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Theresa Ruth Howard Dancer/Writer/Teacher Theresa Ruth Howard began her professional dance career with the Philadelphia Civic Ballet Company at the age of twelve. Later she joined the Dance Theatre of Harlem where she had the opportunity to travel extensively throughout the United States, Europe and Africa. She has worked with choreographer Donald Byrd as a soloist in his staging of New York City Opera's Carmina Burana, his critically acclaimed Harlem Nutcracker, as well as the controversial domestic violence work The Beast. She was invited to be a guest artist with Complexions: A Concept in their 10th anniversary season. In 2004 she became a founding member of Armitage Gone! Dance. As a writer Ms. Howard has contributed to Russell Simmons’ One World magazine (art), and The Source (social politics), as well as Pointe and Dance Magazine. While teaching in Italy for the International Dance Association she was asked to become a contributor for the premiere Italian dance magazine Expressions. Her engaging, no nonsense writing style caught the eye of both the readers of Dance Magazine and its Editor in Chief who not only made her a contributing editor and has collaborated with Ms. Howard in See and Say Web-reviews. Her articles about body image prompted her to develop a workshop for young adult (dancers and non-dancers) My Body My Image that addresses their perceptions both positive and negative about their bodies and endeavoring to bring them closer to a place of Acceptance and Appreciation. She recently launched a blog by the same name to reach a broader audience ( As a teacher Ms. Howard has been an Artist in Residence at Hollins University in and New Haven University in addition to teaching at Sarah Lawrence College, Marymount, Shenandoah, and Radford Universities, and the historical American Dance Festival. As a result of her work at ADF Ms. Howard was invited to Sochi, Russia to adjudicate the arts competition Expectations of Europe and teach master classes, and in Burundi, Africa where she coached and taught the Burundi Dance Company. Currently she on faculty at The Ailey School but also extensively throughout Italy and Canada. Ms. Howard's belief in the development, and nurturing of children lead her to work with at risk youth. At the Jacob Riis Settlement House in Queensbridge New York, she founded S.I.S.T.A (Socially Intelligent Sisters Taking Action) a mentoring program for teen-age girls where she worked to empower them to become the creators of their destinies. In addition she developed a dance program, which lead to an exchange with the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Through her teaching and travels Ms. Howard began to observe a universal disenchantment and disconnection in teenagers that disturbed her, thus she set out to address it. Combining her philosophies of life and teaching, with the skills she garnered through outreach programs with diverse communities, she developed the personal development workshop Principles of Engagement: Connecting Youth to the Infinite Possibilities Within which gives teens a set of workable tools to increase their levels of success at tasks, and goals not only in dance, and all aspect of their lives. Theresa Ruth Howard is certainly diverse and multifaceted as an artist, and is moved to both write and create work; however she sees every student she encounters as a work in progress, and the potential to change the world one person at a time. The only was to make this world a better place it to be better people in it!

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Me ‘THINX’ Panties for women who have periods are taking over the MTA

I still find it amazing how squirmish people get about women’s periods. It’s quite silly really considered that 99.9% of women have them. I also find it fundamentally insulting that where women’s bodies can be sexualized to sell everything from men’s watches, cars and handbags when it comes to marketing a product made for a female biological norm all of the sudden there can be such a thing as showing too much skin. Well New York City’s MTA tried it and failed. The new ads for the moisture  wicking panty THINX are  innovative, artistically subtle , and were apparently too much for Outfront Media, the company which approves most of the copy and images for review before the MTA. ( click here to understand how these babies work)4d203c60-6945-0133-0b9b-0e76e5725d9d


Here was their response:

a64290d0-6960-0133-0c32-0e34a4cc753da206fcf0-6960-0133-0b9a-0e76e5725d9dCrazy right? did a great post about it:

A few weeks ago, THINX’s director of marketing, Veronica del Rosario, called her boss, crying. “I was feeling so defeated,” Del Rosario remembers. She’d been going back and forth with an ad agency on the creative for THINX — aka the “period” underwear‘s — ad for weeks, and she was finally convinced that THINX wouldn’t be able to run their ads on New York City’s subways.

Del Rosario said that an agent at Outfront Media, the company which approves most of the copy and images for review before the MTA board, already had several issues with the ads, starting with the company’s slogan.

“When we said the text would read ‘Underwear for Women With Periods,’ the agent said, ‘We won’t be able to run the copy as is,’ we could only assume that meant they didn’t want us to use the word period,” Del Rosario tells Bustle. She also said that a male agent asked her what would happen if a kid saw the ad. Del Rosario said he also took issue with the word fluid, as well as the pictures of the grapefruit (meant to symbolize the vagina) and eggs (meant to symbolize a woman’s ovum), she says. “He said they were too suggestive … as were the women in their underwear,” Del Rosario tells Bustle. His suggestion was to use white silhouettes with black underwear, she says. This, despite the fact that several of the ads depict women in turtleneck sweaters.


