Is what you’re doing today out of love or out of spite?
Do you engage people with humility and honor, or do you just seek to be on top?
On top of what exactly? Who are you trying to be better than?
The way people rationalize competing with others is pathetic. If you are truly trying to be better than the dancer or person you were yesterday, then it can be done without comparison to someone else. If you are talking about how wack someone else is and how much “better” you are, then you’re competing. Competition is for the insecure. And the perpetuation of competition is promulgated by the insecure. If you are secure in who you are you don’t need to compete with others.
If you are secure in who you are, you don’t care when someone “bites” your move you did 20 years ago.
If you’re secure in who you are, you teach others EVERYTHING you know, you hold nothing back in fear of them becoming better than you.
If you are secure in who you are, you relish in the fact that they may surpass you.
If you’re secure in who you are, you welcome ALL people into your circle, good dancers, poor dancers, gay dancers, female dancers, trans dancers, different dancers.
If you’re secure in who you are, then every action you take is one of love; love for yourself and love for your community.
If what we do truly emanates from a place of love then there is no need to compete with our fellow man, woman, dancer. We honor his/her life by improving our own. Let’s build a new community infrastructure that is not about exclusion and competition but is about growth, learning and love.
Dear Dancers: Don’t play supplicant to the merry band of self-absorbed older dancers who wish for you to prostrate yourself at the alter of their bloviated egos. Find mentors that see you as the future and treat you as such. Men and women who value your contribution to the diaspora and seek to help you reveal what’s within you, not inject you with their biases and traditions which are presented as universal truths and foundations.
There are a minority of people out there who are not in it for themselves, but are in it for the culture and for the art and for YOU. Find them, learn from them.
Get out of the studio and into the jams.
Get out of the jams and into the library.
Get out of the library and back into the studio.
Hone ALL aspects; intellectual, physical and spiritual.
Stop competing with other dancers. They are not your enemy. They are fellow travelers who are on a journey. Welcome them, because their journey does not interfere with yours. Share your knowledge, what you’ve learned on your journey and they may be compelled to do the same.
Our community needs a paradigm shift. Be that shift. Respect, higher education, honor, discipline, critical thinking, knowledge, fidelity, passion et al; let these be the the cornerstones of your growth and advancement as dancers. Not competitions and sycophantism.
Be the change you have always sought. You have it in you already.
Much love to you all.
Dancers are time alchemists who are fearful of what they can conjure and therefore they equate movement and time to be proportional to “fast” and “slow.” They embrace the obtuse in an effort to thwart the sublime nature of timelessness because of the immense responsibility it takes to harness such grand power. Not many dancers rise from the rank of time apprentice. They continue to prattle on about the degree of slowness being directionally proportional to the “speed” of the music. But paradoxically or ironically (whichever you choose) the degree of speed in the music is actually proportional to the perception of the dancer. And since our perception shapes our reality, we believe in music or movement being fast or slow.
The amniotic level of mentation that passes for dance education today only pleases one who seeks nothing more than to be beguiled and enthralled by smoke and mirrors. Many dancers attend classes merely to corroborate their own misplaced sense of self importance and skill, not to truly be challenged or learn. Most dancers view true dance education as beleaguering to the soul and a detriment to their artistic desires. They would rather remain enrapt in their wanton abandonment mislabeled as freedom. The great misfortune of this ubiquitous ideology is the slow and deliberate eradication of dance foundation in favor of parlor tricks and aoristic movement patterns.
The soul of the dance can only be preserved through foundation. Yet this new generation of dancers extirpates foundation for personal movement preference and mislabels it as “freedom.” The older generation is too busy validating themselves and invalidating younger dancers with impunity, that mentorship, guidance, empathy, elucidation and love are severely lacking. This forces many dancers to fend for themselves. Thus the detrimental cycle continues unabated.
Unless we begin to address our art from a place of love instead of ego we will witness a form of dance genocide. The systematic destruction of all roads to our art’s lineage will be precipitated by the willful abandonment of foundation because it’s considered “old school.” We will wake up one day tomorrow and find that our art is no longer relevant. The careless, callous, negligent actions of today will act as the catalyst for this.
We must aspire for better.
We must inspire for better.
We must DO better.
Safi A. Thomas
H+ | Guided by Science. Powered by Soul.
Respect does not have to be earned. Saying that makes our respect conditional. Respect is not a shirt or tool or some external machine predicated upon the whims of another. It is our core value system emanating outwardly towards all who cross our path.
This idea of earned respect, demanding respect and tolerance are western modes of thinking which conceptualize and dichotomize something which is supposed to be innate and unconditional.
Respect is not something that needs to be sought. It needs to be cultivated in all of us.
Inclusion is not what people of color, women, LGBTQ and other marginalized people need. Inclusion insinuates that one has the power to “exclude.” The root is not exclusion. Exclusion is a byproduct of an oppressive infrastructure. Get rid of the framework and you get rid of exclusion. What we should be fighting for is not inclusion but for the dismantling of the oppressive, disenfranchising infrastructure that strips people of their agency.
