S&S Module 8: Implicit Bias in Dance History Curriculum
As we are in the process of interrogating where systemic racism and, as a byproduct, implicit bias lie within the historical and traditional pedagogy, and examining or building our teaching philosophies (through the lens of IDEA and cultural competence), it is vital that we look at the role history plays in holding the structure in place.
Ballet has traditionally been taught through its ‘history.’ From the regality of the courts and the dress of the times informing the uprightness of the times, the archetypes of the ballerina (waifish fragile) and Cavaliers (danseur noble), and the binary gender norms, to the characters in the canonical ballets, and the tools of the trade (pink shoes and tights), they are all rooted in ballet’s European origins. This is not inherently the problem—it is a fact. The issue lies in how that history has been skewed and edited to amplify some aspects and omit others, based on white supremacy that needs to be addressed.
Whether teaching in academia or in a conservatory, whether in an academic course or in variations class, as educators, we have to redesign our relationship with the ballet history we were taught and teach, in addition to expanding our knowledge of that history to include non-white contributors.
This conversation about addressing implicit bias in ballet from the MoBBallet Virtual Symposium in 2020 is a beautiful provocation.
Addressing Implicit Bias in Dance History curriculum – How do we combat it? a robust conversation that will investigate current dance history curriculum and how it often omits and ultimately, segregates black dance contributions, specifically through the lens of ballet. Observe how dance professors craft their curriculum towards a more holistic and inclusive method to give students a fuller perspective of the intersectionality of dance.
Chandra Moss-Thorne, Lecturer, Swarthmore College and Visiting Artist, Stockton University
Adesola Akinleye, Senior Dance Lecturer at Middlesex University, UK
Nyama McCarthy-Brown, Assistant Professor at Ohio State University
Derek Reid, Associate Professor of Dance at Butler University
Charmian Wells, Ph. D in dance studies, cultural historian