DegreePublic Policy Studies and Dance ’23
As a member of the semester-long Visualizing Systemic Housing Inequality team, I aimed to engage personal investments in performance and technology, bridge an often voyeuristic divide between Duke student and Durhamite, and create affirming works that show how housing inequality is perpetuated by so many different actors in Durham.
A huge reason I decided to pursue this experience is because Professor Thomas DeFrantz is a wonderful and well-respected dance scholar. Taking Black Dance with DeFrantz in Fall 2020 was one of the most transformative and insightful classes I have taken thus far.
Moreover, local politics have been central to my studies. City governments have the most efficacy in fixing issues yet are the most overlooked, especially by students. Federal government is glamorized and focused on far too much. I love Durham — experiencing the city has been one of my highlights here. Duke and other actors, especially new ones like Apple and Google [which have offices in the Triangle], have an outsized influence that will continue to perpetuate housing issues. It’s on us to identify these issues and question how we can fix them.
On the team, I coordinated and led an improvisational performance. Professor DeFrantz and I discussed some major influences on my dancing and some goals that I wanted to achieve. Through that conversation, I realized I really wanted people to question their position through movement and improvisation. Using recent news and an improvisation technique called ‘flocking,’ eight of us moved for about fifteen minutes, shouting out questions and comments we had in response to these stories. We asked questions like ‘What is a church’s role?,’ ‘What does it mean for housing assistance to take so long to come?,’ and ‘What does it mean to watch this as a Duke student?’ While I don’t think we found answers, the first step can mean mapping out every single question you want to meditate on.
Coordinating this, I got to lead many people’s first time dancing. We went through improvisational movements, getting to know each other and tapping into our creative agency. I enjoyed getting to help people have these first embodied experiences, and it really helped me through an artistic block.
My team members are so different and so smart. I’ve found myself having extremely deep housing and planning policy debates. We’ve gone back and forth on what our utopia would look like, talking deeply about what we liked and disliked about our hometowns.
This was another step in activating what a politically-active and generative dance performance could be like. Since 2020, I’ve been pretty stalled in what I would want to do as an artist. However, coordinating this reminded me of those central tenets and got me moving in a way I hadn’t [done before]. Doing something more akin to a museum exhibition has allowed me to consider what other locations I want to create in, rather than focusing so deeply on the proscenium stage.
Our project culminated in an interactive exhibition displaying politically-conscious art and performance in December 2021.