By Nardin Sarkis Originally published on 22 July 2020 at Nardin Sarkis his Blog Here
For many of us, dancing is synonymous with celebration. We waltz at weddings, chacha at the club, or moonwalk in the mirror when no one is watching; but dance has historically been just as rebellious and political as it is celebratory. The politics of dance shine through the toyi-toyi, the signature dance of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa that was used during mass demonstrations to intimidate settler police forces. The way we move our bodies has the potential to start revolutions and end injustices. The power that dance holds is most familiar to the governments that wish to repress it. It is the fear of that power that led Iranian police to arrest six young adults for uploading a video of themselves dancing carelessly to Pharell’s Happy or Pope Leo XII to ban the Waltz which he described as “highly obscene”. Yet the human spirit craves dance so much, that like the Irish step dancers who learned to dance without moving their upper bodies to avoid British suspicion, it always finds a way.
In the wake of the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd by police in the US, dance as protest has taken on a new form. As tens of thousands march around the world in the Black Lives Matter movement, many have expanded their cause past the symptom of police brutality to include the disease of systemic racism itself. Satisfying scenes of activists swiftly tearing down statues that glorify slave traders and colonizers continue to circulate online, with one notorious figure making repeat appearances, Christopher Columbus. Columbus embodies the original sins of imperialism, racism and genocide in the new world. His arrival, and the subsequent arrival of Europeans to the continent marked the beginning of the end for native Americans as they saw their women exploited, their lands seized, and their people exterminated. The admirable defiance of native people was on full display in a recent scene in Minnesota as members of the American Indian Movement were recorded dancing around a toppled statue. The dancers held hands and sang traditional chants while circling a defeated Columbus to the beat of the drum. Watching this simple act of dance stirred me with emotion. The traditional choreography felt full of tensions, where revenge battled justice and regret danced with resistance. With each step the dancers seemed to declare “this is our land” with every chant they proclaim “we won’t be silenced”. I realized one reason the line dance resonated so strongly with me is because since 1492, Assyrians have struggled for indigenous justice too.
People dance around the statue. pic.twitter.com/6gIPTe9nBs
— Max Nesterak (@maxnesterak) June 10, 2020