(Belated) Links To Things I’ve Done

Did you know that I sometimes do things outside of this blog? And here’s the evidence:

I finally put up the video from my piece “Teenage Angst Survivor’s Club,” performed at Gotham Dance Theater’s Emerge Choreographers Showcase in October (mixed rehearsal and performance footage due to video clarity):

More recently, I wrote a piece on the Dance/NYC Junior Committee Blog about anti-oppression work in the dance field, following the committee’s workshop with Race Forward:

Productive, but far from conclusive, our conversations left us with more questions, problems, and seeds for further brainstorming. One overarching question was how we can hold the people and organizations in power accountable for actions that perpetuate systemic inequality. How can we hold people accountable when they are our “superiors” in an organization’s hierarchy? When they are established and respected players in the field? When they control our access to opportunities and funding? How can we encourage others to respond with openness to change, rather than defensiveness, when their behavior is called out as harmful?

For many JComm members who are involved in arts administration, this raises questions of how they can shape the organizations they are a part of to challenge institutional biases. However, as a freelance performer and choreographer, with perhaps less direct access to institutional power, I am challenged to find ways in which I have power and responsibility in my professional choices. What is my responsibility in selecting which organizations I affiliate with and which messages my body can be used to tell? How can I challenge exploitative racial or sexual dynamics in rehearsal settings? How much ability do I have to do so as an early-career artist in a competitive field? And how might we freelance artists find greater power and voice through collective action?

Read the rest here.

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Just Hear Me Out: Why I Chose A Career In Devil’s Advocacy

I want to clear up some misconceptions amongst you smug Human Decency Warriors: yes, I work as a Devil’s Advocate. But no, that doesn’t mean you can make assumptions about my personal beliefs and values.

Sure, I spend my days defending and supporting racists, rapists, corrupt politicians, and the occasional drunk driver, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I am personally in favor of those causes. After all, do you think the people who sort your recycling actually like polar bears? Polar bears are ugly, but we all have to do our jobs.

Now I do understand where the stigma surrounding this field comes from–I was once quite skeptical of the profession of Evil myself, and didn’t enter it without hesitation. Upon graduation, I initially looked at work in other areas–nonprofit management, research, public education–I  even briefly considered putting my excellent argumentation skills to work in defense of Good.

But let’s be real, Good is not a financially stable field in today’s economy, and I had student loans to pay off. When the Office of the Devil offered me a $10k signing bonus for a two-year commitment and my soul, I had to accept.

Still, I tried not to think of my decision as “selling out.” I rationalized that the best way to address Evil was to reform the system from the inside: perhaps they would be open to shifting their brand from straight-up-bad to morally-ambiguous-in-a-cool-and-edgy-way.

But while my youthful ideals were admirable, I would soon discover that Evil is a complex and  deeply established institution with operations in areas ranging from lawmaking and criminal justice to entertainment and global trade. When I realized just how much I had to learn, it became clear that I should focus my energies on becoming the best team member that I could before trying to shake anything up.

And I have come to respect certain aspects of the work we do. For instance, the profession of Devil’s Advocacy carries a standard of transparency that the business of Misguided-Do-Gooders could really learn from. At least when we Devil’s Advocates announce our presence, everyone knows what’s coming. It’s not like we would advertise ourselves as saviors, only to swamp communities with a bunch of incompetent, overgrown college kids looking for a brief experiment in employment. We do have ethical limits, and we draw the line at creating false hope.

So yes, I may be a Devil’s Advocate but God, please stop judging me: there are worse things I could be doing, right?

Again.

Want to make change?
First you’ve got to make history
Out of the fantasies in your mind
Out of the thick air where you draw
Ghosts of some past to inhabit you
Who see ruins of pillars in the cobblestone
and say to rebuild
what always wasn’t
Again.

#TakeYourWordForIt Improv Challenge

 

For those of you who don’t follow me on the instantaneous grams, here is a recap of my latest mini-project. It started this summer at a showcase hosted by Artery and the JAPAN Collective, when I decided to take some words from the audience as cues for an improv bit.

Last week, I decided to take that challenge to the interwebs and make an improv from every word commented. Here’s what resulted. I tried to take a “first thought, best thought” type of approach, do a single take for each word, and see what came out of it.

Part three of my #takeYourWordForIt improv challenge: "a word" from resident troll @jpfriday #aGoodWordIsHardToFind #getTheWordOut

A post shared by Nadia Khayrallah (@nadiainherownworld) on

Next in #takeyourwordforit: "inferno" from @starlightromero Thanks @lizzie.benzik for the camerawerk #hellyes #hellinahandbasket

A post shared by Nadia Khayrallah (@nadiainherownworld) on

In short, I had a lot of fun! I enjoyed pushing myself into different modes (with that many takes in a row, I had to at least try not to make the same thing every time). And its always interesting to see how the bits that get the best responses are not always the ones I expect, the ones I feel best about, or the ones I put the most thought into. I take that as a reminder not to put too much stake in the judgements of my internal critic as I choose to put things out into the world.

Most of all, my improv explorations (whether live or online) have been a nice reminder that I can make a good chunk of creative work without tons of time, resources, structure, or fuss.  I’ve honestly been having a rough few weeks, but giving myself opportunities to make something–even for just a few minutes–has made it better. While there is a lot in my life and in the world that I can’t control, it feels empowering to know that I don’t need external permission to or ideal conditions move or create–I just need a good excuse, and a word will do.

Thanks to everyone who gave me a word–more to come!

Rules Of Conditional Acceptance:

They’re so glad to have you here
So long as you’re not too much of what you are,
And can fit yourself inside their narrow outline for one of the good ones
(Exactly one of the good ones).

But now you notice it’s feeling tight
And you’ve spent your life climbing up their pedestal
So you can be a prop:
One season change away from going out of style,
One slip away from getting knocked off.

I don’t want to be one of your good ones anymore.