatter, create balance and help me stay somewhat centered. They are to me what the 12 steps are to addicts, they are my steps towards recovery. Like an addict I works the steps, and take it one moment, one day at a time. I encourage you to “Wear your Pearls!!” They are classic and go with almost everything.

Why Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Beauty Campaign Matters

It was announced today that celebrated author, feminist, and aesthete Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is the face of British brand Boots’ new beauty campaign. The campaign launches today, and according to Huffington Post UK it will include print, digital, and TV components. But it is much more than that.

Adichie’s new gig is a statement that real women, serious women—the kind who write critically acclaimed novels and give TED Talks with outsize effects on politics and pop culture—also care about beauty and fashion. And Adichie is as serious as a woman can get. She is a MacArthur “genius grant” recipient, the author of the critically acclaimed novels Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun. Her seminal meditation on feminism, “We Should All Be Feminists,” was not only sampled by Beyoncé, but is now required reading for every 16-year-old boy in Sweden.

It’s empowering to see Adichie dismantle the double standards that deny the complexity (which is to say, the humanity) of womanhood.

As a woman who writes about white supremacy and police brutality as well as summer fur and beauty products, it’s empowering to see Adichie dismantle the double standards that deny the complexity (which is to say, the humanity) of womanhood. I need to see that a woman, a Black woman, can shift global political thinking and sit front-row at Dior as both a guest and muse, as she did a few weeks ago in Paris.

Still, a writer? The star of a beauty campaign? Writers can be egregious offenders of glamour. After all, we are known to spend days on end in sweats, tapping away at a keyboard, and surviving on Special K. No one says it, but it’s understood that if you are a woman who wants to write about Serious Things and Be Taken Seriously, you should not look like you take yourself too seriously. In a 2014 essay for ELLE, Adichie, who grew up in Nigeria, makes the following observation about studying at an American university: “For serious women writers in particular, it was better not to dress well at all…if you spoke of fashion, it had to be either with apology or with the slightest of sneers.”

Serious male writers are given permission to love comic books and video games. Hell, some of them even make second careers doing it. So to watch Adichie publicly take pleasure in aesthetics and to be celebrated for it is a hopeful shift.

It’s political, radical even, that one of the biggest British brands has tapped a dark-skinned Black woman writer to represent them.

Beauty is political. As the photographer Joel-Peter Witkin wrote, “Beauty is each culture’s peculiar fiction.” The dangerous fiction that our culture peddles is that dark women, largely, can’t be seen as beautiful. What our culture upholds as beautiful, if we’re to judge by looking at the runway, mainstream media, and advertising, is predominantly white, thin, and young. So it’s political that one of the biggest British brands has tapped a dark-skinned Black woman writer who writes about feminism, colonialism, and Nigeria to represent them. Colorism often excludes Black women who aren’t mixed-race or mixed-race-passing from being considered as beautiful.

In recent years, against the backdrop of the galvanizing spirit of Black Lives Matter, we have seen the world rushing to diversify and be more inclusive. But to see the identities and politics that Adichie represents celebrated in mainstream ways is still going to be peculiar, to use Pitkin’s word, for most people.

But this “novelty”―that serious Black women writers can’t indulge in or write about fashion and beauty―must be normalized. In her essay “We Should All Be Feminists,” Adichie writes: “I like politics and history and am happiest when having a good argument about ideas. I am girly. I am happily girly. I like high heels and trying on lipsticks…. I wear them because I like them and because I feel good in them.”

Me too, girl. And I’m done having to choose.

And Adichie’s current Glow Up in no way takes appreciation away from her sartorially savvy fellow writer, Zadie Smith. The writer, who has been known to stun in Altuzarra, Proenza Schouler, and head wraps that will one day singularly inspire a runway collection, is also deeply passionate about fashion. She, too, is a cover girl; Smith can be found on one of seven of T magazine’s “The Greats” issues.

So often, when we are trying to find language around a new idea, we do the very thing that we are trying to escape. We pit women against each other. Instead of expanding what womanhood looks like, we unwittingly replace one standard with another. In the quest for fullness, we constrict women. We fail to remember that we are fighting for representation of all forms of womanhood, not just those versions that have been allowed. We cower to old habits instead of rising to imagination.

To write this piece, I felt it was only right to slip out of my sweats and into something befitting not only of Adichie’s style, but also of my own. I wrote this essay in a starched white Oxford, a pair of my grandmother’s Chanel earrings, and lips coated in my favorite brick color.

