Friday, May 17, 2013

OCCUPY DANCE!

SPACE. When we occupy we are not really taking space as the word usually implies, we are instead making space: for dialogue, for ideas, for alternatives, for all voices to be heard. Space is where movement happens. And it is the movement that transforms the finite space of Zuccotti Park into the infinite space of Liberty Square (which is of course everywhere). Whether a park, a community center, a classroom, or the limitless expanse of the heart and mind; it is up to us to reclaim this common space, to recognize that we need not ask permission to reclaim what is already ours.

The raid on Zuccotti Park, the Cabaret Law, and online education - are these related? Well, let’s say one wanted to restrict the right of the people to peaceably assemble without appearing to do so, one could simply privatize all the spaces where people might choose to assemble. New York City enacted the Cabaret Law in 1926 to stem interracial dancing in Harlem Jazz Clubs. From 12,000 licensed dancing venues in the 1960’s down to less than 135 today. Perhaps it was not really dance that was being restricted, but movement. When people get together to explore their freedom, there can be unforeseen consequences. Along the same lines - it’s much more convenient to have students stay at home and learn through a virtual portal than to have them actually meet other students and potentially stray from the curriculum. Who knows what kind of trouble they might get into - who they might vote for or what state they might smash?! We must reclaim our common space in order to exercise our freedom, but also to invite others to do the same.

When I originally conceived of Occupy Dance I thought of it as political movement in a literal sense, as well as an occupation of the dance world by those who already considered themselves dancers. In a society where dancers perform and teach dance in order to make a living, how can we liberate dance so that it is accessible to all? How can we release it from commodity status, an art form only to be enjoyed as spectacle for the wealthy? But the single most important aspect of Occupy Dance was the idea that ANYONE can reclaim their own body - the space that is you. You don’t need to be qualified to dance, know the steps, have the moves, or be a “good dancer” to express yourself and explore your world.

The movement is you - Occupy Dance!


Photo by Andy “Fluffy” Beck

Connect with Occupy Dance on facebook or meetup

Please sign and share the petition to repeal NYC’s Cabaret Law

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May 29 - Post Parade Update

MOVE CHECK! The human microphone (mic check) has been written up as a way to amplify voices, circumventing restrictions on the use of amplified sound at demonstrations, but there is another aspect of the practice that I have personally experienced time and time again. Participation in a mic check allows people to temporarily embody (in a very literal sense) the views of others. Key here is that one is not selectively choosing which voices to repeat, but simply repeating all that is said. There is something profound about feeling the idea resonate through your own breath, using your body to give voice to an idea that did not originate in your own mind. This simple act is akin to the kind of translation that dancers and other artists practice regularly; taking a concept, a thought, an idea and giving it a form that can be received by others. When Ilona Bito explained/demonstrated the concept/process of move check to me, I could immediately see how this dynamic was being expanded upon. As a dancer,* I have had the experience of watching others dance and feeling their movements in my own body. This is quite a bit different than simply watching them dance. It’s a kind of vicarious echo, drawing on experiential knowledge of what their movement would feel like were I to perform it myself. Of course, this mental exercise is also quite a bit different than doing the actual movement. As mic check repeats voice, move check is a repetition of movement. To begin - one calls out “move check,” which is repeated back in mic check fashion by those participating. We added a simple movement to this - a hop with arms straight up. This physical cue can be particularly helpful in focusing attention when one is in a larger group. The initiate then shares a movement with the other participants who then repeat the movement themselves. The practice is not intended to teach a particular step, but rather to share the feeling, the knowledge, and the sense of freedom that the movement embodies. As I mentioned earlier, dance can be an exploration of your world and move check offers an opportunity to share your discoveries.

After the Dance Parade I wrote a short note to the group about how the entire day felt like an extended move check to me (as Occupy often does), each of us sharing our movements with the group, each of us having the opportunity to experience the movements of all involved. When people get together to explore their freedom, there is always movement.



Photo by Jeremy Schaller

* I cannot count the number of times I have been asked “do you dance / are you a dancer?” It took many years before I stopped replying "not professionally" and simply started saying "YES!" 

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