I did this

tl;dr despite teachers that insult me in their congratulations or take credit for my hard work, I am celebrating my successes as mine

It’s amazing how often teachers want to take credit for their student’s success.

 

It’s amazing how many of the compliments I’ve received from teachers in the past year have been couched either in insult or a self-congratulatory, “I did this for you”.

 

I’ve actually had teachers say “I was surprised you managed to accomplish anything”, as if their lack of faith in me, after having known me for a month, was to be expected and not a horrifying insult.

 

Here’s the thing I wish I could tell to every single one of my teachers this year: I was amazing before I came to this program. I was a good artist, a thoughtful person, and used to working rigorously. I entered this program believing that you would treat me like I was competent and, instead, you treated me like I was completely clueless. I appeared clueless to you because you weren’t looking for anything else. My success on this program came from the moment I chose to ignore you and to work on my own practice.

 

I did this.

 

In fact, my blind trust in my teachers’ experience and knowledge made me a worse artist for a long period of time. So many of my teachers told me I “found my voice” during their program, as if it was their careful guidance that helped me there.

 

Anyone who’s seen my work from before I entered the program would know that I actually already had a pretty strong artistic voice. I entered the program because I wanted to develop and stregnthen it. Instead, I lost it. In what I thought was an attempt to learn, I took my teachers’ advice too much to heart and I lost my artistic integrity.

 

I did that.

 

I regret it.

 

But what that experience did, beyond all else, was strengthen my conviction in what I do.

 

I know how to work. I know my voice. I know what to say and how to say it. I love the rigorous process of exploration and creation.

 

I had all of that before I started.

 

Now I know I have all of that.

 

Teachers don’t get to insult me for that. And they definitely don’t get to take credit for my hard work.

 

I was the one who succeeded.

 

 

 

“Tradition”

tl;dr The use of the word “tradition” is often a value judgement used to validate or discredit certain styles of dance, and should not be considered a neutral term. 

 

Something that comes up a lot with my creative work, particularly because I’m an Irish dancer, is the concept of tradition. I first learned to dance within a folk dance community and, later, danced and performed in a few different folk and traditional dance groups.

 

I’ve developed my own personal questions about appropriation and respect and am now a lot more careful of how and when I partake in traditional and folk dance forms. But the question of tradition is still there with everything I do.

 

Irish dance is a competitive form of dance, but it is also a folk dance, and it is also a traditional form of dance, and I think it’s a very good example of what I’m talking about because the way the word “tradition” has been used and misused and redefined for Irish dance is blaringly obvious.

 

I’d like to start with a video. This man, Joe O’Donovan, is said to have been the last of the Irish dancing masters. In many ways, he was a keeper of Irish dance history and tradition, both in practice and as a symbol. It’s impossible to reconstruct dance, but this is one version of what Irish dance used to be, at one point in history. To be more exact – this is part of the tradition being referenced when people talk about the tradition of Irish dance, even if they don’t realize that that’s what they’re referencing.

 

Anyone’s who’s done an Irish hornpipe will probably recognize the elements of these steps (tip down, treble hop back, drums, some nice stamps and sweeps and hoppy things), but it doesn’t look anything like the clean, polished en masse unison of Riverdance, or the treble hornpipes done in competitions in ridiculously sparkly dresses and giant wigs, or even the quirky, cabaret-style coming out of Up and Over It (they became popular a few years back for the hand dance? Remember that? Hrm….go look it up if you haven’t).

 

But, we’re still talking about all of these different types of Irish step dance as “traditional”. How is that possible?

 

I know some people, usually the ones who partake in old-style sean-nos dancing, who will argue that there’s nothing traditional about competitive Irish dance today. I’ve even heard people tell me that Riverdance isn’t actually Irish dance (I call bullshit). On the other extreme, there are the people that extol the virtues of Irish step dance as a traditional dance form, as if that gives a highly competitive (vaguely soul-sucking, shhh, I’m not sour that I couldn’t handle the pressure of competition or anything) dance form more value than other forms of competitive dance (like, it’s not So You Think You Can Dance, so it’s more real ™ ?)

 

I’m not really convinced by either extreme.

 

The thing is, tradition is being used here much more as a value judgement than a describer. If something is “traditional”, it’s “good” in a way that anything “contemporary” or “untraditional” isn’t.