Hardly skimpy.

The agent remarked, “‘Don’t make this a women’s rights thing’ — and then he hung up on me,” Del Rosario tells Bustle. That’s when she called her boss, cofounder and CEO Miki Agrawal, crying — and they went to the press.

While the MTA and Outfront Media has commented that the concern over the word period was brought up by an Outfront representative before THINX had officially submitted the copy for the ad — and before the MTA or Outfront Media had formally had a chance to review or reject it — Del Rosario says she felt the entire process was “an uphill battle,” and one that operated under the assumption that talking about women’s periods was potentially inappropriate. According to the the MTA’s guidelines, subway ads can’t depict “sexual or excretory activities” or materials that promote a “sexually oriented business.” THINX, which markets underwear for women on their periods, was doing neither.


After going back and forth on the copy and images, Del Rosario says she began questioning the agent on the obvious double-standard behind his edits — especially when there are so many far more suggestive and objectifying ads on the subway, featuring both naked women and grapefruits, like this infamous one.

And this one.


Read the rest here

IABD’s First Ever Ballet Audition For Women of Color: A step in a New Direction


First Ever Audition for Black Female Ballet dancers is a Historical Coda to the International Association of Blacks in Dance 28th Dance Conference

January, 24th 2016

On a crystal clear morning in the Daniels and Fisher clock tower in downtown Denver Colorado, two worlds that have long orbited one another collided. The International Association of Blacks in Dance (IABD) extended an invitation to Artistic and Executive directors of major ballet companies to take part in a group audition for female ballet dancers of color to be held at their annual conference. 15 ballet organization were represented, they included: Peter Boal (Pacific Northwest Ballet), Ashely Wheater (Joffrey Ballet), Virginia Johnson (Dance Theatre of Harlem)  Patrick Armand (San Francisco Ballet), Stanton Welch (Houston Ballet), and Dorothy Pugh (Memphis Ballet) [COMPLETE LIST BELOW] gathered not only for the audition, but to participate in a real conversation about why there remains a need for such an event in 2016.

A group ballet audition is the brainchild of the indefatigable Joan Myers Brown founder of both the Philadelphia Dance Company, and IABD. “I was told that they didn’t know where to find them, or how to find them [black dancers] so, we wanted to bring them here so that we could have the opportunity to show them black girls who could really do ballet.” The group audition was intended to create a space where artistic directors of companies and dance academies could collectively see dancers, a simple answer to a ubiquitous problem. The “group audition” has been a highly successful model for IABD for many years. “Dancers don’t have the money to run around auditioning for multiple companies and artistic directors don’t always have the time, this just made sense, we are all in the same place at the same time, why not have an audition? The main difference with our audition is that it is not only the directors that get to choose, but the dancers also gets to choose who they want to be with!” says Brown. She was determined to make this Ballet audition happen this year, for too long the octogenarian has witnessed what she refers to as “the lost opportunities” of countless Black ballet students.

Denise Saunders Thompson, IABD’s executive director brought Brown’s vision to fruition by gathering people and organizations to unite resources. She enrolled Executive Director of Dance/USA, Amy Fitterer, to help galvanize the Artistic Directors of ballet organizations and get them on board. She knew that if she could get a few large companies behind the idea, the rest would follow. During the follow-up debriefing  for the Dance /USA Town Hall Race and Dance: Real Talk panel with Fitterer,  Executive directors (San Francisco Ballet, Charlotte Ballet, New York City Ballet) and panelist Theresa Ruth Howard of the newly formed MoBBallet, Thompson floated the idea to see if they thought it would work, and all were on board. The caveat was that, IADB required participating organizations to come with something tangible to offer – “A contract to a first or second company, an apprenticeship, or training scholarship. You just can’t come into the room and observe. They [the Artistic Directors] answered the call, now let’s see what the commitment is going to be.You have to be ready to commit!” Thompson said emphatically.

There was a great deal riding on the success of this endeavor – if it went well it could be the start of a new approach to an old problem. Every scenario was taken into consideration: Who would the dancers be? Could dancers afford to make the trek? Would there be backlash if no offers were made? The planning team took these realities into consideration but would not let themselves not be stymied by them. The audition might not go perfectly but it would be action, a new approach, and we all would learn and grow from the experience. Due to generous donations The John Jones Memorial Fund, donated by Black Ballerina Ms. Delores Browne and the American Dance Institute (ADI) Future Artists Initiative, supporting diversity in Dance Education, IABD was able to sponsor a great number of the dancers.