I see Adichie’s refusal to succumb to sloppiness or other people’s expectations as weaponized glamour—using beauty and style in direct, political ways that subvert dehumanizing expectations. It’s a form of protection. There is a tremendous confidence in facing a hostile world with a good outfit.

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

Mirrors are tricky things. When you look into them they don’t always show you what you want to see, like when the Witch in Snow White asked that fateful question “Who’s the fairest of them all?” she got her feelings hurt. In real life these inanimate reflective surfaces hold so much power, and sway that we literally become slaves to them, and when they do not show us what we want to see horrible things can happen. Things much worse then poisoned apples, living with a few dwarfs or sleeping in a glass coffin for a while. A bad turn in front of one can result in debasing words, to surgical augmentation, to starving ourselves in order to get the right “answer” from our mirrors. Most of us don’t have fun house mirrors in our homes, although you have to admit that those dressing room mirrors come close. But Seriously if a mirror starts talking back to you perhaps you’ve been watching to much Harry Potter and should get out more!   The truth is that it’s not the mirrors that are distorted it’s what we hold in our heads. We are the voice in the mirror, but where does our voice get its information? The messages of beauty are inescapable, from the moment you wake up, sit in front of the computer, turn on the television (that’s even  before you step out of your home) we are in undated with images, and suggestions as to what “beautiful” is and directed towards the products and tools to help us become that because—clearly we all aspire to be that vision of beautiful….

 

 

Due to my training and career as a professional dancer there has scarcely been a day in my life since I was 3 years old that I have not been in front a mirror for at least an hour a day. Those inescapable reflective surfaces have been a necessary tool to aid the mastery of my ballet technique, I looked to the mirror to ensure that my leg was behind me in Arabesque, or that my arms were perfectly curved and sloping gently downward from shoulder to finger tips. Mirrors have helped my check my spacing between dancers and they have even helped me cheat when I didn’t know the combination. I have seen myself execute beautiful developpès, petite allegros, and grande waltz combinations across the floor. There were times when it confirmed that I indeed had what it took to be a dancer, that the lines I had worked so diligently to achieve had been arrived at and that I did possess a bit more then mere potential. Conversely those very same mirrors also reflected how I was inadequate in almost every way. Starting with the chestnut hue of my skin,which in no way matched my ballet pink tights and slippers. (It wasn’t until I trained with Dance Theatre of Harlem for a summer session that I was introduced to the brown tights and matching slippers that all of the sudden made be feel like I belonged at a ballet barre.) Then there was the image of my non-bun. For the longest time the two fuzzy ponytails that I pinned criss-crossed behind my head stood as reminder that I was not like the others. As my ballet classes were always at the end of the day, my once smoothed hairline or “edges” as they are know to Black folks were always sweated out and created a fine kinky halo around my face, wrong again. There was nothing more that I wanted then to look smooth and polished like my classmates. Then there was the roundness of my backside, that had many a teacher tell me to put my “po po” in.

As I matured as a dancer I learned to avoid the mirrors, an epic but achievable feat in a dance studio. I would chose a barre that was out of range of the mirror, in center I would opt for the back line, being taller than most of the females in class (another issue the mirror pointed out) my strategic placement just looked like courtesy. When confronted with my image in class I learned to look past myself as not to see. Though a sophisticated technique of avoidance, it did teach me how to create depth and distance in a small space, quite useful in studio showing and when I finally got on stage. However it did not help me get past those often debilitating feelings of inadequacy and being nothing at all what I most wanted to be.

Outside of the studio my passive aggressive relationship with mirrors continued as an extension of what I experienced in the dance world. Having spent so much time trying to be a sylph, (white and lithe) that I had unwittingly adopted a very Eurocentric concept of beauty. Of course I had help, everywhere I turned there was an array of beautiful white women selling me (and everyone else) something, clothing, make-up, cars  a life style you name it. My favorite models at the time were plastered all over my walls. There was a raven haired, full-mouthed model that longed to look like. As it turns out it was Janice Dickenson.

 

 

 

I can remember finding the first photo of Beverly Johnson

, angels sang, and then came Iman.