 

Which, of course, brings us back to my high school history classes and discussions of nationalism. Irish dance exists as it is today because of nationalism. Because the Gaelic league wanted to establish traditional Irish dance as part of defining Ireland and what it meant to be Irish. They wanted Irish dance to show off how great Irishness was. Anything considered “foreign” was removed (note: part of tradition and folk culture is that mixing happens, especially for a dance form starting in an immigrant community, as the history of codified Irish dance actually started the Irish community in London).*

 

Irish dance was codified, we could even say “purified” and, most importantly, legitimized. While odd quirks of the original dance still exist (the awkward “tip down” in the hornpipe, beautiful ankle twisty things and cross-keys, the ridiculously awkward soft jig, and of course every Irish dancer knows their sevens and their threes), it was slowly altered into a form completely distinct from its origins.

 

My dance school’s library (“the best dance library in the country” or some nonsense like that) has two books on Irish step. Both were written by Irish scholars from this time period. And the interesting thing is that both attempt to apply ballet terminology to Irish step. This is a clear example of legitimation – popular culture being rewritten in terms of high culture. But, of course, “point and point hop back two three” is very different from “tendu, jump, tendu, passé, step to sousous”, no matter how you look at it.

 

The act of legitimizing a folk tradition, particularly in a context of nationalism, reveals a deep discomfort with the original tradition. This is most obviously classist (what is often considered “traditional” is often simply the tradition of the peasant class, which becomes a mythologized entity whose culture the ruling class can exploit for their own image), but it is also important to understand that, quite often, folk and popular culture give voice to women, queer people, and people of color (to varying extents, depending on the tradition and the place). In the collection and purification process, these voices and elements are removed alongside the various dances that were deemed “un-Irish”. Nic Garreiss has some strong insight on these patterns in Irish music specifically concerning sexuality. 

Dancing at the crossroads was originally a community activity between villages, particularly for young people to meet each other. Now, committed Irish step dancers spend hundreds of dollars on solo dresses in order to compete. Both are part of the same tradition, but there’s a huge difference in interests that shows how lower classes have been removed from the picture in favour of literal shiny, sparkly things.

 

At the same time, legitimation also reveals this desperate need to preserve. After cleaning up and legitimizing tradition by redefining it in the terms of those with power, a “tradition” must be kept in a shiny glass box and never altered in order to remain “traditional”.

 

Except the folklore and traditions coming out of any nationalism-fuelled act of preservation are never going to be the source tradition. Tradition is about change. Folklore is about mutation. I love and study fairy tales because they were, and still are, a way for the “folk” to comment on their daily lives. Daily lives change. Especially in places where huge waves of nationalism are altering politics, literature, science, etc., daily lives and the world the “folk” live in is always changing and moving. The minute we try to freeze it, we’re going to lose it. It is no longer tradition. It is something else.

 

When we use “tradition” as a value judgement, as a way to say “well, it’s good, because it’s traditional”, we’re missing the point. We’ve not only removed the “tradition” from its context and forced it to become something else, we’re keeping it from following it’s natural change. We lose tradition more by trying to preserve it than by allowing it to change. So, competitive Irish dance? Definitely not a tradition I am part of. And it is definitely not the only Irish dance tradition in existence. And it cannot be disconnected from a history of nationalism and purification. But it’s still traditional.


*For those that are interested in this history, I highly recommend The Story of Irish Dance by Helen Brennan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some thoughts about fitness

tl;dr As my course has become more and more about turning me into the kind of dancer I’m not, I have found refuge in working out and focusing on my own fitness, something that has been a source of shame in the past. 

 

For anyone that’s wondering, my course isn’t going too well. There’s been transphobia and lack of basic respect at every turn. It’s hard. I’m not actually enjoying dance at the moment. This is only an acceptable situation because I know it’s going to end very soon.

 

But there is one thing that is going really well for me right: working out.

 

I was weak and very unfit when I started dancing and I knew it, and so I was embarassed to do anything that showed it in front of anyone else. I wouldn’t do any strengthening exercises to warm up for class, I wouldn’t stretch after class, I wouldn’t do anything that would draw attention to how unfit I was. I knew I had to be strong to be a dancer, and I knew I wasn’t, and so my insecurities took control and, instead of pushing myself to get stronger, I ran away from The Big Scary Thing in fear of being judged and told I couldn’t do the thing I loved.

 

This is not my fault. This is the fault of a system that had so many set expectations for me that I knew I couldn’t meet. It became easier for me to quit before I started.

