The power of words

Last weekend I went to LA to visit my first voice teacher and dear friend, Amelia, who was in the hospital. Before I flew home I thanked her for giving me my voice and promised that I was going to use it.

I had started studying with her shortly after I had been raped. When I screamed, no sound came out. I had big problems with my speaking voice after that. My vocal cords didn’t align with each other properly.  I had surgery and it was after that that I was referred to Amelia for vocal training. Her knowledge and expertise and loving attention really did give me my voice back, but using that voice was more challenging.

There are people I love who are all over the political spectrum, and since this last election I’ve been reluctant to engage in dialogue with them. The day after I got back from my visit to Amelia I was compelled to engage with someone I love who – I’ll just say it – voted for Trump. We had worked together as Rockettes and with all that’s going on right now, of course, the subject came up.

I had posted something on Facebook in support of the girls who spoke out about not wanting to perform at the inaugural. My friend told me she respected my opinion but she couldn’t agree with me, She asked whether, if I had had the chance to do my show in front of millions of people, I could possibly say no. No question about it! I’m definitely no saint but have turned down work in the past, like a national hand lotion commercial for the company who also made napalm. My friend understood my stance, considering my history with sexual assault. When I got off the phone nothing about my love for my friend had changed. Not one single thing had changed but my love for myself for having spoken my truth. And the hope that there could be healing.

The next day I was at a meeting in preparation for events to celebrate Women’s History Month in March. The room was thick with anti-Trump sentiment, and one of the women said she felt uncomfortable. She had a different opinion and she had hoped that this was an environment that was not political. Having performed my show, “KICK”, in Ohio right before the election, I was aware that there are many different reasons that people from different backgrounds voted for Trump’s agenda. One thing that everyone agreed on, however, was their concern for young people coming up in this environment.

I spoke up and said that I too was concerned about the younger generation and as a dancer I’m concerned about what the girls at Radio City are going through and how important it is for them to dig deep, speak up and to be supported, no matter what their choice.  On the one hand, they are offered the choice of “tolerating intolerance” in order to celebrate the peaceful transition of power that is a hallmark of our enduring democracy. On the other, they are being asked to appear in sexy costumes with an admitted sexual assaulter while betraying, among others, their African-American sisters and their gay brothers who partner them, support them, literally hold their lives in their hands throughout their careers.

A dancer’s career is very short.  Continuous expensive training is necessary to keep up with an industry that pays very little and offers no job security. If they choose to dance at the inauguration they risk being ostracized by the rest of the entertainment industry. If they choose to sit it out, their careers at the Music Hall might be in jeopardy. They’re very young and still trying to find their way in life. It takes a long time to realize one’s core values and act accordingly especially when one’s energy is focused 24-7, heart and soul on their work.

It appears to be an impossible situation for them but on another level it could be an opportunity to zero in on one’s priorities and goals as an artist. Perhaps asking the questions, “What is the loving thing to do?” “Will it support my community?” Will it make me feel proud of myself for standing up and kicking for what I believe in?” “Am I doing what’s right for me?”


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