Thank goodness for Essence Magazine! I began to scour magazines trying to find photos of the two to place on my wall. Almost subconsciously I place these women of color over my bed and slowly Janice was exiled to the far wall, I still adored her but there was no way I was ever going

 

to be able to look like her. By pushing her away and keeping my brown icons near, I was willing myself to keep my dreams, my desires realistic.

 

But when I looked in the mirror there was still a problem. Where I certainly didn’t look like Janice Dickenson, I didn’t look like Beverly Johnson or Iman either. Both had “classic” beauty but shaded brown. Though they were images that seemed in some way closer to me, or achievable in a sense, they were just as unobtainable as the Janice Dickenson image just in a darker shade. It just was not me; and would never be. This reality reflected was more painful then the image of myself as a dancer. When you don’t see people like yourself somewhere, subconsciously it says that you are not supposed to be there. Since I had never really seen a black ballerina, it said to me that in a sense I was not supposed to be there, or want that for myself. The fact that I danced was an anomaly not a natural occurrence. That feeling was compounded by the fact that in addition to taking ballet and being one of the only black students in the school, from first to sixth grade I went to Baldwin Academy for Girls in Bryn Mawr Pennsylvania where for 3 years I was the only black student from K-9th grade. From an early age I was very used to being the “Other” and exception, but when I look at images that were supposed to “represent” me and not see myself there it  planted another strain of inadequacy and insecurity.

It has been scientifically proven that beauty is about symmetry, but it’s also about structural alchemy in a sense. It’s about the balance of your facial features and how they blend and play off of one another. Like the face the body is about proportions and shape. For instance through the eras the preferred female body type regardless of size had a .7 hip to waist ratio. Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn both had the ratio.  When I look in the mirror the truth is that I where I do see elements of what society considers to be attractive, it is just not in the right balance to make me beautiful. I am attractive but not beautiful, those are different things. I have never seen a woman in a magazine that resembles me either facially or physically. People always tell me I look like Whoopi Goldberg, who I think she is stunning, however society does not how to “classify” her. She is not classically beautiful, she surpasses “Exotic” and though black people are familiar with her “look” may have and aunt or cousin who looks like her, the narrow perspective of beauty determined by the Eurocentric standard does not recognize it. What to do? What to do?

As I have matured I have learned to deal with some of the feelings of inadequacy that I have cultivated from the societal standard of beauty and fitting nowhere into it. I stop looking. Not at myself, but at fashion magazines, I stopped listening to what the fashion and beauty experts said on television shows. I stopped exposing myself to the things that made me feel bad about myself, that were toxic to my head and heart. I started to question the edicts that we readily conform  and subscribe to without thought. I started to shape a new more elastic idea of beauty, one that could include myself in a way that I had never been before. I started to create tools that would work to balance my head and soothe my heart, different ones for different situations tucked away in my toolbox.  2 years ago I began to practice Bikram Yoga, the “hot” yoga that insists that you look yourself in the eyes for 90 minutes. I prefer to look at my navel, I like my stomach, I take pride its flatness and the six pack in a way that I have never my face. I have never liked my face so looking into my eyes for 90 minutes is hard, not because of what I see into myself but because I don’t want to look at my face. It has gotten better. I have used my yoga time to look and see myself and find things in my face that I like, and to try not to be so critical. It’s step by step, well in yoga more like pose by pose.

So the next time you find yourself in front of a mirror and you ask that fateful question: “Mirror Mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” just remember that you are the voice in the Mirror and if it still wants to talk trash reply “Shut your trap or down you’ll fall.”


 

Dance Magazine:The Cult of Thin by Deirdre Kelly

The Cult of Thin

Despite calls for change, ballet’s obsession with extreme thinness persists.

During a recent performance of Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments, a corps member at a prominent company complained that she was so hungry she thought she’d faint. The dancer next to her started to worry that she herself wasn’t hungry enough. “In shape for us is being hungry,” she said later on. “Eat nothing and see how far you can go.”

Although most professional ballet dancers are naturally slender, having been selected at a young age for advanced training partly for their physique, even those with genetics on their side can be made to feel their bodies aren’t good enough. Dancers interviewed on the condition of anonymity confide that weight gain can get them fired while thinness can help them advance. Even though the field has made progress, and has become more aware of the health risks of dieting, directors having “fat chats” to tell dancers to slim down remains routine.

Roots of the Trend

Ballet has long idealized a sylphlike physique. The fixation on thin became amplified in the 1960s when Balanchine’s preference for long and lean ballerinas promoted a thin aesthetic that influenced other companies worldwide. Often, those who perpetuate unrealistic body standards today are former dancers who came of age during his reign.