 

And I’ve tried to commit to different exercise regiments over the course of my life. Some worked. Some didn’t. None ever lasted long enough to actually have any significant impact. I stopped doing most of them because I would fall into shame of not being good enough and despair of ever seeing real progress.

 

But, this year, I really committed to working out because my school has a tiny little “gym” that’s free for students.

 

I first tried one of the classes there and felt the same judgement and insecurity I had gotten before, so instead, I started going to free practice sessions. I still feel judged, but it is manageable, as everyone is focused on doing different things, as opposed to doing the same thing as me (except so much “better”).  Sometimes I’m even lucky enough to be the only person in there.

 

I know I’m not as strong as most of the other people there, and I know I’m probably not doing the exercises “right”, but I also know that I’m getting stronger. And it’s actually really satisfying to look at my notes and see the numbers slowly increase over time.

 

While I’m on a course where I constantly have to be whatever my teacher wants me to be, working out has become the place where I can become what I want to be. I have complete control. I’m not as strong as I’d like, but I know I’m going to get there, because it’s what I want, and I’m watching myself plugging steadily onwards.

 

It’s a strange life reversal: working out, not dance, has become the place where I don’t have to be ashamed.

 

I think, at the end of the day, it’s important to recognize that not every system works for everybody. And that our emotions will impact how we are able to exercise. For me, instead of pushing myself through my shame and insecurity, I had to find a way to work out that impacted it in the least way possible. It was hard at first. But every time I do it, I gain a little more self-confidence. And maybe, by the time I lose access to my school’s equipment, I’ll have enough confidence to find another gym to keep working out at. I hope so, because I’m really enjoying this.

Better dance

 tl;dr Instead of looking at “good dance” and “bad dance”, which I do not believe exist, I prefer to consider “lazy dance” and “cruel dance” which is limiting us from making “better dance”

October 2016

One of the biggest word-tangles I get into is this concept of “good” dancing, which, of course, then suggests there is such a thing as “bad” dancing.

So, to make this clear forever and ever and ever: I do not believe there is such a thing as “good” dance and “bad” dance, and that is why I often put them in quotation marks.

Yes, I believe there is such a thing as strong technique and weak technique. I believe there is such a thing as dangerous dancing (ie. if the knees aren’t in line with the toes, that person is going to get injured). But that doesn’t mean someone’s a bad dancer. It just means they might get injured, or that the way they use their body is less stylized than is considered the norm in dance.

And yes, there is definitely some dancing I prefer. I have my personal aesthetics, but just because I enjoy a certain dancing doesn’t mean it’s “good”, it just happens to be what I like.

To be honest, I believe that all dance is “good” dance because it is dance and dance is good.

That said, I do believe in lazy dance and cruel dance.

Lazy dance I use particularly to discuss choreography. Lazy means it is obvious the choreographer or creator didn’t put thought or depth into what they’re doing. My favorite example of this is when I went to see Pilobolus and, in one of the pieces, they duct taped a plastic bag around a woman’s head. Yes, it definitely got an emotional reaction from me, and it definitely showed off the skills of that particular dancer (she got herself out, no worries), but it was surface level – created more to get a rise out of the audience than to cultivate meaning within the dance itself. It was a cheap trick (and a dangerous one) and it was lazy.

This example is also cruel dance. And this, I may admit, may count as “bad” dance in the moral sense (not the artistic sense). Dance that causes harm to the dancers or to others or advocates harm in any way is cruel dance. In this case, it was putting a dancer in a needlessly risky situation. In another case, it could be a director or choreographer forcing dancers to commit to too many rehearsals. It could be using loud noises and flashing lights to shock an audience without an appropriate warning (when I attended Fuerzabruta the first time, the warning sign was too vague and the gunshots in the opening scene had me running for the door because loud, sudden, unexpected noises are very uncomfortable for me). It could be forcing an audience member that would rather sit in their seat on stage in the name of audience participation. Or it could simply be expressing harmful ideals (for instance, I started watching Mats Ek’s Giselle the other day and had to shut it off in disgust because it was obsessed with Giselle’s fertility to an alarming extent and when these golden eggs were paraded out, my brain just went “nope” and moved on to something else. Women are more than clingy baby-making machines, I’m sure there may be more to that piece, if I had continued watching or seen it live, but that’s what my viewing got me).