Dear Dancers: Ersatz self-esteem buoyed by a smug sense of self-importance is not confidence.
Safi A. Thomas
H+ | The Hip-Hop Dance Conservatory
My Letter to the Unborn Dancer:
To any dancer who finds my writing in the future. It was you, not my generation of dancers that I was writing to.
Be better than us.
Be smarter than us.
Be more patient than us.
Be the community we failed to be.
Eradicate the vitriol, the battling, the invalidating, the hatred, the sexism, the abecedarianism, the avariciousness, the benign neglect and replace it with love, education, empathy, respect and empowerment. Don’t let these things be the anomaly in your community, let it be the norm.
Don’t let a nameless, faceless beast of an industry disembowel your self-worth.
Rage. Rage against the dying of your artistry by reinvigorating the fight for foundation. The future does not have to be one of dystopic peril. It can be one of wonderment and awe. Where you are respected for your choice of profession and honored for the artistry you choose to create.
Be true to hip-hop. When you sit upon the ground and tell sad stories about the deaths of Kings, be sure to honor the women who played just as important a role in the proliferation of your art. Be kind and do not judge the men of your ancestry for their nescience and neglect. But praise them for their innovation and courage in the midst of squalor and oppression. Whilst taking heed of our apparent shortcomings lest you make the same errors in judgement as us.
The essence of a man can be seen in the choices he makes over time and keenly in moments of adversity. The choice of integrity over convenience. The choice of respect over ignorance. The choice of reason over magniloquence. The choice of love over darkness. Who I am is less important than who I chose to be. You are your choices. And those choices will send ripples towards the outer rungs of eternity to your progeny. Leave them a better world than my generation left you.
Teaching choreography is not teaching “dance.” I don’t care how much rhetoric under the guise of wisdom one spits. It is not a “dance” class. It is a movement experimentation class.
Where one experiments on bodies with their movement to see what it would look like. Dancers can passively gain something, but they are not actively gaining anything pedagogically or kinesthetically or proprioceptively of value because it is not designed for that purpose. A class that is strictly “choreo” is an act of narcissism. It’s not about how hot our moves are, or how challenging our choreography is. But what value the class holds for the dancer. What are the actively learning? Well, that is inherently present in what we are actively teaching.
In a time where dance pedagogy is on the decline due to the avaricious and apathetic minds of malignant narcissists called choreographers, our art necessitates a brand of dance aficionados who recognize the need for instruction that goes beyond 5-6-7-8. Understanding core function, breath, extension, line, level, shape, nuance, groove, freestyle, music, tonal sonority, balance etc. We must recognize that the mirror is there not as a edifice of adoration but a tool for assessment. We must honor the dancers by giving them an education not just throwing our aoristic movements onto their bodies.
If one really wants to experiment with movement they should do it on their own time…FREESTYLE!! Don’t use dancers for your personal puppets.
OPERANT CONDITIONING (RELATIONSHIPS)
There are mechanisms for dealing with relationships that are taught to us in movies and TV. Men are taught how to act. Women are taught how to act. It’s a conditioning program that’s worked for the most part. It tells you how to break up. Tells you how to argue. How to keep your man. How to treat your woman. But there’s nothing about mutuality. Just pithy notions of external love actions.
Pay the bill.
Put a ring on it.
If those actions aren’t followed to the letter. If your relationship doesn’t match this paradigm of interaction. Then you “feel” you have a bad relationship. Men dump their girlfriend via text. Women dump their boyfriends via FB and move on to find another victim and the cycle starts anew.
We are not taught to fight for our relationships. We are taught to bail when it doesn’t “feel” right. Well subjectively that could be at any random time or a succession of times which didn’t match an expectation. We aren’t taught how to cultivate a relationship. Women are taught it’s the man’s job. Men are taught it’s about being a good guy, buying her what she likes and having space to watch the game with the fellas.
We aren’t given ways to grow together. Build together. Have empathy for each other. Have compassion towards one another. Sow the seeds of love together. Not through some external exhortation but through embracing eachother as you are and then complementing and enhancing the best while working on and mitigating the worst, together as a team.
Society teaches men to be noncommunicative lone wolves and women to be passive aggressive patsies. Neither aspect bodes well for the cultivation of a relationship. So we have men who are withdrawn and don’t talk and women who walk around the issue and expect their men to be mind readers. When they both get tired of that, they break up. Or sometimes to absolve themselves of responsibility they say, “Lets take a break for awhile.” Or “I need time to think.” or “Lets separate for little bit.” The thing about separations is this:
If a relationship involves two people, walking away only exacerbates the rift. It leaves no room for discourse or reconciliation. It dies a slow death on it’s own. This way no one has to take accountability. It doesn’t ask people to look at themselves. It doesn’t motivate one to examine their ethos. It doesn’t help at all. It’s like leaving dirty dishes in the sink saying “I’ll do them tommorrow.” Knowing full well it’s going to be harder tomorrow because it will be caked on and more difficult to clean.