Taking full advantage of having incredible amounts of power in one venue, IABD hosted a two hour “meet and greet” prior to the audition. This was an opportunity for everyone in that room to take a collective leap into the unknown with an authentic, honest talk about race and ballet. “The larger more vital aspect of this event is the fact this is the first time that the ballet world would enter the Black dance community and sit at a table to discuss us, with us. We have talked about diversity in our own spaces, but never have artistic directors, the “choice makers”, the people who actually are responsible for the aesthetic and for hiring, ever sat at a table with the Black dance community. Now we can build a relationship, a network, and a support system. I think it is really the only way that we are going to make some headway and enact change.” Says MoBBallet’s Theresa Ruth Howard.

What could have been an awkward or tense situation instead teemed with excitement and possibility. It was a room of people ready for change, looking for answers, guidance, and willing to band together to make it happen. “I know that this is a conversation that has been going on for decades, but there really does seem to be something different now… where maybe there really is an opportunity to make lasting change.”Dance USA’s Amy Fitterer remarked.

“We said to these artistic directors, it is more than a conversation, it is about action. This is a call to action. This is your opportunity to respond. And to really be apart of the real conversation of how you are going to diversify your organization, and… watching you do it.” Thompson explained.

The audition was held at IABD founding member, and the conference’s host, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance studios. The studio was packed – ballet representatives lined the mirrors, filling the barres were 87 hopeful dancers ranging in age from 15 to mid 20’s, representing every race and colors spanning the sepia spectrum. Robert Garland (of Dance Theater Harlem) prepared a variation, and the honorable Delores Brown, one of the America’s premier Black Ballerinas with the New York Negro Ballet (1957) began the barre. For the next three hours, the beauty, talent, and diversity of black female ballet dancers from around the globe was on display.

Quickly the fears about the level of the dancers were allayed, it proved to be like any other audition: strong, weak, and everything in-between. When the audition concluded, directors announced their picks, and dancers were welcome to approach whomever they were interested in for information and feedback. All representatives found candidates for summer intensive training and even company auditions (the final results are presently being tallied). The most important outcome was the enthusiastic desire and commitment to continuing the dialogue and building a network so that both communities can support one another going forward. As the room began to empty, the sight of Joan Myers Brown and Delores Brown standing together surveying what was taking place was monumental.

This is the only the start, there are plans to develop a caucus that would expand on these nascent efforts. Not even the snowstorm in the East could hinder this historical moment. It was a perfect coda to spectacular conference! After over 60 years Joan Myers Brown who long ago wanted to the the first Black ballerina was once again feeling the possibilities of the doors opening up was overwhelmed seeing manifestation of her most recent dream, “We did it, I am so grateful to you all, I really am” Myers Brown said with her hand to her heart, her eyes filled with emotion.

Adjudicators Present

Ballet Memphis
1. Dorothy Gunther Pugh, Founder & Artistic Director
2. Brian McSween, Ballet Master

Pennsylvania Ballet II
1. Francis Veyette, Director

Colorado Ballet
1. Gil Boggs, Artistic Director

1. Amy Fitterer, Executive Director

Charlotte Ballet
1. Ayisha McMillan Cravotta, Academy Director
2. Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, President & Artistic Director

Joffrey Ballet
1. Ashley Wheater, Artistic Director

Dance Theatre of Harlem
1. Virginia Johnson, Artistic Director

Houston Ballet
1. Stanton Welch, Artistic Director

Pacific Northwest Ballet
1. Peter Boal, Artistic Director

San Francisco Ballet
1. Patrick Armand, Artistic Director
2. Andrea (Andi) Yannone, Director of Education and Training

Kansas City Ballet
1. Devon Carney, Artistic Director

Washington Ballet
1. Erin Du, Co-Director of the Future Artist Initiative, American Dance Institute
(representative for Septime Webre)

Oregon Ballet Theatre
1. Kevin Irving, Artistic Director

School of Nashville Ballet
1. Hershel Horner, Full Time Faculty, Contemporary

Jacob’s Pillow
1. JR Glover, Director of Education

School of American Ballet (Observer only)
1. Leah Quintiliano, Diversity Program Manager

Essena O’Neill invites us to -Let’s Be Game Changers, as she exposes the “Fakeness” of Social media

It’s not a mystery that Instagram is saturated with highly edited, photoshopped and filtered photos where people present not only the “best” of themselves but sometimes altogether fictitious representations of themselves. There are people who have made careers out of their postings. The Kardashians are the best example of how lucrative perfect posting can be.(Remember the story about how Kim and Kanye spent their honeymoon editing one wedding photo)

Where Instagram is a wonderful way to share your world with others, participating in it opens you up to being judged, insulted and bashed . It is a perfect environment for the development of insecurities about your life, relationships and yes your body. When people have the capacity to present an image of their lives with all the hardship, drama, and well…reality extracted smoothed out filtered it can make you feel in adequate and less then. When you engage in it yourself you open yourself up to a level of scrutiny and judgement that can range from simply harsh, to cruel. Social media is the superhighway of cyberbullies.