Quite often, these two things do work in conjunction, like with putting a plastic bag over a person’s head, or the use of a sudden, loud gunshot to wake up the audience instead of putting in the effort to really engage the audience without terrifying them (I mean, the rest of the show is brilliant…it’s ridiculous for the opening to have been so disconnecting when the rest of it was so engaging), or representing fertility with giant, golden eggs, instead of maybe exploring the many other identities a character like Giselle may possess when taken out of her glamorous romantic ballet role (that said, I did really appreciate how the Eks ballet actually made her look sickly…the original Giselle always made that plot point a little suspect).

Note that every time I mention lazy or cruel dance, I use the word “instead” to explain it. That’s because lazy and cruel dance is holding us back. We fall into the established, easy patterns that perpetuate social norms and the general exploitation and harm that happens in the dance world (because, face it, existing messages in dance are extremely harmful, no matter how much it has “gotten better”, dancers are still overworked and forced past their limits by themselves and each other with encouragement from teachers, choreographers, and directors). Thinking about dance as lazy or cruel is a way to open up creative possibilities.

Here is a lazy thought. What could it be instead? Where could it go next? What does it become? How do we move into something more thoughtful? Suddenly, the thought isn’t that lazy anymore.

And avoiding cruelty forces creativity – how does a choreographer work differently if they can only have dancers for a limited number of rehearsals? What other ways can we get a reaction from an audience without putting a dancer at risk? How do we make spotting and other safety precautions part of the dance? Why are we assuming the audience will accept this social norm propping up this dance? How do we defend or challenge it? How do we make our art more accessible to more people?

See, there may be no such thing as “good” or “bad” dance, but there is definitely better dance. Because dance is a constant process of becoming and changing and moving forward, becoming better.

 

I did it

tl;dr I got into a dance program, yay me!

11 May 2016

So. I did it. I got into a program at a very well-known dance conservatory. I’m going to spend next year doing nothing but dance (and, you know, those annoying practical things that are required when being an adult living on my own, ugh).

To be honest, it’s a pretty tiny deal. It’s definitely one of those side programs that takes pretty much anyone who applies (because money). It had no audition and I’m very good at presenting myself on paper. Technically, all that getting in says about me is that I can communicate how much I love dance.

Except, for me, it’s a huge, fucking deal. I’ve spent my life thinking of myself as a Bad Dancer. Or at least, not as good as the Real Dancers. And now I’m about to go to Real Dancer School.

This is a huge fuck you to everyone that made me think I wasn’t a dancer – the teacher that told me I would make a lovely dance critic because I thought too much to actually dance, the students that felt the need to speak to me in condescending tones as if I was such a bad dancer that they needed to teach me instead of the teacher, the director that made it very clear that I was not welcome to do anything other than what she told me to, or the Irish dance choreographers that treated me like a beginner dancer and then had the audacity to tell me my dancing had improved under their (incredibly rude) tutelage.

This is for all the people that told me that, in order to succeed in dance, I had to live and breathe dance and do nothing else. You know what? You were wrong. I might not have it all figured out now, but I can dance and study Finnish and research folklore and read French literature. An undergraduate degree in modern languages doesn’t bar me from a professional dance career, it simply takes me there on a slightly different route.

This is for every moment someone has looked at me and thought that I wasn’t right to be a dancer – all the people that told me to turn out by feet and suck in my stomach, all the side-on glances I got walking into studios, the feeling that I would never really belong, that I didn’t deserve to belong.

This is for my own self-doubt.

Because fuck anything that made me doubt myself for a second. I can do this. I did do this. I have the acceptance letter to prove it.

But this is also a thank you to everyone who believed in me when I didn’t – my Irish step teacher who’s taught me since I was eleven and has celebrated every single one of my successes with me, the ballet teacher that still remembers my name even though I see her at most once a year, the choreographer that told me to never be ashamed after seeing my work and the older dancer that then gave me a hug, and the ballet teacher that told me she looked forward to seeing my work at the Joyce someday. This is for the older dancer that sat and chatted with me when I was at the most toxic dance program ever and so close to absolutely hating dance. And the fellow student that broke me out of an entire cycle of self-deprecation simply by telling me she liked my turns on a day when I was frustrated with myself.

There are so many people who have believed in me over the years. And it’s easy to think of the people that I want to stick my finger up at. And those people have power, they are the reasons for my insecurities, my fears, my doubt, my self-hatred. But, for every awful message I’ve received, I’ve got at least two people believing in me. And I’ve held those people close to my heart as I keep pushing onward, my protection against the negativity.