The mature thing to do is to do the work. Communicate, empathize, cultivate, love, relax, release expectations, embrace change. Work together to make the relationship beautiful. Fight the commonality of the TV relationship and build your own relationship paradigm. Stop trying to look like someone else. Embrace love in all of it’s shapes.
Safi A. Thomas
When something resonates with us either negatively or positively, it is important to ask ourselves “why.” Many times a statement rubs us the wrong way because we identify with it on a level we are not yet ready to honestly engage. Same goes for things written we agree with. Sometimes it resonates with our core ethos or worldview. Either way, it’s important to know WHY something resonates the way it does. This way we are not just blind followers of emotion or bias but we are empowered free thinkers who cultivate understanding through self-reflection.
Safi A. Thomas
Oct 25 Reblogged
Reblog if you are a man who is offended by the lyrics in Blurred Lines
I will be writing a sociological research paper about the effects of the lyrics in Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines.
Please reblog this if you are a male who finds the lyrics of this song offensive or upsetting.
Patriarchy, gender privilege and its consequences go far beyond issues with body shaming or ageism. It is deeply rooted in the foundation of our country and of western society. When we as men deny that, we are contributing to the perpetuation of gender inequality.
If there were no patriarchy then the system would look different. Women would not have men deciding on what they could do with their bodies. Women would not have had a suffrage movement in order to vote. Women would not have to endure an environment of shame and be victimized twice over when sexually assaulted. Women would have equal say and positions of decision making power and impact policy without the oversight or interference of other men. Women would have equal pay as well.
The surreptitious tentacles of patriarchy are just as real as racism, sexism, homophobia, classism and the rest. All of which have their cabal of detractors which ignore their existence in favor of convoluted theories based in a fallacy and rooted in their own denial of privilege.
It’s important that we not hang our hats on equivocation just to “feel” as if we’re doing something about the problems we face as a society. Doing so only diminishes our sense of responsibility for the conundrum but it does nothing to ameliorate it.
Equivocating is a knee jerk pusillanimity that succors us to sleep with promises of activism under the guise of enormity. In other words it makes us feel as if we’re doing something when in actuality we’re just cowering in a corner doing nothing and barking at people trying to do something and telling them the problem is too big for “us” to handle.
So we mount passive resistance through equivocation and generalize our plight to the point of convolution. You see, we “feel” powerless and so we must diminish anyone else’s capacity to have agency by splintering and dichotomizing and polarizing and mislabeling and digressing. Some of our most intellectual men and women are guilty of this. We must play an ACTIVE role in the deconstruction of bandwagon group think and start to cultivate a society of actual awareness.
Safi A. Thomas
H+ | Guided by Science. Powered by Soul.®
Men Of Substance (Open Letter to ALL Women)
I’m disinclined to believe in the overwhelming existence of men of substance in the dance community or in society in general. Were men of honor, integrity, discipline, respect, character and intellect in such high volume, then we wouldn’t have the issues of gender inequality, sexism, rape, disenfranchisement, homophobia, sexual assault et al.
Look at the men around you.
Look at them hard.
What are they doing that is ground-breakingly different from the men generations before them?
Do they shit rainbows?
Is their shadow in the shape of a unicorn?
Do their eyes gleam with quasars?
Are they cracking the code?
Is the universe no longer an enigma because of their actions on this Earth?
No, but seriously.
Do they have foresight?
Do they have unconditional integrity and love?
Are they comprehensive thinkers?
Are they decisive and pragmatic?
Are they honorable?
Are they the type of man that doesn’t just respect a woman “because he was born from one,” but actively pursues the equality of all women?
Does he protect you because you’re “his” “girl” TRANSLATION: His Property. or because it’s the right thing to do?
Does he realize that true protection doesn’t come from his strong hands, icy stare, peacock chest, raised voice, clenched jaw and closed fists, but from providing an environment of equality and respect for all women and challenging sexism where he stands?
Then why are you with him? Because the pool of men on Good Guy Mountain is so small that you took what was on the sale rack at the bottom plateau?
You deserve a man of quality. The quality of a man is in his actions, thoughts and values. Not in the passive aggressive banter. Jokes to mask insecurity. Sarcasm to obfuscate his lack of intellect. But in his openness to those who challenge the status quo. It’s in his capability to modulate his temper. It’s in his willingness to openly request more of his gender. It’s in his capacity to critically think. It’s in his unabashed love. It’s in his passion for life. It’s in the eyes, nose, the lips, and the mouth of a man. His quality is a melange of beauty, intellect, passion, alacrity, honor and strength. How does he treat those who can do nothing for him?
Once you as a woman have cultivated these qualities in yourself, men of quality will travel in your circles. You will not have to seek them out. They will be magnetized by your integrous soul.
Men of substance are few and far between. Yet that does not mean you just take whatever’s available and manufacture a love for him. Choosing still water in the desert instead of waiting for a fresh water pond will give you dysentery. So it is with men. Wait for quality and until then go thirsty, go hungry, go without. Have integrity.
Only accept quality.
Safi A. Thomas