Well Essena O’Neil for whom social media is her industry, has had enough and deleted her social media pages, and officially re-named her IG account “Social Media Is Not Real Life”


In this Youtube rant sh explains why she has made the shift:

then retaliated by starting a site that exposed how those perfectly lit Instagram pics are made, Let’s Be Game Changers. I think its a wonderful idea, though it takes a while to stop a train that is going 300mph every little pump of the breaks helps. I think it is a witty and intelligent way to expose that we already know but often forget to take into consideration. If something like this can remind us that those images that we are coveting have a less then authentic back story perhaps they won’t have such an effect on the way we feel about ourselves, o r at the very least we can giggle at her captions…

NYT Editor Jazmine Hughes shares how dressing like Empire’s Cookie Lyons for a week shifted her self image…

I Dressed Like Cookie for a Week to Get Over My Imposter Syndrome

Six months ago, I was hired to work for the New York Times. Ever since then, I’ve struggled to feel like I really deserved the job. Would dressing like I was the most formidable character on Empire help?

Like all good things, it started at brunch. It was a bitter January, before Empire even premiered and the idea that I would ever wear a leopard-print fedora was even a possibility. I was sitting in a restaurant, sipping my tea and absentmindedly checking my email, patting myself on the back for the biggest accomplishment of my life so far — going to two brunches on the same hungover Sunday morning — when a hiring editor at the New York Times magazine emailed me about a job opening. I choked on my tea.

Several weeks of interviews and edit tests followed, but through it all, I kept thinking: There’s no way I’m going to get this job. Most of this anxiety was rooted in not looking and feeling the part: For one, I’m not a white dude. My career is relatively inchoate; my editing experience meager. I don’t speak any other languages. I didn’t go to an Ivy League … I can barely spell the word “February.” It seemed totally unlikely, so I forged ahead, practically insouciant, convinced I had nothing to lose because I didn’t have much to offer.

Then, one afternoon in March, the editor-in-chief called me and offered me the job. He paused a little for dramatic effect; waiting for Ashton Kutcher to pop out, I did too. I finally gurgled some approximation of “thanks” in response, but what I really wanted to say was: “How dare you make me make such a life-altering decision on the day of the season finale of Empire?

Empire is not a particularly good show — it’s highly implausible, cloying, sometimes preachy — but it’s an absolutely perfect one. I started in the middle of the first season, gobbling up each episode like the decadent treats they are until I was finally all caught up. I found at the center of the show, sweetest of all, there is — and forgive me for this — a pretty tough Cookie.

Taraji P. Henson’s portrayal of Cookie is rich and luxurious, both out-of-this-world fabulous (she left jail in a cheetah dress and a fur, exactly what I want to be buried in) and around-the-corner familiar (every black person has a cousin called Cookie, for reasons we will never explain). Ever confident, Cookie’s primary goal is to reclaim her space; her mission, known from the first episode, is “I’m here to get what’s mine.”

I’m now six months into working at the Times — markedly less full of anxiety and ineptitude since day one, but despite working with the kindest and most attractive people in journalism, I’m still pretty uncomfortable. I love my job, but there are still days where I’m convinced I don’t belong, racked by the fear that someone is going to find me out and show me the door. This is called impostor syndrome, which I know a lot about (I’ve even written about it): a state in which a person isn’t able to accept their accomplishments, chalking it up to luck or a mistake. But what I like to think I have is an enhanced impostor syndrome: a state in which a person goes, “No, I know about impostor syndrome, I’ve actually read the entire Wikipedia page, but this definitely isn’t it, I actually am completely incompetent.” (But that’s just … impostor syndrome.) Either way, I figured: Hey, if Cookie can regain the space she’d lost, then maybe I can carve some space out for myself.

Dressing in Cookie’s finest was a departure from my usual garb, what I like to call “background actress in a nonspecific media setting” — Warby Parkers, a blazer, T-shirt, skinny jeans, Converse. I brought a pile of clothes home from HQ on a Friday night after warning my desk mate about my imminent new look. I began my Monday commute in piles of jewelry, a leopard print skirt, and leather shirt. People were mostly unimpressed by me on the train, but I was impressed by every woman who’s ever gotten through an entire day in giant heels. My entire life flashed by, sad and pimply, through my 40 bar-holding minutes standing in platforms.

 FOX/Kathleen Kamphausen
This is possibly the best photo ever taken of me in my life. I don’t know how Kanye West wears a leather shirt every day. I’m schvitzing.


I stumbled to my desk. My coworkers noticed my new look immediately: tuts of approval, questions about where I bought everything. But on the second day, when I arrived in the leopard-print dress, bag, and precariously cocked hat, I had to come clean: I was doing this for an article. None of the clothes were mine. Yes, the shoes really fucking hurt.