And right now, I want to go screaming to all of those wonderful people. YOU WERE RIGHT! I DID IT! YOU DID IT! WE DID IT!

It might be a tiny mountain. But I have conquered that mountain.

And there are more mountains to come. But, like this first one, I don’t have to do it alone.

I did it.

Dancing with anxiety

tl;dr Anxiety makes attending dance class particularly difficult in ways that have nothing to do with actual dancing. So, it’s time to make some changes and start talking about how we can better support dancers with anxiety instead of leaving them at a disadvantage. 

September 2016

So I just came out of a “levelling class” (ie. audition) during which I was so anxious that my legs were shaking for the entire adagio and I could not get them under control.

I’m saying anxious not nervous, because this is specifically linked to my anxiety, not general audition nerves (although I’m completely certain that those definitely had a part in this too). To be explicitly clear, I had a panic attack in the middle of this class and it is not the first time I have danced through one of these in class.

I know that sounds a bit dramatic – when most people think of panic attacks, they think of hyperventilation, or at least something BIG, DRAMATIC and noticeable. I have never hyperventilated and, to be honest, my panic attacks are very silent and easily hidden. For some reason (I’m pretty sure it’s dance, to be honest), I can be in the deep dark depths of ABSOLUTE AND UTTER PANIC, and appear completely under control. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have physical symptoms.

Just to give you an idea of what I’m dancing through, here is a nice list of symptoms courtesy of the NHS. For anyone that doesn’t experience panic attacks/has no real context for what I’m talking about, I suggest choosing any three symptoms from that list and imagine trying to dance in class with them. Then, for this specific circumstance, add it to general audition nerves (because auditions are awful).

I can do it. In the years and years and years of attending dance class and having panic attacks, there has been a total of one instance in which I have had to actually stop dancing.

But that doesn’t make it easy.

We have a culture in the dance world of “going to class”. In the way dance is structured, attending class is a necessity for dancers. Of course, instruction or just outside guidance is always useful for optimal growth (though a committed person can make amazing growth without guidance), but I believe the bigger issue is space. When I studied cello, I had one-on-one lessons, not a class, but I only needed a tiny room to practice in and a slightly bigger one for lessons. Class is a replacement for practice time and the most efficient way to provide instruction, because very few people have enough space to really practice dance in their homes and studios are too expensive to make private lessons cost-effective.

But attending class is a huge challenge for anyone with anxiety. Before class even starts, I need to make sure I get there 15 minutes early, if I show up earlier, I feel overeager, if I show up later, I’m late (my private teacher drilled the 15 minute thing into me) and showing up to class late is Bad. Not only does it mean I’m not properly warmed up, but it means more people look at me than if I’m there before them. It also means I can’t choose my place in the room.

Which comes to point two – I have next to no spatial awareness and I am constantly terrified of accidentally wacking someone else. I need to space myself in a place where I’m near as few people as possible and stay as far away from those people as possible. I can hardly ever dance full out in a dance class simply because I am so anxious about hitting other people.

And then there’s food. Another huge anxiety for me is not eating enough for class. So, before I go to class, I have to be sure I’ve eaten a good meal, even if it’s a very weird time of day. And, even if I’m fully fed, if I haven’t eaten some kind of snack bar before class, the chance of panic attack increases quite a lot. I never struggle in class because I haven’t eaten enough, but I am consistently struggling because I am worried that  haven’t eaten enough.

And that’s just a few examples.

Note that none of the things I’m anxious about is dance. It’s very easy to forget that dance actually encompasses a large amount of skills and activities that have nothing to do with the actual moving part of it (I’m writing a list because it’s important to me that we recognize dance is interdisciplinary).

But that also makes it feel kind of silly that the things that make dance hard for me are not the actual dancing.

And it makes me wonder about the other anxious dancers. I skip class a lot, because going out is sometimes too hard. Who else is following this pattern? Who else is being held back, not because they can’t dance but because their anxiety is keeping them from going to class? Why the hell is there no support to get us dancing?

I mean – why not have anxiety-friendly dance classes? With smaller class sizes, maybe self sign-in to avoid the timing discomfort, the options to take breaks to eat, stretch, have a panic attack without having to dance through it.

I mean, my anxiety isn’t just making it hard, it means I am not progressing as quickly as my non-anxious peers because I literally cannot dance as often. So why can’t we start trying to make practice space more available and accessible (cheaper? available to non-professionals?, I point towards the Dance Complex in Boston as a model that has worked well for me) so people who can’t get to class can still have space to dance?

