In "SET I," MN Dance Company artistic directors Michal Rynia and Nastja Bremec Rynia embody the complexity and uncertainty of life amidst COVID-19.
For the last five years the dance world, and specifically the ballet world, has been enrolled in the mission to understand and implement diversity, equity and inclusion into the field at all levels. A great deal of funding has been allocated towards efforts of education and training, consultants have been hired, conferences and seminars attended.
I myself am a part of a three-year initiative, The Equity Project, which is a learning cohort of 21 ballet companies to increase the presence of Blacks in ballet. And in many ways there has been progress made. With raised awareness, core values and mission statements have been amended to reflect these aspirations; recruitment has made pipelines browner; there are more brown dancers on stages. We are not there yet, but certainly there has been progress.
Setting the Stage<p>Some might not have been expectant of the almost unavoidable social side effects that would result from the COVID-19 pandemic. However for the Black community, when we knew it would not be long because there were tell-tale signs...</p><p>First there were reports that the Black community was being disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Then states decided to open certain businesses. The racial implications of the choice of establishments (barbershops, hair and nail salons, bowling alleys) betrayed the nefarious racist plot brewing. So while nursing the ill both at home and on the front lines, while burying and mourning loved ones that succumbed, Black Americans watched pockets of white people all over the country decide to exercise their civil right to protest the "unlawful" confinement that prohibited them from their right to haircuts and pedicures, while openly carrying assault weapons, aggressively facing off with stoic and amazingly self-restrained police officers and doing so with impunity.</p><p>Then there was Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and video of Amy (#Karen) Cooper using the most insidious and dangerous form of white privilege—that of the female—bequeathed to her by her foremother Carolyn Bryant, who falsely accused Emmett Till.</p><p>Then, there was George Floyd.</p><p>Mr. Floyd's murder was the final straw on this particular camel's back. Because as Derek Chauvin squelched the life out of him, the posture mockingly mimicked that of (former) football player and activist Colin Kaepernick and his peaceful protest of passive knee during the singing of the national anthem to bring awareness to the killing of unarmed Black people. While looking directly into the eye of a camera, it appeared that Chauvin was taking a knee for white supremacy.</p>
View this post on Instagram
"If the world was a bunch of people sitting in a room, and you raise your hand, then you better have something interesting to say," says our February cover star @rajafeatherkelly. "I want to raise my hand." 📷: Jayme Thornton (@jaymethornton)
A post shared by dancemagazine (@dancemagazine) on