 FOX/Kathleen Kamphausen
Continue the Article here

Demi Lovato Bare- Vanity Fair shoot gives her the chance to show her healing

For those who have followed Demi Lovato’s career you are well aware that in her young life she has achieved and endured much. The former Disney star has enjoyed success both in television and on the pop charts but the pressures connected with life in the entertainment business also lead to an all too common stint in rehab, and an eating disorder. It seems that now Lovato is on the back end of those troubles and her new strength of self as allowed her not only to go bare faced for her new Vanity Fair shoot, but bare bodied as well. When Lovato reemerged onto the scene after being treated for her eating disorder, she was healthier inside and out which of course sparked some not so pleasant or supportive conversations about how her body had changed, (which was exactly want a recovering person DOESN’T need). She weathered the storm and has become a wonderful success story for all those girls and women out there who are having body image insecurities, or suffering with eating disorders, you CAN overcome and as Lovato says “Love the skin you’re in”

“In the past, I suffered from eating disorders and I basically went from hating every single inch of my body to working on myself and trying to figure out ways to love myself, love the skin that I’m in. I learned, after working very hard on my spirituality and my soul and my body, that you can get to a place where you love the skin you’re in. And I’m excited to share that with the world.”

Camille A. Brown’s BLACK GIRL:LINGUISTIC PLAY presented at the Joyce Theater



Directed and Choreographed by Camille A. Brown (In collaboration with the woman of CABD)
Music : Scott Paterson and Tracy Wormworth
Set Design: Elizabeth C. Nelson


I must make the disclosure that I am a friend of Camille A. Brown, the highly decorated choreographer, (Bessie Award winner, two time Princess Grace Award Winner) hence reviewing her work could be seen as a conflict of interests. I have been remotely privy to her process, and had seen some brief clips of sections but all in all when I arrived at the Joyce Theatre September 22nd, 2015 I was relatively in the dark about what I was about to see.

Black Girl… the term itself is at once provocative, and evocative. It is weighted and complex, a term that can mean a myriad of things depending on the tone of its utterance. Said with raised eyebrows, pursed lips, pointer finger erect, and a swiveling serpent’s head brings to mind all that is equated with being “Ghetto” low class, ignorant and “Street”. This Black girl spits phrases like “Oh no you didn’t,” “Oh see, I will cut choo” box braids, baby mama’s, hands on hips…that sass, and verve, that fire, aggression and strength that enables her to “hold it down” is regarded as a negative. When said clear and strong with head held high, an unseen fist in the air, this Black girl (although she embodies the same adjectives as the first girl) her clarity of self, and ownership of her history, makes her more threatening. Where they both can “read” the former wields her tongue like a machete, the latter like a scalpel. Finally “Black girl” when whispered gently, with lips that slowly curl into a sly grin, and an almost imperceptible nod of the head, indicates that the speaker has just revealed one of world’s best kept secrets, “Black Girl Genius”. This is how post show talk back moderator Mark Anthony Neal so eloquently referred to the deliciously complex and ingenuitive matrix of what is “Black Girl” magic.

When the curtain rose, besides the varied leveled platforms, the first thing you notice is a huge chalkboard riddled with brightly colored childlike doodles. It appears as though someone has taken a slab of inner city concrete where children have mused away an afternoon, and turned it upright. In this simple gesture Brown and set designer Elizabeth C. Nelson have at elevated inner city play into art. Tracy Wormworth begins a slow and deliberate solo on a bass guitar, the feel and sound is reminiscent of a jazz club either before it opens, or before it closes, there is faint haze in the air (Scott Paterson’s score creates a haunting backdrop for the work). Brown in front of the chalkboard board begins a solo that could be considered her thesis statement of sorts, a physicalized foreshadowing of what is come. Clad in cut off denim shorts, a fuchsia top tied into a midriff, braids and lips matching her top, Brown put me in mind of a character out of an 80’s Spike Lee Joint as she referenced both physical behaviors and social dances from that time. It brought my teen and childhood years back to me in a rush. Clearly other members of the audience (undoubtably Black) are having the same experience as there were sniggers, and “Humphs” and a smatterings of “ok nows” as we recognize the Whop, the Dougie, a pose or gesture. We “get” what is happening up there, because we recognize ourselves. There was a particularly brilliant section when Brown in profile performs various forms of “Black girl” walks from B girl, a sassy church step touch, heel toe, stomping to tipping.

It is at that moment that I realized that regardless of my relationship to Camille, I understand that this story she is telling, is my story, our story and I must write about it. It is something of a secret to those outside of our culture, and the white people in the audience, though they may like it, and some critics might even hail it, they will almost certainly not fully understand the depth and complexity of what they are witnessing, the history, the legacy, genius. It’s like that old At&T commercial you have to “Know the Code” and without it you can only appreciate the work from a superficial perspective which, can be a completely fulfilling experience, but not its totality. It is like listing to a song in another language, you can appreciate it for its beauty, but that is very different from understanding not just the translation but the cultural sentiment of the lyrics. This is not a judgement, it’s a truth. A great deal of culturally specific work is mis, or under-understood. That is in and of itself is not the problem, the problem is when critics cannot admit their ignorance to a genre or topic, thus reduce it down to something far more simplistic than what it truly is. This happens a lot with artist of colors and critique, there is a diminishment of their work, with an underlying feeling of resentment because the writer (in their ignorance) was made to feel callow and outside the work. So instead of simply admitting that is beyond their personal scope, they reduce it.

