York University’s faculty of Arts Media Performance and Dance has publicly committed to “implementation of significant and sustainable inclusive practices and an equity framework to promote equal access and recognition of the multiplicities across all departments and programs in AMPD.” (equity-plan) They have detailed documentation outlining their plan to achieve this objective.
However in practice— the dance program does grave injustice to Hip Hop dance history, culture and studies. The Hip Hop component is non compsulary and lacks depth and canadian hip hop dance history. Much like other institutions that capitalise on performative equity and inclusion, York’s teaching of Hip Hop dance are centred on breakdance.
Things to reflect on:
- Is York doing enough to include Canadian hip hop dance as a core component of the dance degree?
- Why is Hip Hop not part of the dance undergrad degree?
- Should Hip Hop be a core part of the dance program at York?
On August 26th, 2020 Shenel Williams wrote an open letter to Dean Sarah Bay-Cheng and Professor Susan Cash of the Dance Department Faculty at York University. Shenel contacted her former high school teacher Lia Murphy (Downsview SS- TDSB) for support in developing an action plan. Lia is an alumni of York University Dance program and immediately recalled her experience in the program as being very Eurocentric and culturally homogeneous. Lia contacted her network of educators, artist and community leaders to help support Shenel’s open letter. Kayode Brown of Just BGRAPHIC worked closely with Lia, participating in a series of meetings and discussions with the Dean, and her faculty staff on the issues.
We had many optimistic discussion that spanned two years; ultimately resulting in performative changes that do not address any of the systemic changes required. In the meetings the AMPD faculty agreed whole heartedly in the suggestions and recommendations we presented, which included the need to redesign the dance program.
Here’s our plan
We are inviting all students in high school and University to join the conversation with community leaders, educators, professors and parents about Hip Hop Dance not being offered in post secondary education.
Identify the issue
Shenel started this movement by being honest and brave about her experience in the dance program. Representation matters, and we need your voices to amplify the effects of lack of representation in the arts.
Create a plan
We need hear your thoughts and opinions on how schools can be more inclusive in the arts.
Volunteer to be a member of our action team as we engage with universities and high schools to offer more inclusive dance programming and courses.