Calling Out The Problem

At ballet’s first-ever international conference on eating disorders, hosted by Dance UK in London in 2012, former Royal Ballet artistic director Monica Mason spoke out against ballet’s emphasis on thin dancers. “Any director of a company who said they have never had an anorexic dancer would have to have been lying,” she stated.

Since then, ballet companies around the world, admittedly some quicker than others, have begun to heed the call for change. Spanish ballerina Tamara Rojo declared her determination to instill a healthy body image among her dancers when she took the reins of English National Ballet in 2012. The following year, The Royal Ballet created the Mason Healthcare Suite, where health and well-being programs ensure that no dancer feels a need to starve themselves to succeed.

The Consequences

Scientific evidence shows that emaciated dancers are unable to sustain the demands of today’s athletic choreography. “Extreme thinness often leads to individuals cannibalizing their protein stores, which results in losses in strength and power, and, in my experience, increases their chances of injury, particularly stress fractures,” says American Ballet Theatre physical therapist Peter Marshall.

One dancer fired for her curves says that while dieting, she lost focus, endurance and emotional stability. For many, slimming down means resorting to dangerous behaviors, including starvation, purging and addictions to appetite suppressants like tobacco or other substances. In 1997, Boston Ballet dancer Heidi Guenther, dealing with an eating disorder, died at age 22; in 2012, Italian dancer Mariafrancesca Garritano publicly accused La Scala and its academy of turning a blind eye to the culture of eating disorders causing infertility among her fellow dancers.

What’s Changed?
By some accounts, these efforts appear to be working. A 2014 study found that multifaceted wellness programs adopted by ballet companies in Britain and elsewhere actively support the physical and mental health of dancers.

Yet anecdotal evidence suggests that not all companies follow the guidelines the same way. One dancer reports that her company’s on-site nutritionist counsels her how to get thin by giving her recipes for meals with less than 300 calories. Although we’re giving dancers tools for so-called safe weight-loss, the emphasis is still on conforming to an unnaturally skinny ideal.

Directors’ Values

Fortunately, artistic directors are declaring themselves more open to different body types. Current Royal Ballet director Kevin O’Hare, for example, says his company values individuality and stage presence over any set shape. “Being a dancer is not about denial but about strength and vigor,” he says.

National Ballet of Canada artistic director Karen Kain refutes the suggestion that her company is skinny-obsessed. “I do not hire overly thin dancers or those with eating disorders,” she says. “The dancers of the NBoC are highly trained elite athletes who would never be able to perform every night after training and rehearsing during the day if they weren’t the most powerful and fit that they could be. These dancers have plenty of rippling muscles, which they would not have if they were overly thin.”

Emily Molnar of Ballet BC also emphasizes her dancers’ strength. “Don’t get me wrong. Ballet is a visual art form, so we’re not talking about anything goes here,” she says. “But exciting to me is to witness a woman onstage, as opposed to a girl, who is comfortable in her own skin and who has a confident voice, displaying the virtuosity of her training and the full expression of her artistry.”

Ballet still has a long way to go, but it’s encouraging that so many in the field are calling for change. “Dance should celebrate our humanity,” says Alberta Ballet artistic director Jean Grand-Maître, “and not be an artificial ideal imposed upon us by individuals frightened by what constitutes the natural shapes of the feminine physique.”
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Jenifer Ringer with Jared Angle in The Nutcracker. Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB

How Do We Move Forward?

Former New York City Ballet principal Jenifer Ringer wrote about her battle with eating disorders in her 2014 book, Dancing Through It. We asked her why ballet continues to insist on an unnatural aesthetic for women, and she shared her thoughts:

Unfortunately, our entire culture right now glorifies extreme thinness. As a mother, I dread the day when my children learn that people will judge them on their appearance. Art can be a critical commentary on culture, but it can also display a culture at its extreme, and I think in ballet we see the continuation of today’s radically low weight-standard of beauty for women. Look at any television pilot episode and if the series gets picked up, all of the actresses come back 10 pounds lighter. Look at almost every ad in magazines or on bus stops and you see impossible examples of skinniness as beauty.