The second movement is a duet between Brown and Catherine Foster. Foster and Brown have been friends and colleagues for many years and it shows in this virtuosically rhythmical duet that has its roots street games and at times hinges on their ability to almost become one person. The duet really takes off when the two do that familiar rock back and forth as if preparing to jump into the Double Dutch ropes, from there it does not stop. In the intricate weaving of Double Dutch “footies” steps, drill team stomping, rhythms akin to hambone, tap and African dance even a dope reggae beat, Brown draws a map of the history young Black girls on urban streets are engaged in as they play everyday. The welling up of nostalgia and pride was overtaken by that by sorrow as I watched, for it was the first time that I could see the beauty of my culture honored and respected, to see the artistry, the elegance, ingenuity… the “genius” in Black girl…Linguistic Play.

The middle of the duet brought with it a bit of comedy as the two girls (through a murmured soundtrack) hear another group of girls talking about them. The familiar “She thinks she cute, she ain’t all that…” when Brown motions to take her big gold earring off (Black Girl code for preparing to fight) audience members in the “know” erupt. BLACK GIRL strikes a perfect balance of showing the brilliance, the beauty and the feistiness of Black Women without the stereotypical booty shaking and twerking. There is a tenderness and a strength that is seldom presented. Camille A. Brown does for Black women in dance, what Shonda Rimes has done for Black actresses, she as made them human with all the messy, divine complexity inherent in that condition.

The third movement was a tender coming of age story with a sentimental arch beautifully danced —nay acted by Beatrice Capote and Fana Fraser. The two begin carrying on the street play theme until puberty hits and Fraser discovers boys, and the power of her feminine form has over them. The two compete for male attention trying to out flirt one another unto battery, all against the chalkboard. They literally smudge out their innocence. It is a story many women (of all races) are familiar with, after the heartbreaking battle they find themselves estranged, Fraser feeling guilty for instigating, Capote distraught. Eventually they find their way back to one another. Sisterhood is the anchor for this work something you see precious little of when it comes to Black Women especially on reality television. With popularity of the Real Housewives of Atlanta, Love and Hip Hop, and Basketball Wives, one would think that all Black women do is fuss, fight, and pull weaves while wearing ill-fitting, too-tight clothing. Here, Brown presents something more akin to the everyday reality.

It was around this time that I started to think about what’s happening in the media today, the cultural appropriation of the Black Girl image that is on trend. Where we have grown accustom to white women stealing our hair styles (whether getting their hair braided on a beach in the Caribbean) or using bronzers and spray tans recreate our color, but it is the ubiquity of the appropriation of our bodies that is most disturbing of late. White girls rocking alien looking butt implants, and over injected lips that, on their lighter bodies enjoy a sublimation from “Ghetto” Booty and “Nigger” lips to something sexy and attractive (Kylie Jenner). It is an insult. Vogue’s Patricia Garcia citing literally fake-ass Iggy Azelea and Kim Kardashian for making Big Butts fashionable, Please. This is the feeling that came over me in the theater. I was upset that my cultural birthrights are being syphoned off co-opted. Then former NAACP chapter leader Rachel Dolezal came to mind. This woman who “Identifies Black” hence felt she was well within her right to present herself as such, NEVER HAD THE EXPERIENCES THAT I WAS WATCHING ON THE STAGE. She didn’t play these street games, get chased out of white neighborhoods when it was getting dark because you were on “their” block, she never sat between her mother’s legs and got her scalp greased and hair combed at night before she went to bed with her head wrapped a scarf. She was NEVER a BLACK GIRL. She “became” a “Black” woman when she was in her 20’s. It is a fact that you feel but feelings aren’t facts you can “feel” like you are Black, the fact is you are not… But I digress (into my feelings).

