By Kara Roseborough
In the time of COVID-19, we hold fast to the magical moments for connection previously untapped or impossible. In the Dancers Amplified meetings, I virtually connect with a group of dance activists, spread across numerous time zones and countries, to discuss how we can “TenDu the Work.” I’m in awe of a few things: the brilliance in the room, the ongoing advocacy for concrete change in the dance industry, the ideas circulating, and the heart of each member. These meetings exemplify that rallying cry of “all for one and one for all.” Seeing how many of my peers show up to these meetings with the same experiences, ideas, concerns, and convictions reinforce my belief in the power of “all.”
Dancers Amplified started off as Dancers for Black Lives Matter in reaction to, among other things, the murder of George Floyd. We are currently in the midst of the trial against Derek Chauvin, the police officer who kneeled on George Floyd’s neck for eight minutes, killing him. On that day, May 25th, 2020, the world leaped to its feet, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, in outrage. George Floyd is one of many black people who have been wronged, and murdered, by the very people meant to protect and serve the nation. As we wait to see if the shaky scales of justice sway towards righteousness, black people and people of color feel the swell of anxiety paired with a growing numbness.
We’ve been here before.
The first time this failed justice system registered to me was with the murder of Trayvon Martin. I can close my eyes and see his youthful face peak under his hood just as clearly as George Floyd’s. It’s as if their deaths were days apart rather than eight years. So, what’s new this time? In the sea of statements from predominantly white organizations vowing to do better with varying degrees of follow-through, it seems like we’re watching the same old movie. If you’re like me, it’s easy to feel cynical. Three steps forward, two steps back. Everything changes, and yet nothing changes.
But…there IS change happening. You can see it right here.
With Dancers Amplified, there is a sense of permanence that makes me believe that we as a global arts community are ready to TenDu the Work against racism. In a relatively short amount of time, Dancers Amplified has begun to infiltrate white elitist spaces to uplift marginalized voices, causes, and experiences. We have partnered with the International Association for Blacks in Dance and are in spaces with global dance leadership to create plans for actionable steps towards justice. With our website, social media platforms, podcast, and blog, we have rallied the support of BIPOC dancers and allies around the world. Our new line of merchandise is live now, with proceeds going towards funding the future of this organization. Dancers Amplified is dedicated to community, accountability, and the uplifting of marginalized artists.
Can you see it now? All for one. One for all. This is a new way to move about the concert dance industry. We as dance activists refuse to be beholden to the outdated paradigms of concert dance. For real change to happen, bold steps must be taken, and Dancers Amplified strides with conviction.
The overdue changes that Dancers Amplified addresses have been the focus of other organizations past and present, many of whom are working in tandem with us. As the mission of Dancers for Black Lives Matter evolved into Dancers Amplified, it was important to all of us that black voices have a very clear space to avoid the cyclical media fanfare and collective amnesia of modern-day racism. We all take on the responsibility of shaping the future together.
When I log into that Zoom meeting, no matter the perils of the week, I step into the realm of possibility, ready to TenDu the Work. If “éntendre” means “to stretch,” then to tenDu the work is to stretch beyond your own lived experience and seek justice for everyone. When we all reach with that intention, change is not just possible…it’s inevitable.