Updated: 4 days ago
In May of last year I participated in a performance workshop. Two days before the performance the choreographer of the piece came up to me and whispered in my ear "don’t forget to shave." When rehearsal was over, the choreographer who had put the show together gathered us all. She gave us this last-rehearsal pep talk and then was going over the things she wanted to tell us and at one point she said “oh and please shave! Like here and here" pointing at her armpits and legs. She explained she didn’t want anyone in the audience to not be able to pay attention to anything other than the hair in those places. Al lot of people thought it was really funny, and some turned to look at me. I felt my head getting very hot (and probably very red) out of embarrassment, but still I managed to shoot my hand up in the air and said, "like me?" I was the only woman in a group of about 40 people with hair in those places. As soon as I was out, I called Stanley to vent, I’d been going to his place twice a week for a while since he had been teaching me some of his dances. I told him what happened and he couldn’t have been more outraged. He gave me some pointers for example, he said that was something they should've told me when rehearsals started, not in the second to last rehearsal. I'd been wearing tank tops all throughout and there were certainly many opportunities to say something to me.
When I brought it to the attention of the choreographers, they told me a few things that made it all the worse. Among them was that “in the real dance world we don’t have any hair and it’s clean-cut.” So, like the girl with the tattoos, who by the way was given the choice during one of the first rehearsals, I could “cover it up” if I didn’t want to shave. This was mainly a house dance piece, not ballet or anything like that, but I have to admit that I was wondering if they would say something to me since they had told the tattooed girl to cover up. But I thought they might also not mind since they never mentioned anything until that day. I showed up to the rehearsal the day after. I could tell my choreographer was really mad at me, I tried to talk to her but I feel like they were just taking it as me wanting to challenge them, so I left. The thing is that, I would've been ok to cover the hair or even shave it, had they said something to me when I brought up that I wasn't ok when they said it the way they did. I chose not to be a part of the performance because instead of recognizing what they did, they pushed me further telling me "that was not my piece" so it was "not my aesthetic" which was going to be represented, and even lied about having said it before... That was all besides the point though. I chose not to dance because I hadn’t been forgetting to shave throughout the two months of rehearsals, also I didn’t sign up to be treated poorly nor to be a part of a group that not only expected so little from their audience but that also thought they represented the entirety of the “real dance world.” I knew perfectly well that it wasn’t my job to decide how the bodies were to be in the work that was not my own. It was my job, however, to stand up for myself. If not me, then who?
When this was over I called Stanley who had told me to let him know how it went. He told me first and foremost “WERK," that he was sorry I had to deal with "people being irresponsible with communication," and that he was really proud of me. A week or two later, I danced at the Visual AIDS Gala with Stanley Love Performance Group. After the performance we sat at the table where he proudly introduced me to a couple of his friends saying, "this is Fanny the girl I told you about" and made a reference to what had happened with the choreographers the week before. They cheered me on and thought that was cool. Meanwhile the choreographer that embarrassed me in front of everyone sent me a message which felt like it was meant to make sure I didn't try to do anything that would harm her reputation afterwards. I thought about responding to that message, and I also thought about writing to the choreographer of the piece to try to talk it out because I knew I'd miss her dances a lot and I'd known her for a couple years. But I just didn't want to be met with more resistance. I had a solo trance dance art piece I would show for the first time which involved me being in the fullness of my womanhood, hair where it grows and all too so...
This all happened a year ago, but this is me letting it go as I strike the words on the keyboard. People have so many different ideas about what is right or wrong, acceptable or not, but April and May of 2019 was definitely one where I felt the spectrum in full force and I rode it dancing it off, and then swallowed it whole. AND today one year from Stanley's death, I want him to know I love him and will forever carry him in my heart/art/life.