Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Responses: March 10 and 11, 2009

This is the first official response from someone besides Dr Ananya Chatterjea: it is an email sent by Carl Flink, the chair of the Theatre Arts and Dance department. Although the email is dated March 10th, it is time-stamped 2:33AM, meaning that it was sent out before anyone saw Part 9, which went up on March 9. The email was sent to the dance program list serve, and also to the theatre list serve, making it the first official mention of our protest outside the program.

Sub: [Dance] THIS - The Protest Project at the Barker Center
Date: 3/10/2009 2:33 AM

Dear Rarig Center Department Faculty, Staff & Students:

I would like to make you all aware of a spontaneous non-dance program directed happening which has been taking place for the past few weeks at the Barker Center. An exhibit of words and images called THIS - The Protest Project has been expanding thoughout the stairwells, halls and other surfaces of the Barker transforming the building into a vibrant space of protest and questioning of the privilege, prejudice and impacts of institutional power that exist in even a presumed "liberal" space such as the Barker Center and I might add the university as a whole. The project is driven by an anonymous group of dance program students who have invested an incredible amount of personal time and resources in creating this exhibit.
In the words of Director of Dance Ananya Chatterjea the project raises questions such as "What indeed is privilege and how does it play out in institutions like academia? How do our everyday practices reflect ingrained social prejudices?" Professor Chatterjea also points out that the exhibit raises even more complex observations and questions like "No space is
uniform, because no population/community is uniform. What transformative possibilities exist in this building, or can be eked out from the practices that reside here? What ways might there be to dismantle such prejudice as exist here? How can we build on the energy generated through this exhibit and reflect on our practices?"

This past Saturday night I spent an hour wandering through the Barker with my partner Emilie experiencing this dynamic event. I found it an incredible journey.

I encourage you to take the time to stop by the Barker and witness THIS - The Protest Project.


The following email was sent out only to the theatre arts department list-serve, by the department peer advisers. They have also linked to our blog from their website with the following text:

THIS: The Protest Project at the BBCD Click here to visit the blog about the project- And go see it NOW!

Date: 3/10/2009 12:45 PM

Dear Peoples of Rarig,

Have you been to the Barker recently? If you haven't, please go right now. Read the writings on the walls: they are everywhere and they are blatantly protesting this department and this institution while simultaneously creating a space of unavoidable conversations about the issues raised. Next week hundreds of dance academics from across the country will be at the Barker for the ACDFA conference and they will see this. They will see how stundents within our department are reacting to their education and place within this department. We can not stress this enough: THESE ARE RARIG'S ISSUES TOO! While theatre and dance are housed in different buildings, we are under the same governing body of faculty. Do not convince yourself that this has nothing to do with you: it absolutely does.


How will Rarig respond to this? We hope it will not be through isolation, inaction and silence. Barker is a block away: time constraints and "no reason to go there" are not excuses. This e-mail is a reason to go there. Don't tell yourself you're too busy. Everybody is too busy. MAKE THE TIME. There will be a town hall concerning this protest on Friday at 1:30 in the Barker, we hope to see many of you there.

Don't let apathy rule your life,
The Peers

Notes: The event referred to in the email is the North Central Regional American College Dance Festival Association Conference, which will be hosted by the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities from March 18 to 22.

There were at least two physical responses to our open letter posted on the walls of the Barker; we will add documentation as we are able.

The final official response from the faculty was another email from Carl Flink, time stamped just after midnight, so technically sent on March 11. This email was sent to the peers, the theatre department list serve, the dance majors student list serve, the dance program list serve, and the dance faculty list serve (which means a lot of people must have got it twice.)

Sub: [Dance] THIS - The Protest Project
Date: 3/11/2009 12:10 AM

Dear Department of Theatre Arts & Dance Faculty, Staff and Students:

Below are e-mails sent from myself and Director of Dance Ananya Chatterjea in which we both expressed strong personal support for the activities of THIS and encouraging department members to experience it. Please take the time to read them as well so you understand that the dance program and the department are fundamentally engaged in this dialogue and that there are multiple perspectives on this happening.

The town hall this Friday was called by Ananya and the dance faculty because we want to talk about the issues raised by THIS. It was meant to be a dance program event, but if more attend from the larger department we'll look forward to having your presence in the Barker too. Unfortunately, I will arrive 30 minutes late for this event because of a residency commitment at a Mpls. Public school.

Many dance faculty chose to not hold class today, Tuesday, so that the entire program and department could be focused on THIS and the open letter that was added to it. The faculty did not simply leave the building but stayed in the lobby talking with students or just being present in order to signal our connection to this happening and the commitment we feel to this program and its evolution. Many students gathered in the Barker studios to carry-on student driven discussions on this subject.

The department has and always will be deeply committed to supporting the free expression of our students, faculty and staff. The ongoing presence of THIS on the surfaces of the Barker is a testimony to that in and of itself.
As we move forward with these conversations, I encourage multiple perspectives and voices to come forward and be heard on the issues raised by THIS and the growing responses to it.


Note: The email then quotes the entirety of Carl Flink's previous email of March 10, Dr. Ananya Chatterjea's email of March 9, and the Peers' email of March 10.

1 comment:

  1. I have had 2 brief encounters with the protest in the Barker and plan to spend 3 hours in the space with my students in tap 4 and tap 6 today Thursday 3/12. Anyone interested in sharing our experience is welcome.
    Tap 4 is 5-6:15 and tap 6 is 6:30-7:45
    Here is the email I sent my students:
    Tap 4 students,
    Tuesday, after a brief discussion, we decided to visit the Barker as a class.

    We will meet in the lobby of the Barker on Thursday March 12, please read the blog in advance of our meeting. Bring your own thoughts and experiences, once you have spent time reading and experiencing the protest, we will get together to discuss our reactions, etc.

    We will not tap dance on Thursday.

    I want to introduce this protest to you and say that I feel completely unqualified to direct the discussion to follow, I do not experience racism daily in the same conscious way that people of color do, so I hope only to facilitate an honest and respectful conversation perhaps reflecting questions brought up in the previous emails noted in the blog.

    I consider myself a perpetual student of this issue and hope to gain by taking advantage of the incredibly well researched set of documentation set before us through "THIS" protest.

    We will gather after 45 minutes or so to spend some time together reflecting and processing.

    Ellen Keane
    Artistic Director
    Keane Sense of Rhythm
    "Tap That Grows a Community"