Ballet is a visual, voiceless art form where the line of the body is crucial and under a great deal of constant scrutiny, not only from the audience and the artistic powers-that-be, but also from the dancers themselves. In order to change the unnatural thinness in ballet, the entire field would need to buy into the change. While I have heard many stories of directors demanding lower weights from their dancers, I have also heard countless dancers criticizing themselves and their colleagues for being “overweight.” Balletomanes in the audience can often, sadly, be just as damagingly critical. I used to have complete strangers approach me on the street to talk about my weight fluctuations, whether up or down, as if they thought what they said would not hurt me deeply. They saw me as an object, not a person.

There are dancers out there “breaking the mold,” but I can pretty much guarantee that they did not set out to challenge the ballet world on its weight standards; the daily struggle for these dancers to succeed and maintain positive self-confidence is a battle they probably would have preferred not to fight.

Yes, ballet is elite and often ethereal. Of course ballet dancers have to be fit, have to be lean and honed with the precision of training to be able execute athletically physical feats. The dancer’s body is her instrument and it needs to be kept in top condition not only for strength but also for appearance. And that appearance does require a certain thinness in the ballet world, a uniform of sorts. But thin for one body type is emaciated for another, and different body types should be equally appreciated as each dancer finds a level of fitness and leanness that is healthy for her. This can happen when dancers are seen as empowered individuals whose movement quality and artistry are given more value than their weight.

Ballet dancers are not collections of bones and muscles moving from one beautiful pose to the next. Dancers move because they need to, and they move to bring an audience out of themselves and to show people what music looks like. Ballet should display the best that any human body—no matter its type—can do: huge physical acts of strength and stamina linked together and combined with artistry to create a moment of art. This moment exists while that beautiful human body is dancing, then ends when both the music and the body are finally still.

And then the applause can begin. — Jenifer Ringer

MBMI Summer Dance Intensive Cheat Sheet

Hello My Lovelies so here is the deal.

I have compiled some of the post that I think are helpful and inspirational but I want you to surf through the DANCE STUDIO and see what else might be there for you. If you find something feel free to copy the link and post it on the Fan Page letting the others know they should check it out. Good LUCK!
Here is a series that explains the importance od proper pelvic placement and a demonstration of how including exercises!!




HOW TO CORRECT HYPER-EXTENSION
Here are some simple concepts that will help you change the way you “think” about “how” you straighten the leg, and some exercises to help you first find the proper muscles to lift the knee cap up- (not back) and then strengthen the muscles above the knee then so that the leg with be strong and secure. I find that it’s best to try to find and connect with these new muscles outside of class where you can really focus solely on isolating the area. In class there is too much to worry about (the combination, the counts, the arms, moving across the floor, trying to turn and jump). These are simple exercises that can be done on the bus stop, while waiting for the train, (and you won’t look crazy!) or when you are just standing around. This way you can put the muscular information into your body when you can concentrate and feel what you are doing. The body will remember and when you do get into class you fill find that the muscles will start to fire almost without thought. It’s also a good idea to add these exercised to your warm up so that you can set up your legs before class to set. Don’t get discouraged, it’s new and seems daunting but the body learns and responds quickly. Stick with it

Hear Erika explain what she felt when she employed the concepts we talked about…

Dancer Madeline Crawford – Her Body Story- (her secret to success- her Dance Journal)
Here is the second installment of the Physical Therapy Tips (search physical therapy- or scroll the dance studio for the first) There is a new one about every 3 weeks!
Dance has no Shortcuts:There is no App for that!

The WORK WORKS (when it comes to changing you body!)

Check out what Dancer/Choreographer Camille Brown has to say, her Body Story is amazing!


search “Camille A Brown” for the 2 other segments

Here is Alvin Ailey’s Linda Celeste Sims talking about Body Maintenance:


Dance has no “Short Cuts”-There’s no APP for That!
The Original GPS, the problem is not your body but your mind!
Get the most out of your training: 5 things young dancers should do to
An Open Letter to My Body
Here are the instructional Videos on how to correct Hyper Extended legs (Harmony!!!)

