Dance Response to Articles on Allyship

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Wait! Please read this before viewing my solo dance video. While you are watching,

  • view it once as it is presented – please turn your volume up to a high level to catch the ambient sound in the outdoor environment,
  • view it a second time accompanied by any choice of music you enjoy listening to. Please allow your musical choice to play for 15-20 seconds before starting the video.

After viewing, I welcome you to read the remainder of this post. Thank you!



I humbly acknowledge my identity as an occupier of the traditional lands of the Lekwungen people. My ability to learn, work, and play is at the expense of their ancestors, families, and children.

“Ally work is comprised of actions potential allies take together across the differences of privilege that divide them to address abuses of power” (Reynolds, 2013, p. 58).

My dance explores the theme of allyship, transitioning from working within confined, restrictive ‘ways of being’ to an openness brought on by deep listening and ‘being with’ my environment. The transformation is intended to express ideas of allyship inspired by activist and scholar Vikki Reynolds’ writing.

Interaction is required to receive this short dance presentation. As a viewer, you have been asked to: a) consider my dance within its ambient landscape, and then, b) collaborate with me in choosing musical accompaniment to the movement. The inspiration I received from Vikki Reynolds’ writings inform the way I dance. This post asks you to consider a perceived transformation that takes place in my dance. In this way, our interactions can be regarded as actions of potential allies across differences in privilege. Within our collective experience of exploring allyship, we can begin to develop tools to address abuses of power.

In my dance, I experience making space to hear voices that are often not listened to. I achieve this by leaving my contrived and scripted movement ideas behind to listen and respond to the more-than-human members in the outdoor environment I dance in. An article on transformative sustainability learning by Barret et al. (2017), defines the more-than-human as “the non-human entities with whom we, as humans, are always in relation” (p. 131). Barret et al. describe these relationships as socially constructed and, from a western ontological perspective, upholding hierarchical structures of human dominance. Barret et al. explain that these structures are problematic in that they separate humans from non-humans, making it “very difficult, if not impossible, to inhabit the world in all of its sentience” (p. 132).

I correspond Barret et al.’s (2017) concept of the human and non-human binary to what Richardson and Reynolds (2012) describe as voices of the oppressed. Simply listening to these voices is not enough. Richardson and Reynolds describe social justice as requiring more than being heard by a practitioner, and so I physically respond to images and sounds in the more-than-human environment. Paulo Freire (1978, 2001) defines the meeting of unheard voices with an accountable response as authentic dialogue and an act of revolutionary love (Richardson & Reynolds, 2012). Could my interaction with the environment be considered in this way?

“Fluid ally positioning is responsive to the multiple different domains that construct our identities and the access to power we hold in relation to these domains” (Reynolds, 2013, p. 59).

Contemporary dance is one of the multiple domains that construct my identity and give me access to power to be heard as an artist. I practice fluid ally positioning by using my position as a dancer to support the shadows on the wall opposite to me as well as the ambient sounds of the environment. The shadows and sounds are ‘seen’ by the viewers watching my dance. At the same time, I lean in on my daughter’s position as a videographer to support my dance being seen.

I could experience cynicism and regard this dance as too abstract or meaningless to affect others. This way of thinking might paralyze me into believing it is impossible to communicate in this way. In aligning myself with an ethic of social justice, I contest this potential cynicism and present the work to you (Reynolds, 2013).

Reynolds (2013) recommends engaging with ally work as an “imperfection project”, where practitioners do not hold themselves to a perfect standard of ally acts (p. 64). This concept sparked the initial inspiration for my dance, and so initially you see me move with a sense of perfect standards. My movement then gives way to imperfect and sometimes messy, acts of listening and dancing. The reflection I share with you now is my opportunity to, in Reynold’s (2013) words, “critique my actions, strategize how to take on the broader social issues, and make repair if that is required” (p. 64). The physical action of my dance did not acknowledge the lands I hold the privilege to occupy and play and work on. I have made repair with a written acknowledgement after the fact, and the experience that ally work requires me to breathe, accept being imperfect, and use this learning to find responsibility and act more accountably (Reynolds, 2013).

The title of Richardson and Reynolds’ (2012) article, “Here We Are, Amazingly Alive: Holding Ourselves Together With an Ethic of Social Justice in Community Work”, initially struck me as a description of grief for the struggles, inequities, hurts, pains, and indignities existing in an unjust society. The title also mirrors a line from a poem written by Bud Osborn, a Vancouver Downtown Eastside Poet/Activist, that reads, “So here we are amazingly alive, against long odds and left for dead” (Bud Osborn, Vancouver Downtown Eastside Poet/Activist, 1999, p. 9, cited in Richardson & Reynolds, 2012, p. 2). As the introduction to Richardson and Reynolds’ article unfolds, I realize they have turned the focus of the line from the poem toward community workers. They are expressing the ability of community workers to engage with collective ethics and spirited relations of solidarity. As I dance, I believe I experience an aspect of their description – I could not help but feel more “amazingly alive” in the latter listening-and-responding section of my dance than in the former rigidly structured section.

Another connection I discovered within my dance presentation links to Reynolds’ (2012) description of a possible stance for an ethic of justice-doing as a frame for community work and therapy. This dance project requires you, me, Reynolds’ and her co-author’s writing, and more-than human elements of the dance environment to express allyship in the same way Reynolds (2012) describes a networked community of imperfect solidarity and collective ethics to come together with a shared commitment to justice-doing in their work.

Thank you for engaging in this collaboration to watch, listen, and read about some of my understandings of allyship and social justice activism.



Barrett, M.J., Harmin, M., Maracle, B., Patterson, M., Thomson, C., Flowers, M. & Bors, K. (2017). Shifting relations with the more-than-human: six threshold concepts for transformative sustainability learning, Environmental Education Research, 23:1, 131-143.

Reynolds, V. (2012). An ethical stance for justice-doing in community work and therapy. Journal of Systemic Therapies, Vol. 31, No. 4, (pp. 18-33). Retrieved from

Reynolds, V. (2013). “Leaning in” as imperfect allies in community work. Narrative and Conflict: Explorations of Theory and Practice, Volume 1, No 1. Retrieved from

Richardson, C. L., & Reynolds, V. (2012). “here we are, amazingly alive”: Holding ourselves together with an ethic of social justice in community work. International Journal of Child, Youth and Family Studies, 3(1), 1. doi:10.18357/ijcyfs31201210471