Wednesday, September 23, 2015

It's Not "Us or Them." It's Just "Us."

Today I need to make some steps to get back to some semblance of daily life. I want to say a few more things, and then I'm doing what I can to move forward in my own way.

Everyone has a right to express their reactions, emotions, and feelings in the face of tragedy. Everyone is going to have their own healing process and timetable. Talking about healing doesn't mean it's happened, or should happen quickly. I don't know when things are going to be "normal" again, nor do I have all (if any) of the answers.

As human beings, we are highly complex. Our backgrounds and experiences make us who we are, and that allow us to have different perspectives. The answers we are given are rarely the answers we want or crave. And that in turn makes us angry. This situation is far more complicated, and so there is no one side or two sides or eight sides. I can forgive and still be as angry as fuck and raw from in the inside out. I can talk about the hope of rebuilding without condoning the atrocities. I can only approach difficult situations the way I know how - with kindness. It may sound like an easy solution, but it's not. But once things are said and done, it's me I have to wake up with every morning. I'm the one who has to live with what I say to others and how I treat them.

I have not only been deeply pained by the original issue, but the way I have seen fellow human beings treat each other because of it. Slandering, name-calling, and bullying in private groups and exchanges makes you no better than the individuals responsible for this mess. It's good to vent, but it's not good to abuse someone who has a different perspective than you. No one has all of the information, no matter what they claim.

It's very important to stand up and fight against the injustices being done to us by "them." Words have power and can harm greatly - whether they are of a sexual nature or not. Abuse is abuse.

We need to communicate WITH each other, not at or around. So much treachery has been done by dancers to other dancers behind closed doors, or by people claiming to support them. This in itself is nothing new, we've been doing it ourselves forever. We have all done it, and have it done to us. I made a conscious decision a few years ago to try separate myself from participating in that vicious cycle. It's not easy, but it's made a world of difference in my life.

Your fellow dancers need you. We need your love and support. Stand up with us, not just for us. Ask us what we need, not just what you think we need. Be involved in building a healthy dance community that includes everyone, and where we work to solve problems by communicating, listening, and being kind.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

How Do We Heal? Looking for solutions when our hearts hurt.

I look upon my dance community, and it causes me great pain to see and hear all of the anguish, suffering, and confusion. This dance is supposed to be about celebration, exploration, and expression. It should be a safe place for all to learn, grow, and share in.

I received notice that my own image was included in this controversy. I have not seen the images, but I don't need to - it doesn't change my anger and hurt over this. My heart goes out to my fellow dancers likewise directly or indirectly affected, and I appreciate all of those who wish to support us. I am deeply hurt, shocked, angered, and disappointed by actions taken by individuals in our community who claim to support us and our work. There is no excuse for such behavior, and wrong has been clearly done.

Having been a teacher, vendor, and volunteer at Tribal Fest for over a decade, I feel wrecked and raw. Kajira has been a close friend and mentor for many years, and has been there for me in times of need. I can't even properly express the amount of anguish I feel for her, and all of us affected - which really is...everyone. No one, it doesn't matter how many or how few, should be treated in the manners that were expressed.

I feel that I must make a statement about this situation for several reasons. I was not involved or consulted in the statement that went public on Sunday, and I don't feel comfortable letting other people speak for me or make actions on my behalf. My name and my word is my power. I want to talk about resolution, what is being done and what can be done to rectify this situation, what actions can be taken to further prevent these kind of activities and other dishonorable behavior within the community, and what sort of future are we building for our dance.

While I have not talked with any of the other members of the private group, I have spoken at length with Chuck and expressed my hurt and my anger to him in no uncertain terms. He was forthright in accepting his responsibility and apologizing unreservedly for his actions. But an apology doesn't remove the pain or make the situation go away. It is a step in the right direction, though - the first of many steps that he will need to undertake in order to properly make amends for his actions. I do believe he is truly sorry for his actions (and also lack there of), and that growth can come from this. Regaining trust and respect is going to be a difficult road and is going to take a long time - of that I have no doubt.

This past Tribal Fest was an especially powerful one for me. After years of working through difficult personal circumstances and professional drama within the community,TF15 truly felt like a homecoming. I feel like I was able to make peace with folks I have been estranged from, and I know others felt that way as well. So this tragedy makes that contrast all the more painful. Tribal Fest means so much to so many people, and has weathered so many changing conditions in the dance community. I believe it is possible to rekindle the spirit and beauty that is at the heart of the event, and get past this as well. I am willing to give Tribal Fest the benefit of the doubt, and lend my support to Kajira for reclaiming it as a safe, loving, and powerful space for our community.

Our society is in a state of flux, where outdated and small-minded acts are being purged for a more equal, healthy society that fosters respect and understanding. There are definitely some trees in our forest that need pruning, and I think we can do that without burning down the whole forest. I know that I, myself have made mistakes in the past, and have been granted the space to make it better - and I have extended this same courtesy to others. I believe in making amends and helping to facilitate positive change. I'm asking myself, those involved, as well as you, what are our next actions? What can we do to foster growth and healing, promote education and support, and strengthen our community?

One thing that I am doing to address this: In just a few weeks, the event that I produce, Waking Persephone, will take place for its 4th year. One of our features is our free, open-to-all community roundtable experience, where attendees can discuss problems, issues, and perspectives affecting them, and ask questions of their dance leaders. I am honored that Kajira is on our teaching staff this year, and I have asked her to address what has happened and be open to the community's questions and thoughts. I invite all attendees and the larger community in general to come and participate.

I am still absorbing the shock of all of what has happened, and it will take time to recover. I will do what I can to be available to my friends, students, and family, and I am very much interested in your thoughts and suggestions. My deepest hope is that the dance community will emerge out of this crisis even stronger, more beautiful, and more supportive.

Blessed be.