Yusha -Marie Sorzano
Yusha -Marie Sorzano

Yusha-Marie Sorzano performs an exquisitely nuanced solo, she is searching, troubled, perhaps a bit lost, she is joined by Mora-Amina- Parker who appears to be a mother/sister figure. One of the most poignant moments of the duet is when Parker, with Sorzano seated between her legs combs her hair and soothes her soul concomitantly. This gesture is one familiar to all Black women (Dolezal excluded), it is ritualistic, sacred, a rite of passage, for you will go from getting your hair done, to doing someone’s hair. Whether it is your Mother, sister, aunty, cousin, girlfriend or even the girl down the block you paid to do your braids, this act is so heavily layered with meaning. In this act of grooming there is nurturing, caring, bonding, sharing, tenderness, sternness, joy, pleasure, pain. There is such intense intimacy in those moments of getting your hair combed that the sense memory evoked from watching the gesture performed is almost palpable for Black women. Where this duet seemed less defined then the previous two, in the Talk Back when Brown explains the final gesture (Soranzo rests her head on Parker’s feet) by explaining that it illustrated her own in longing to simply…rest. Black women seldom get to …rest. In hindsight (and with a bit more information) it is clearer. Speaking of more information, Brown did not miss a beat, almost in anticipation of the “lack of understanding” she adroitly added a reference and resource guide in the program, undoubtedly to help laypeople and writers decode the work. Likewise the Talk Back is built into the running time of the piece, which aids those who are culturally illiterate in gaining a greater understanding and hopefully an appreciation for the work over all. In addition audience members get share their experiences which Brown, who no doubt takes in and uses to further refine and tweak the work.

BLACK GIRL” LINGUISTIC PLAY is a timely piece, it is a necessary piece, it is a work that truly pays homage to the Black Girl experience, as Brown said in the talk back when asked about the platforms of her set, “I just wanted to elevate us as high as we could be” and she did. She gave a very different view of the perception of who and what Black girls are, as did the square mirrors hanging at various angles from the ceiling did. BLACK GIRL: LINGUISTIC PLAY is nothing at all what you might expect just hearing the title, but everything you need to know about Black Girls. presents:​Portrait of a Dancer: Lauren Cuthbertson

Truly beautiful and inspiring…


Lauren Cuthbertson is a principal dancer with the Royal Ballet of London.

The T.Ruth of the Matter

The irony of life never ceases to amaze. Daily we are in are hot pursuit of the perfection, we take class adding, subtracting and re-draping warm-ups, retouching our hair, and touch and pat ourselves during combinations to make sure everything is just so. Even on our best days in the thin leotard, when the body feels good, and we are on our leg there is something that just isn’t right. No matter what we can always find something about ourselves to hate. Let’s face it the ritualistic practice self-debasement is almost a prerequisite for being a dancer. Around the same time we learn to Tombé pas de Bourré, we learn to think “Gee I suck today”. To tell the truth there is a whole body of things to loathe in all its parts, there are technical shortcomings, the things that never seem to get better even after years of effort, not to mention the things we can’t do anything about (bowed legs are bowed legs get over it and wing your foot) However the package of self deprecation would not be complete without the futile wanting to be the very thing we are not.
We could go our whole lives thinking little of ourselves but the Universe has an equalizer, nothing snaps us into the state of appreciation like being broken down. When you’re sitting on the PT’s table getting an assessment of what has you on ice and Advil, when the doctor is assuring you that it’s just a few weeks before you can start to take class, when you’re rehabbing with electric stem, reformers, exercise bikes and therabands your thoughts go back to the good old bad days when you weren’t hobbled and ginched. It’s hard to believe that just three weeks ago you dreaded facing yourself in dance clothes, now you miss the sight of your jiggly ass, and thought it wasn’t perfect you could arabesque without that shooting pain in your back, though your foot didn’t point like a cashew you could land from jumps without thought, and even though you were never a multiple turner you could do a clean two and finish without that twinge in your knee. You watch class or rehearsal and dance the steps in your mind, remembering when you could work that out. Isn’t it ironic that when you can’t dance the teacher gives all the things you used to do well? It’s as if the Universe means to anchor the lesson “You never miss a good thing until it’s gone.”
After the swelling goes down, the brace comes off, when you get the okay to jump and you make it through you first pain free week of dance, just when your starting to feel secure on your feet again, you’re feeling strong enough to try dancing without the worry of re-injury, you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror and spy that thick thigh in the crooked arabesque with the biscuit foot at the end. It’s then that you realize that you’re back!

The Wisdom of King

I have for a long time loved Alonzo Kings’ movement.

About eight years ago I was working on a project in San Francisco we rehearsed in the San Francisco Dance Center that houses Lines Ballet company. As we were working with a couple of his dancers, one of whom was a green and adorable Brett Conway, I got to inquiring about what it was like to work with King. With no exaggeration every dancer in his company I encountered told me that it was the greatest opportunity they had experienced, it was hard and demanding but they all seemed challenged, fulfilled and creatively happy. Now I know about the PR spiel that dancers are taught to spout when asked an honest (but loaded) and possibly political question. I have a BS detector and I have to say these dancers seemed to be telling the truth- they also said it would be nice to have more money- and (at the time) more work, but they were happy.

I had not yet met Mr. King.