Camille A. Brown’s Black Girl Spectrum Symposium: More then just a Hashtag

Like most good things the hashtag’s ubiquity has diluted its power. The first clue was when a it moved offline and into daily conversation where you cannot actually “click” on it and see who else is talking about said topic. As the power of the hashtag wizens so does urgency and poignancy of some of the subjects that follow the symbol. Many of us hashtaging popular subjects never use the mechanism to actually enter the larger conversation. Two of the most popular hashtags in the African American community are #blacklivesmatter and #blackgirlmagic. I often use the latter when highlighting something positive or incredible a black female has done or is doing. I’ll confess that I have never clicked into the larger conversation via the hashtag. I am guilty as I have charged, albeit I have witnessed black girl magic in real life, and in person have “clicked” into the larger conversation. That is what took place on June 4th at the National Black Theatre in Harlem New York, when choreographer/Activist Camille A. Brown held her first ever Black Girl Spectrum Symposium.

Brown herself is the epitome of “Black Girl Magic”, she’s built  a successful career as a performer and choreographer, and though the journey had found her voice (both as woman and artist) and is now creating a space for Black girls/women to connect with their own. She is dedicated to encouraging them to recognize the beauty and brilliance inherent and inherited in something as simple (yet complex) as the games they play, and dances they do. Brown is virtuosic performer, able to physically code switch from Modern, West African, contemporary ,and Social dance, but it is the latter that has become her focus. She can often be heard asking the rhetorical question “Why isn’t Social dance recognized and respected the way ballet, modern are? Why isn’t it taught in the same way with the history and the technique? Because it is technique” And she has a point. Elements of Social dance have a ways been present and celebrated (though not recognized as such) on Broadway stages. The acceptable translation of the term is “Theater Dance”

Over the last year she has artfully woven a tapestry from her expertise in the historic roots of Social Dance and the unrecognized beauty and joy of growing up a Black girl in America. These things intersected when she began work on BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play (BL:LP) which was an investigation of her (and her dancer’s) youth, presented though the games, (social) dance and relationships Tracing the linage from the stomping rhythms of Juba (Giouba, Haiti: Djouba), to hambone hand games and hip hop, BG:LP reveals a truth seldom addressed, the humanity of Black girls. She is working on elevating these two things to their rightful place, one of sophistication, refinement, complexity, genius, and artistry. She has carefully wrapped these treasures up and re-gifted them to little black girls and grown black women around the country. Community is Brown’s legacy, and BL:LP allowed her to spin a web of connection through all the communities the company toured. The Black Girl Spectrum Symposium is the culminating result with local organizations. 60 young ladies ranging in age from 9-16 participated in a day dedicated to fortifying their development as creative citizens and leveraging the power of dance to transform, connect and activate community. Participants were selected from the organizations that Camille A. Brown & Dancers (CAB) has partnered with in New York City through BG:LP’s  Black Girl Spectrum Curriculum (complete list below). The theme of the even was (#) Social Dance for Social Change.

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Brown opened the symposium with a Dance “lesson” entitled Social Dance Through Time which tracked the origins of some common social dances. She guided them on journey from West African shores, Caribbean Isles, through Southern plantations, past reconstruction to present day illustrating exactly how through all our adversity, we have like Beyonce made Lemonade, and the whole world is drinking it. She shows these young ladies the mutable endurance that is their cultural inheritance. By teaching them the breadth and brilliance they unwittingly carry in their bodies when they do the running man, the butterfly or even twerk, they are empowered.

The Symposium’s adroit workshop leaders included Francine E Ott (Moving Towards Awareness) Paloma McGregor (The Political is the Personal) , and Audrey Hailes (This Power Right Here). Each woman’s offering included interactions amongst the participants effectively creating three small communities within the larger. The young ladies were not only asked to use their bodies but their voices as well. McGregor opened her session with the participants  seeking the origin of their partner’s name then sharing their findings, while teaching a portion of a her native New Orleans Second Line, Ott spoke of the importance of mental health, and believing in yourself enough to “Assist in your own rescue”, while Hailes asked the ladies to select defining words of strength and power then physicalize them.

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Ott Leads Workshop: Moving Towards Awareness

Not a moment was wasted, over lunch Brown sat with the ladies and shared her story of being a Black girl, dancer,  and choreographer, not just her struggles but also the revelations about herself that prompted her to create a space such as this. When the floor was opened one young lady eloquently asked how she could combat having her voice silenced at school; How do you “win” when someone makes you feel like your voice is not important? The elders in the room emotionally took her under wing, let her know that she was not “Crazy” to “imaging” this “feeling”… While muttering to themselves, that there is no real answer to that question, that they are all still working to figure it out themselves, they shared their tools with her and she was not alone.

