2020 was an ‘off’ year for a number of reasons. The blight of CoViD19 significantly affected millions living on the planet. The global social uprising sparked by the police murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd offered radical insights of not just the coronavirus but also multiple lockdowns and a social awareness that all is uncertain. For me, I chose to leave one organisation and join another. The organisation I chose to join: B.A.i.D. Black Artists in Dance.
In 2019 an inspired group engagement re. Something Other: Diversity Space – lead to a sparkling conversation with Joyce Gyimah-Distefano and Gerrard Martin from B.A.i.D. We discussed what my role had been with Diversity Space and what their vision was for B.A.i.D. A recognition of shared interests in the wake of the global social unrest was straightforward for me to recognise.
There was a clear overlap of B.A.i.D’s involvement with challenging status quos, and my involvement with Diversity Space, creating opportunity for Black and Brown voices to be heard amongst an NHS foundation trust. Whilst from two vastly different practices ‘psychology’ and ‘dance’, I would hazard that there are psychological components in dance and a dance in psychotherapeutic engagement. These differences made working together glimmer with possibility. If you have had the chance to watch Move on Netflix a flicker of the psychological, sociological and historical is present within each of the dance offerings.
I held an affinity for what the future of B.A.i.D. was to begin engaging with nationally. The similarity of what had begun in 2019 with Diversity Space was – Black/Brown people to be seen, valued, heard, supported to achieve both inside of and outside of the NHS. For B.A.i.D. A space for Black dancers to be recognised amongst, celebrated within and supported to achieve what their hard won talents would earn them in the world of movement performance.
The promise to Black and global majority communities – that the harms and injustices of the past – were to be rectified and put forever right are largely still unmet. Capitalism’s promise following unarmed Black death, appeared as the last hiccups of a world semi conscious of race, colonised histories and the lie of supremacy gave way to resentment and impatience. The backlash came after a few weeks of full tilt support of Black Lives Matter and *EDDIE (Equity, Diversity, De-colonialism, Inclusion, Equality). Change unfortunately takes time. Some know, others don’t. As Mariame Kaba carefully described in an interview with Ibram X Kendi, “make use of and remain vigil of disciplined hope”.
Joyce explored what had been achieved with Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust alongside colleagues. What the Raison D’Etre was for the Diversity Space and how our collaboration grew to become a significant force for change for the organisation and for the 4 members of the small but dedicated team. 2 have remained and 2 have joined other teams beyond the NHS. B.A.i.D. as an organisation were clear with what they wanted to engage and achieve. Small – large scale dance training institutions address how to be anti-racist and to tackle practices that ignore, silence and invisibilise individuals from Black and global majority communities that attend dance training.
I have delivered 2 individualised events for Rambert School. At the first event as the supervising counsellor for B.A.i.D. I met with students to discuss mental wellbeing, addictive qualities of mobile phone use, risks and rewards of being in and outside of group, raising awareness of public, private and secret communication, identifying attachment patterns, and developing coping strategies. The event in March went well, primarily due to the open curiosity of students, the overview and support of Joyce, Gerrard of B.A.i.D. and Phaedra from Rambert. Students were willing to explore difficult concepts and find interesting solutions and challenge their thinking and mine.
The second event involved a group of staff from different components of Rambert School. The staff group were equally as engaged as the dance students had been. They followed what was presented in relation to end of year reflections, as though this type of training happens every term! (It doesn’t!) Staff were as flexible in their thinking and as willing to engage with challenging and opposing ideas, as their students had been. Either there is something in the air in this part of London, or the ethos of the school helps shape all engaged at Rambert.
A number of stand out moments happened throughout the day. Concepts such as a ‘Year in Change’ and ‘Conflict’ began shifting around the identity of self and community for Rambert staff. I was thankful to have had a number of prior conversations with Joyce, Gerrard and Phaedra in relation to what an event with me could resemble. Reflecting on 2020 – 2022 the Rambert team were able to note the necessary and amazing choices staff had taken to change ways of being in the school and away from – virtual/online learning, marking, attendance, re-engagement at the school after lockdown. Heading into the topic of conflict, we noted that for much of the pandemic we were all engaged within a number of battles that were; physical, psychological, philosophical, political and social.
The small skirmishes (mentioned above) potentially left small and deep scars. Rambert staff identified that we would be better to pay attention to these wounds, heal them and make use of the learning offered. Rather than to limp slowly and recklessly forward – hurting more.
The internal conflict the past 2 years have presented are: what changes are to remain and what of the many adjustments made, do we leave behind?
For me there are phenomenal outcomes when seemingly opposing disciplines arrive at the same place at the same time and attempt to dance.
Perhaps individually we can remain in tune.
Collectively we may find co-ordination a challenge. With considered effort and for a long time after, fun can be re-discovered amongst the many…
The B.A.i.D. link connects to Black Artists In Dance website – offering the uninitiated an insight to an amazing organisation.
Rambert School present their collaboration with BAiD.
The Mariame Kaba link is connected to the Blog post of Willfully Unseen: Packed Ending and her interview with Ibram X Kendi on How to be Anti-Racist podcast.
In Tune is a link to the musical and poetic feat by Robert Glasper and Amir Sulayman. When artistry takes on a social movement often a power experience is entombed.
EDI a short film by Oxleas NHS trust a view of some of the work the Diversity Space delivered and continues to support and improve the NHS service.
Unlocking Us with Brené Brown in conversation with Karen Walrond, provides a clear direction beyond the upset of the past 2 years. I thought the conversation fitting for the staff group.
The last resource is of Prentis Hemphill discussing conflict with Kazu Haga. The big take away for me was that, there are 7 truths inside of the true false paradigm. Useful to overcome differences of opinion and remaining in the unknown open to curiosity.
Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust EDI
Code Switch Why Now?
Brene Brown in conversation with Karen Walrond Unlocking Us
Prentis Hemphill in conversation with Kazu Haga Finding Our Way
Cover photo by Maick Maciel on Unsplash
Buddy Wave photo by SJ Objio on Unsplash
Field Dance photo by Ian Kiragu on Unsplash
Picture hold photo by Nkululeko Mayiyane on Unsplash
Wild Style photo by Zac Ong on Unsplash
*An acronym recently invented.