What Are We Fighting For Now?
by Felecia Thomas
Felecia Thomas and her daughter Imani Tornes are the co-owners of Reigning Victory Dance Studio where Thomas is the Artistic Director of Reigning Victory Dance Academy, Inc., located in the City of Fayetteville, Georgia. The two have a passion for dance and community. Thomas has been very active in the dance community of metro Atlanta for nearly 20 years, while her daughter has been training in dance for 14 years in dance styles like ballet, jazz, modern and African. Both are dance educators and choreographers.
We are always fighting for something. I often wonder, in these times, when will we see real change. The arts have always been so integral in creating social change. The arts ignite sparks that turn into flames. Our voices are heard. We are sometimes very loud in our delivery, and sometimes very stealthful. Too many times, I have been a part of the talk about change; and I have to say, that’s all it is sometimes is talk. Alliances build, and groups form to tackle the tasks set forth. As a dance studio owner I have students coming through my doors from all walks of life. One thing I stress to my students is how to use your talents and gifts to advocate for the things they believe in.
I remember when I opened my studio, I had to have a strategic marketing plan. How was I going to fill the space? How was I going to pay for it? Of course, studio culture in my area is pretty segregated. I remember a time when a caucasian family enrolled their child, and once they found out I was the owner, a black woman, they stopped coming. That actually occurred on several occasions. I was taken aback. I began to feel that feeling that a lot of artists are faced with, the feeling of not being good enough. I even fought myself in my mind about it. I thought I needed validation and approval because on the flip side, I was getting little support from my own people.
Why do we have to work so hard to support each other? My answer is easy; there is a lack of trust. So, I changed my approach. Let me show them who I am. I only need a few. It really doesn't matter how big or how small the influence is. I learned as a young dancer, in the 80’s and 90’s growing up in dance, “Each One, Reach One”. There will never be a time where we are not dealing with socially changing climates. If I can teach just one person, share a small token of life, encourage leadership, promote beauty and self love, and support other artists, then I have done good work. As artists, we are at the center of social change. Everything is just better with the arts for real.
Some of the things I am doing in my own studio to play a role in social change is introducing my students to dance styles from across the globe; traditional and contemporary. This way they get a culturally immersive perception and differentiate styles they see in our own culture of dance. We are also using our voices to demand change in the dance industry for black people and for every size dancer. We want to see shoes in every style that match our flesh. It’s not enough to just offer ballet shoes. We still have to paint pointe shoes to match our tights. There are tights to match, but no jazz shoes, no pointe shoes, and no tap shoes. I really don’t understand why having shades that closely match flesh tone (to complete dance lines), is such a hard concept for the multi million dollar dance wear companies to understand. So when everyone went black on #BlackOutTuesday, was that basically it?
Published in In Motion Magazine September 29, 2020
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