That happened a year or so later when I was Venice performing and the Dance Biennale working with Karole Armitage, LINES was also there to perform. I went to their performance was blown away. After the show I finally met King, we were instantly taken with one another and he invited me to the post show dinner. When we arrived at the restaurant he asked me to sit beside him “We are not finished” he stated. We laughed and talked into the wee hours. Such that my fellow dancers left me at the restaurant basking in the glow of the King and when I looked up it was 2 am and I was unclear as to where I was or how to get back to my apartment. All I knew was to follow the signs that said Ospetale. Alonzo (as I felt at this point comfortable enough to call him) offered to see me home safely.

We ended up wandering the alley like streets of Venice on a treasure hunt for signs that read “Hospital” laughing at ourselves all the way. I am convinced that we would still be lost had it not been for a drunken Italian man who insisted upon helping us. The New Yorker in me did not trust him and the whole time I had to keep his hands at bay- this amused the King a great deal. Subsequent to that evening I have had the opportunity to deepen my relationship with him through the discussion of art and choreography. At one point I told him I wanted to come and live with him to get inside his head his reply “Come on”. When he created the BFA Program with Dominican University I did not hesitate to recommend it to my graduating students, mainly because I trusted the intention and the philosophy that infuses his being, and is passed on to his dancers, hence his teachers and his programs.

Here is a video which illustrates what I fell in love with that night in Venice. I wish the dance world had more Alonzo Kings, then we as dancers would be healthier artists emotionally and spiritually inside and out.

LINES Ballet from LINES Ballet on Vimeo.

Mindy Kaling on Body Image…If we could all get to this place….

You know Mindy Kaling the chubby Indian girl from the office, and from her own show the Mindy Project?… Oh It’s totally fine that I called her chubby, she’s cool with it, just don’t call her stupid!!!

poses in the press room during the PEOPLE Magazine Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on December 18, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California.
poses in the press room during the PEOPLE Magazine Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on December 18, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California.

“You know what’s funny? If I call myself a cute, chubby girl, the natural kind woman’s response is, ‘You’re not chubby! You’re beautiful! And thin!’ And I always want to hug the person and say, ‘It’s OK, I identify as someone who is cute and chubby – that doesn’t mean I’m not worthy of love and attention and intimacy.’ And also, my priorities are not such that I’m mortally offended by someone thinking that.”


“Insults about the way I look can’t be the thing that harms me and my heart the most. It has to harm me the least. If I have a daughter, I’m going to tell her that. Far too many women are much more hurt by being called fat or ugly than they are by being called not smart, or not a leader. If someone told me that I was stupid or that I wasn’t a leader, or that I wasn’t witty or quick or perceptive, I’d be devastated. If someone told me that I had a gross body, I’d say, ‘Well, it’s bringing me a lot of happiness.’ Like, I’m having a fine time of it. Having my priorities aligned like that has helped me have a happier life, I think.”

Her new book  Why not Me? comes out in a few weeks check it out

What The ‘Ideal’ Woman’s Body Looks Like In 18 Countries

I have very conflicting feelings about this…

I think this is an experiment with good intentions, but I think that the perspective of its originator is highly evident given the way it was undertaken. They took a photo of a woman, this woman:And gave it to photoshop experts around the world to make her into the ideal woman in their country…  The first question I have is “Why do we need to work with a specific template?”  Where I am pleased that she is on the “larger” side (I guess they had to have something to take away…) why are we using the image of one white woman in a multi-cultured experiment?

Why not just ask the photoshoppers to use a picture of a woman FROM their country and then doctor that? This way  Egypt would not have to darken her skin, and China would not have to blacken the hair and change the eyes, and we could get a real sense of what their ideal is. The act of photoshopping already creates an uncomfortable distortion, and the changes to make this image somewhat culturally represent their nation makes the images even creepier…

The other thing that irked me is the once again there are no BLACK – or Brown nations represented yes there is South Africa but they went with the “White” South African aesthetic….Surprise Surprise. Where is Kenya, Nigeria, India, the West Indies? Once again the Black or African ideal of beauty is nowhere to be found, we don’t even rank…Wonder why I write a blog about body image? Anyway check this out:
Hosted by:

What does a “perfect body” look like? It depends who you ask — and where they are.

UK online pharmacy Superdrug Online Doctors recently created a project called “Perceptions Of Perfection” that features 18 photoshopped images of the same woman. The company hired designers from countries around the world to photoshop a stock image via Shutterstock to reflect the beauty standards of their specific countries.

“Widely held perceptions of beauty and perfection can have a deep and lasting cultural impact on both women and men,” a Superdrug press release reads. “The goal of this project is to better understand potentially unrealistic standards of beauty and to see how such pressures vary around the world.”

The company asked 18 designers from 18 countries spanning five continents to photoshop an image of a woman to fit their perception of the culture’s beauty standards. Below is the original image before the designers photoshopped it:

Click to see the rest :

What The ‘Ideal’ Woman’s Body Looks Like In 18 Countries