I know a lot of my opinions on dance boil down to “dance is great! But we really need rebuild the structures that support it from the beginning all over again”. And, of course, that’s not going to happen immediately. But I do think we do need to start thinking about how dance supports and fails people with anxiety (and other mental illnesses) and we need to start thinking about how to integrate those people, us, into mainstream dance, instead of keeping us out in specialist “dance for mental health! Wheee!” classes (because those exist. But I’ve never gone to them. Because I am professional-track and want classes that will help me build the technique I need to dance professionally). While, it’s great to get everyone dancing, as long as mental health support isn’t integrated into all dance classes, there will always be the image of the Real Dancer and the Person that Dances For Fun.

And who’s to say someone with anxiety can’t be a Real Dancer? (and who’s the say dancing for fun isn’t real?)

Review: Fullout

Tl;dr: Fullout is a great webseries that challenges preconceptions concerning queer women and injury in dance and is definitely worth a watch.

August 2016

Today I want to write a bit of a review. I don’t really know how to write a review, and I don’t think this is exactly it, but I am giving a recommendation for a thing to watch with some extra thoughts about it.

If you have some free time on your hands and a decently fast internet connection (because vimeo is always a little slower than youtube), I highly recommend Fullout. It’s a webseries, five episodes, available on Open TV. And the cast includes both Nana Visitor and Kaitlyn Alexander. So…with that alone, it sounds worth watching, no?

Fullout is the story of a lesbian dancer trying to make a comeback after an injury has kept her out of dance for a long while. First off, this alone is ridiculously important. There’s this weird assumption that the only people who dance are gay men and straight women. I actually remember one time at dance camp, listening to people discuss how surprised they were that one of the boys there was straight when I knew there were at least two gay or bi closeted girls at the same camp who never even got that kind of consideration.

Queer women in dance are invisible. They are assumed not to exist. This means the struggles these dancers face go completely unrecognized and unsupported. It means organizations can claim to be inclusive by simply making use of this myth that queer women in dance don’t exist and thus, wouldn’t be part of that organization anyways.  Dance organizations love to pat themselves on the back and go “yes, job well done, we have loads of diversity and no discrimination here” as soon as they meet their quota in dealing with visible discrimination (yes, all organizations do this to some extent, but I find this attitude particularly prevalent in dance). Or they use the number of gay men in dance as proof that they are diverse and inclusive.

By making the invisible visible, Fullout is showing that yes, queer women dancers exist and face discrimination

If there is any piece of media featuring a queer woman that dances, it’s worth watching, because it is making the invisible visible.

And, above everything else, it is filling the role model vacuum. I remember, at that same dance camp, one of the huge points of gossip among my friends was which counselors were gay. This wasn’t just teenagers gossiping. This was a group of young, queer, mostly female dancers looking at the people that represented what they could become in a few years’ time and panicking because they didn’t see anyone like them.

Fullout is a message to younger dancers that yes, people like them exist. And yeah, there will be challenges, it will be hard, but there is definitely just as much of a chance for them to become dancers as anyone else.

The other value in Fullout (which, to be honest, was a breath of fresh air compared to the messages I experience every day in dance class) was how it discussed injury. Dance teachers, directors, even other dancers, we have the habit of encouraging injured people to “push through” their injuries, to just take pain medication and keep dancing because the show must go on. Fullout is one of very few times where I have seen this attitude addressed as creepy and unhealthy. Even the title of the show, Fullout (referencing the belief in dance that one must always either be dancing “full out” or “marking”, as if there is no in-between place) connects to the damaging idea that dancers must continue to dance at their best, even when faced with injury. The main character’s choice not to continue to form to these expectations is really important. We, as dancers, cannot accept narratives that promote self-harm cleverly relabelled as “commitment”.

Fullout doesn’t. Fullout tells the story of what it is to not be able to fulfill the expectations set out by the Dance World. I’m definitely not completely convinced by the whole story of Fullout and the protagonist’s final choice is somewhat disheartening for us queer dancers that want to see ourselves thrive on stage. But I do believe the use of having more than one queer dancing character (shocker, I know) and the value of what it does show is worth it. It challenges the myth that queer women are not dancers and it forces us to reevaluate how we, as dancers, treat injury. And, for that, I highly highly recommend taking the time to watch it.

Fullout is watchable right here: http://www.weareopen.tv/open-tv-originals/fullout