The interactive Keynote was delivered by Maria Bauman, Dancing on the Razor’s Edge: Black Girl Prowess. In Bauman’s opening she took great care to identify the “Black Girl Technologies” that showed up in the room, amongst them she pointed out the “having of one another’s back”, and at the “I get you” reflected in a  sisterly“ Umm hmm”. She then illustrated the “Spectrum”  with a slideshow featuring the diversity that present within our community. Movement  was once again brought to the fore when she asked all to think of three words that came to mind when you think of Black Girls, they then made corresponding poses that they brought together on the stage of the black box theater. Since the sessions ran concurrently in closing the three groups showed the combinations from their respective sessions.

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Where I am no stranger to the community connection that is integral to Brown’s work ( for full disclosure I have both been moderator for her after show talkbacks for BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play and we are admittedly friends) and I am so stranger to outreach and workshops of this kind (as a teacher I have participated in many) the thing that was most unique and touching about the day’s events was witnessing both in cause and effect of these young black girls feeling safe enough to be children. Let me clarify: Brown often speaks about how too often Black girls are not seen or treated as children, but are hyper sexualized far too early which in turn makes it necessary to harden themselves from the male gaze, the projected stereotypes, the muting of their voices in schools, as well as the often harsh surrounding of their communities. This results in a loss of vulnerability, and freedom of imagination, and the inability to just play. It is the genesis of the coarseness often  associated with Black women. In the environment  of this symposium (safe, and allowing) these girls were invited, they were assisted in the removal of that heavy, cumbersome, ill-fitting armor encasing them. Their innocence, their tenderness, their baby soft skin was  allowed to breath and catch light. There was a lilting quality to their laughter, laughing with in support and joy, not at in ridicule for protection. Their voices lacked the edge that is associated with a neck roll and snap. They were not “sassy” but smart, silly and sensitive. They were are articulate in their expression and sensitive in the support of their fellow participants, they collaborated and created together. The workshops were held in “available spaces”, there were no doors or walls to separate them but somehow they did not encroach upon one another, as the girls were not “loud”. As an observer I floated freely through the sessions,  a witness. All the while I was trying to put my finger on this feeling I had that was at concomitantly familiar and vague… then it struck me. For the first time I was seeing little Black girls whose outsides match their insides, they wore their softness, and vulnerability like beautiful robes. They were the antithesis of their stereotype, they were simply little girls dancing, playing, sharing…

As a child I was fortunate enough to have a childhood, but as an adult I have watched the eradication of it sweeping through our country like a plague. American children Black, White, rich, and poor alike are being stripped of this magical time, forced to grow up too fast and face adult realities too soon.sometimes as product of socio-political prejudice and poverty, sometimes it’s the barrage of information and marketing directed towards them. Historically, Black children in America have had to be acutely aware of themselves and the effect of their Blackness on others, and adroit at navigating the hostile space that is their country. This doesn’t leave much time for play, naiveté or faux pas. Through everyday dance, Social dance, Brown has been able to not only give these young Black girls their space, safety and the luxury of play, but she has also given them a linage, and legacy that enables them to honor the Black Girl Magic within them. This is the meaning of #SOCIALDANCEFORSOCIALCHANGE.  And while we all click “Like”, “Share”, “repost” “Retweet” and adopt the hashtag, let’s not forget to “click” into the actual community and truly join the conversation, or better yet the action.

Local Participants:
2016 Black Girl Movement Conference
Bailey’s Cafe
Brooklyn Museum Project
Black Girl Project
Brooklyn community Arts & Media HS
Devore Dance Centre
Girls Talk/guys Talk
Gotham Professional Arts Cooperative
Little Maroons Childcare Education
Ronald Edmonds Learning Center
Sadie Nash Leadership Project
Sports & Arts in Schools Foundation
The Women’s Group at THE POINT CDC
YouthStand Coney Island Leadership Program
Young Adult Literacy Project@ WestFarms Library

 

Teen Vogue, Shows “Ethnic” Beauty in its original form…

Hosted by Teenvogue.com Borrowing from other cultures has never been trendier—or more taboo. From afros to cornrows, henna to headdresses, cultural appropriation is a trending topic on the tips of tongues everywhere. (To get caught up on the conversation, look no further than Amandla Stenberg’s brilliant, critically acclaimed video Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows where she breaks it all down.) The countless call-outs, egregious offenses, and heated debates swirling on social media ignited an important dialogue within the Teen Vogue office: Where does cultural appropriation end and cultural appreciation begin? We asked seven real girls—with epic hair!—to weigh in. Here, in their own words, inspiring young women reclaim their beauty looks with an ode to the cultures they came from.

