“Shadow Dancer: Indigenous Dance in HigherEducation”
An Open Letter To Higher Education,
My name is Agpalo Alongi Makinta, born Brandin Josue Alvarez, son of Tamika Henry and Christopher Alvarez, grandson of Joyce Henderson, Frank Henry, Flora Josue, and Ceferino Alvarez, great grandson of Teodoro Alvarez, Justina Devytiaco, Perfecto Josue, Cergia Maquinta, Frank Henry Sr., Millie Daniels, Jethro Henderson, and Irene Oliphant.
Through ancestral dance I have found strength. However, during my time both in grade school and higher education, I have seen very few of the caricatures that I have grown so familiar with, having grown up around peers who were culture bearers practicing cultural resistance. I have found myself
disillusioned with a dance community and college system that has chosen to both utilize Eurocentric dance styles as core dance technique but has also made a clear delineation between “Folk Dance,” and “Classical Technique Courses.” I may be presumptuous but, it seems that even European folk dance is lifted to a higher platform than that of the Black and Brown Diaspora. H that is a conversation for another time.
As the caretakers of each individual within the college community, do you not feel you have an obligation to create open safe spaces for Black and Brown students of higher education through course curriculum and representation? While my current home college has made it a point to include Black and Brown representation in dance There is also the enormous task of decentralizing Eurocentric ideas, dance techniques, and ideologies around staged performance. Intuitive Dance which is often an integral part of Indigenous dance often utilizes improvised movements and should be acceptable forms of performance even when on the stage. The idea taught in higher education that staged performances must be codified in its entirety further distances the Black and Brown student and artist from the hopes of ever being able to share their works with the larger overlapping communities.
As a student at San Francisco State University, I have been extremely humbled to find a dance department that embraces cultural diversity through amazing professors that find importance in centering Indigenous, Black, Brown, Queer representations within dance but there is still so much work to do even at a school that is as progressive as San Francisco State. Below is a list of proposed classes for the Spring
of 2022 at SFSU:
● Dance 173 - Modern Dance 1
● Dance 208 - Cultural History of Dance
● Dance 236 - Folklore of Dance: African-Haitian
● Dance 263 - Ballet II
● Dance 276 - Modern Jazz II
● Dance 399 - University Dance Theatre
● Dance 434 - Dance Composition: Choreography II
● Dance 474 - Modern Dance IV
While other institutions that I have studied at are a far cry from the options given even within the the span of just a semester at SFSU, it is clear that as a whole Eurocentric dance styles, along with American dance
styles that were codified through the stealing and erasure of Black and Brown Indigenous cultures they
often try to emulate, are favored over “Folk Dance.”
The continued erasure of Black and Brown culture can be seen in the classroom when one notices that the majority of the bodies filling the space are White and it will not be accepted nor will I remain complacent. This open letter is not just that, it is a call to action and a demand that Higher Education as well as grade school make a conscious effort to create safe spaces for Black and Brown dancers through representation in the form of class options, professors, and performance opportunities.
Agpalo Alongi Makinta