Gibney's Institute for Community Action Training

Scott Shaw, Courtesy Gibney

3 Tips for Dancers Who Want to Explore Activism

Are you passionate about social issues, but unsure of how to incorporate them into your work? Yasemin Ozumerzifon, director of community action at Gibney in New York City, offers advice to beginners:

1. Get Specific.

A view from the stage. As modern dancers perform, a seated audience of young adults looks on.

Gibney's Hands Are For Holding program.

Scott Shaw, Courtesy Gibney

Choose a particular cause. "When we're addressing something really large and systemic, it might be hard to know where to start," Ozumerzifon says. "There are so many issues in the world, but find that passion or key connection to whatever you want to address." Whether it be climate change, race or gender-based violence, start your project with a conversation, a new partnership or a phrase of choreography. "It's okay to start small. You're still making a difference," Ozumerzifon says.

2. Partner Up.

Two men and women sit in a semi-circle facing a woman with blond short hair. They're all listening and smiling.

Getty Images

Ozumerzifon notes that dancers are already experts at taking care of their bodies and at building community with those they work with every day—two critical skills when it comes to social action. But you can't expect to do the job alone. "Artists, lawyers, social workers—anyone you can think of—all have a part to play," Ozumerzifon says. Think outside the dance studio and leverage your network. "We can't play all the roles, and working by ourselves is so much harder."

3. Practice Advocacy Offstage.

Women of various ages and ethnicities sit on the floor in a circle with notes.

Gibney's Institute for Community Action Training

Scott Shaw, Courtesy Gibney

Your work towards a cause doesn't only have to happen onstage. "Whether we're explicitly doing socially engaged work as artists, or if we're holding rehearsals or teaching, we can be leaders in our communities at any moment," Ozumerzifon says. Ask yourself if you're promoting the world you wish to see by the way you interact with your peers, colleagues or students. "Are we building and listening to one another?" Ozumerzifon asks. Social change begins with your day-to-day interactions.

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Clockwise from top left: Photo by Loreto Jamlig, Courtesy Ladies of Hip-Hop; Wikimedia Commons; Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Pennsylvania Ballet; Natasha Razina, Courtesy State Academic Mariinsky Theatre; Photo by Will Mayer for Better Half Productions, Courtesy ABT

The 10 Biggest Dance Stories of 2019

What were the dance moments that defined 2019? The stories that kept us talking, week after week? According to our top-clicked articles of the year, they ranged from explorations of dance medicine and dance history, takedowns of Lara Spencer and companies who still charge dancers to audition, and, of course, our list of expert tips on how to succeed in dance today.

We compiled our 10 biggest hits of the year, and broke down why we think they struck a chord:

Christopher Duggan, Courtesy Nichols

I Am a Black Dancer Who Was Dressed Up in Blackface to Perform in La Bayadère

On Instagram this week, Misty Copeland reposted a picture of two Russian ballerinas covered head to toe in black, exposing the Bolshoi's practice of using blackface in the classical ballet La Bayadère. The post has already received over 60,000 likes and 2,000 comments, starting a long overdue conversation.

Comments have been pouring in from every angle imaginable: from history lessons on black face, to people outside of the ballet world expressing disbelief that this happens in 2019, to castigations of Copeland for exposing these young girls to the line of fire for what is ultimately the Bolshoi's costuming choice, to the accusations that the girls—no matter their cultural competence—should have known better.

I am a black dancer, and in 2003, when I was 11 years old, I was dressed up in blackface to perform in the Mariinsky Ballet's production of La Bayadère.


Here's the First Trailer for the "In the Heights" Movie

Lights up on Washington Heights—because the trailer for the movie adaptation of the hit Broadway musical In the Heights has arrived. It's our first look into Lin-Manuel Miranda's latest venture into film—because LMM isn't stopping at three Tony awards, a Grammy award, and an Emmy.

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