top of page

Is the Dance World Keeping Its 2020 Promises of Change?

Updated: Aug 6, 2021

Created by Azaria Rianne Hogans (kNOwBOX dance Manager of Resources and Archives)

June 15, 2021, Springfield, Missouri, USA

2016 photo of author at the Atlanta National Center for Civil and Human Rights

Around this time last year, many of us were heartbroken, exhausted, and yet hopeful with the onset of the 2020 protest. On May 25th, and in the following days and weeks, we all watched the death of George Floyd on our phones and TV’s. Our hearts were already sore from learning just a few weeks earlier of the death of Ahmaud Arbery and not to mention decades of other stories publicized and not. The 2020 events shook this nation at its core as the injustices against Black people were on the front page for all to see. Between the two pandemics of COVID-19 and injustices against Black people, 2020 had become a year of reckoning.

Here we are a year later –a year after we have vowed to do better, a year after organizations swore in solidarity with Black lives, a year after many pledged in allyship– it is time to reflect on whether or not we are keeping our word and continuing the work. Many organizations, including dance companies, put out statements of support, and those who were truly committed, sought to take action by changing policies, shifting in leadership, gracefully retiring, and vowing to not exclude and rather make room for their members of color and marginalized groups.

As a podcast co-host for kNOwBOX dance’s Dance Behind the Screen (DBS) podcast, I was able to find myself in deep conversations about equity in dance and the world at large during, prior, and post 2020. Listed below are eight things that we should check in on as well as call to actions to hold ourselves and the dance world accountable in order to keep us pushing forward.

Photo from Episode 81 Forging Your Own Space

From left to right: co-host Azaria Hogans, Guest Jade Charon

1. Listen to Black people

When I say listen to Black people, I mean to trust our experiences, listen to what we need, and trust our leadership, research, and community work. DBS guest Paloma McGregor reminds us, in Episode 51 Centering Black Voices, to “follow the lead of Black people and people of color...[and] use your privilege to shine light on the work that has already been done by people of color.” Continue to use your voice to promote equality. It is also important to realize that this statement “listen to Black People” needs to be stated explicitly. DBS guest Tim Wise, in Episode 52 Social Injustice, Black Lives Matter & Dance, reminds us to: “Listen to those voices we were trained not to listen to. Whether those are scholars, whether those are artists... we’ve been trained in the culture to not really value the voices of black and brown people...” Our subconscious bias and prejudice has to be challenged and this is why we have to state out loud to “listen to Black people.”

2. Create Safe Spaces for Everyone

It is important to protect and hear all people whether they are Black, Indigenous, women, the AAPI community, differently abled people, the LGBTQIA+ community, etc. The goal is to make dance spaces safe for everyone. When we ensure justice and safety for the most marginalized, inherently we ensure justice and safety for everyone. DBS guest Joy-Marie Thompson, in