I work as a diversity, equity, and inclusion manager at a predominately white company. I’ve come to this work by way of advocating for and creating space in the predominately white dance/movement therapy world. I got to dance/movement therapy by way of falling in love with dance as a teen. Dance became a core part of my identity and wellbeing. It has continued to teach me lessons about myself, resiliency, relationships, and most recently about anti-racism and justice work.
In the dance world, full out means 100%, full effort and energy, giving it your all. It’s an important part of the rehearsal process to making your performance as close to perfect as possible. As I reflected on a session with white women who are being asked to admit their role in harming a group of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of color) and white allies, I realized one major barrier in white folks engaging in anti-racism work is that they don’t practice it enough and when they do practice it, it’s not full out. They are missing that important part of the process.
Here are a few reasons why full out is important:
1. It helps you and everyone you’re sharing the stage with realize what you do or don’t know, what your body remembers or doesn’t, and what you need to polish before showtime. You can get feedback on the parts of your performance you’re missing, and you can make those corrections and adjustments ahead of time, so you can be as close to perfect as possible on show day.
2. Practicing full out teaches you how to mess up and correct yourself. No one is perfect, you will miss a step. However, doing that in rehearsal makes you more confident in your ability to misstep and not completely shut down during performance. You learn how to hold your face, fall back into rhythm, and end the piece with as much dignity as possible. You learn how to fall down, get back up and literally keep it moving.
3. In dances that are emotionally evocative, dancing full out helps you learn how to respond to those emotions and experiences you pull from. Sometimes when a dancer has effectively communicated a feeling to an audience, they’ve dug into a place. And let me tell you, when you’ve really unearthed some shit, it will mess you up! Ok? If you don’t rehearse it full out, you won’t know how it will hit you until it’s too late. Practicing full out helps you understand your triggers, how to keep moving despite your emotions, end that performance and leave it onstage, how to gather yourself backstage, and keep it pushing thereafter.
4. On show day, there’s so many moving parts, thoughts, and feelings. You have to navigate a dressing room with other performers, deal with tech, costume, hair or make-up issues, and field calls about tickets, entrances, start times, and well wishes. Knowing that you’ve done work on the things you could control beforehand and are confident about your abilities, gives you one less thing to worry about on show day.
White people do not practice anti-racism full out most of the time. They “mark it” or exert minimal energy, tiptoe into it, hold back, and remain on the surface of the work. It’s uncomfortable work that they don’t want to sit in, so they hold back. Then, when it’s time to perform an anti-racist action, they don’t know how to do it. They don’t know how to receive feedback, they don’t know how to navigate through a mistake, they don’t know how to deal with the emotion, and they don’t have the confidence of knowing they are doing their best. Then, on stage they freeze or flee, which ultimately harms BIPOC folks.
White folks if you’re reading this, you MUST practice anti-racism full out. Every single time, every single day. You must practice acting against racism so that when curtains open and your action (or inaction) has a big impact, you have more knowledge on how to put your best foot forward. Black, Brown, Indigenous, Native, Asian, Latinx/Latine and all other folks of color, don’t get to mark racism. We experience it full force every day and it hurts every time. If we can endure that, y’all have no excuse.