Kyemah McEntyre on her Afro:

 

 

“I am African American. The reason I wear my hair in an Afro is because I think it expresses exactly who I am, where I come from, and the people who have paved the way for me. I used to have a perm but I asked my mom to cut it off when I was in seventh grade. I’m superhuge on expression and individuality. I found it very difficult to be myself because I was comparing myself to others who had straight hair. There are a lot of stereotypes and misconceptions about black people and black hair. We shouldn’t have to question wearing our natural hair to a job interview; I wish people just understood how strong and beautiful it is. I think cultural appreciation is about understanding that you can’t just take aesthetic properties from a culture. Our hair is not an accessory. It’s literally who we are.” @mindofkye_

Daunnette Reyome on her feather:

 

“I am Native American from the Omaha tribe in Nebraska. My Indian name means ‘shooting star.’ I wish the world knew that we do still exist. And, no, we don’t all live in tepees. When I see people in headdresses or Native American accessories, I feel disrespected. They don’t know the meaning behind it, how we wear it, or what we do to earn it. This is a real eagle feather. It doesn’t just fall off an eagle and someone says, ‘Oh, here — it’s yours.’ You have to earn it in my culture. I feel powerful when I wear it, more confident, and more connected to my ethnicity. I’ve never been embarrassed about being Native American. I take pride in it. I love how spiritual we are — it’s like we’re in tune with the Earth and the universe. I know there’s no other culture out there like mine.” @daunnettethemodel

 

Check out the others it’s really powerful and inspiring:

The Illegal, Underground Ballerinas of Iran

Dancing is illegal in the Middle Eastern state, but that hasn’t stopped renegade ballet teachers and students from staging classes in secret.

The first time I met Ada* was at a rooftop party in Amsterdam. We had gravitated towards the snacks table and, reluctant to give up a prime position that offered both uninterrupted access to the fries and a view of drunk tourists falling into the Prinsengracht canal, we began swapping stories. Ada, a web developer from Iran, told me about dodging Tehran’s morality police as a teenager, once dashing into a shop in the hope that they’d run past—only to realize that they had followed her in.

“They used to check our nail varnish to make sure it wasn’t too bright or enticing,” she laughed. “All the police had different ideas about what was going to turn men on too much and it was difficult to know how they’d react. But I knew they’d hate purple so I ran into the shop. The shop owner saw me and opened the backdoor and I ran out into the back alley while he told the police he hadn’t seen me.”

“It sounds like something out of the French resistance.”

“It was resistance! We would wear gloves to hide our hands and use tricks to get away with wearing as much makeup as possible. That’s what [the government] does to us. They make us feel like painting our nails was a really rebellious thing to do. They make you care about such little things, so you don’t have the energy to fight for the big things.”

Six months after our conversation, Ada emailed me from Tehran. She had just attended her first ballet class in years and was buzzing. She told me about covertly scanning the local newspapers for the “right kind of advert,” stalking online message boards, calling mysterious numbers, drafting in friends as character references and, finally, gaining entry to the secretive classes.

Dance is illegal in Iran. Before the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the country poured funding into the arts, especially dance programs that combined elements of traditional dance with Western disciplines like ballet. After the Shah’s government was overthrown, dance was declared sinful. The Iranian National Ballet Company was disbanded in 1979, shortly after all its foreign dancers fled the country.

Their Iranian counterparts were left with three choices: Give up on their life’s work and find another way to pay their rent; leave Iran and revive the company somewhere else (Les Ballets Persans is currently operating out of Stockholm), or stay in Iran and—through a combination of subterfuge, bribery, and outright defiance—keep dancing.

A pile of dance shoes at a secret ballet class. Photo courtesy of Ada

Ada was 20 when she attended her first ballet class; she is now 28. “I’m not a risk taker and I never went to any of the illegal parties at college,” she says, “but dance classes seemed worth the risk.” It’s not just dance that is banned in Iran; any music that makes your body move spontaneously is considered sinful. “It’s OK as long as it doesn’t give you pleasure,” Ada explains. “As soon as dance or movement gives you pleasure, it’s a sin.”

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