Updated: May 20
Two days before the performance the choreographer of this piece came up to me and whispered in my ear "don’t forget to shave." When rehearsal was over, the other choreographer, who had also organized the show gathered us all. She gave us this pep talk and then was going over the last 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. Everyone thought it was really funny, and some people 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 cheered me on when I told him I planned on saying something.
When I brought it to the attention of the choreographers, instead of trying to see where they might’ve been wrong, they told me several things that upset me even further. 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 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 up until that day. I showed up to the rehearsal the day after. I could tell my choreographer was really mad at me, so I left. I chose not to be a part of the performance not because I refused to cover my hair. I made that choice 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 definitely approved. 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. 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 had zero drops of energy 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.
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.