Always Making and Being Made

BY BRITTANY DELANY

Editorial Note: For the past nine years, Stance on Dance has asked a variety of dance artists at different points in their careers what “making it” means to them. Please join us in looking at what “making it” means as a dancer, artist, and human.

Has your idea of “making it” changed over time?

As a teenager, I was training in the hip-hop commercial dance arena until my world was blown open by dance as research/a global lens through my studies at Wesleyan University and work with professor, choreographer, and scholar Pedro Alejandro. As I grew into a professional dancer in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and California, in addition to being onstage, I cultivated and embraced my identity behind the scenes as arts administrator, event coordinator and producer, stage manager, dance company manager, rehearsal director, house manager, box office manager, studio rental coordinator, marketing, fundraising, and grant writing consultant. My relationship to “making it” changed when I co-founded GROUND SERIES dance & social justice collective with fellow Wesleyan alum, dancer, choreographer, and scholar Sarah Ashkin in Oakland, CA. Stewarding programs, performances, educational events, and site-specific works with Sarah broadened my horizons. With our independent curation and care, I felt welcomed and encouraged to imbue radical hospitality in the experiences and experiments. GROUND SERIES uses performance to practice place-based justice by cultivating accountability to land, body, and history. Postmodern dance, scholarship, and social practice yield our funny, relentless works that honor discomfort and failure. I deeply resonate with these values:

Dancemaking is a way for complex learning to be embodied and shared.

Every body has wisdom that can be transmitted and through movement.

Dancemaking cultivates awareness and agency in everyone who participates: performers, audiences, partners, and passersby.

In this way, performance can undo and remake the world for the better.

We are celebrating 10 years in 2022. I’m so grateful to this radiant web of artists, partners, and community members throughout the US.

The power of a place impacts how I perceive and relate to “making it.” After moving from the dance hub of the Bay Area to New Mexico and Arizona, I discovered alternative ways of living and making art outside of a major city. During this time, I developed practices of spirituality and meditation, which I continue today. In my subsequent move to the Greater Palm Springs region of California, I rooted into a full time arts administrative career serving two arts nonprofits (see my reflection A Flourishing Resilient Community as part of Stance on Dance’s series Where Dance Is). In the Coachella Valley, I also helped grow a few creative cores. I became a founding member of the intersectional feminist creative collective Wyld Womxn, the dance collective Desert Movement Arts, and Peer Practice in the Desert, a once-a-month free movement class at a rotating location exploring a theme, a site, and an improvisational movement score. Shaping these platforms and flexible centers of expression taught me about authentic leadership and adaptation.

In December 2019, I moved to Los Angeles, where my orientation to “making it” has been about integration and expansion. My administrative work is in service of a humanitarian virtual reality nonprofit which digitally archives cultural heritage in 3D around the globe. Diving into sciences and technologies has opened my sensitivity to these innovations. The sprawling city grants me access to a broad variety of professional dancers, dance teachers, choreographers, students, international artists, technologists, studios, theaters, beaches, fashion, comedy, and the Hollywood industry. Weaving the commercial, stage, community-centered, and site-specific feels buoyantly home.

Have the events of this past year affected your sense of “making it”?

In adapting to this past year’s urgent call to exercise safety amidst the public health emergency of the COVID-19 pandemic and reimagine safety during a global crisis to defend Black lives, reckon with systemic racism, and inequity, I return again and again to the body, dance, creativity, grassroots organizing, and cross-sector collaborations.

My activism grew out of participation in Sarah Ashkin and Kai Hazelwood’s Practice Progress embodied anti-racism workshops, advocacy campaigns by Justice LA, co-presenting ‘Using Arts and Culture to Create Healthy Open Spaces During Recovery’ with Miguel Vazquez, AICP, a Healthy Communities Planner in Riverside County, volunteering as a Joy to the Polls volunteer with Election Defenders, and organizing with pro-democracy initiative Hold the Line. This interdisciplinary work affirms my love and advocacy for choreography as community organizing and planning.

Through the summer of 2020, I worked with artists from GROUND SERIES to present a COVID-19 compliant site-specific production Stages of Tectonic Blackness in New Mexico, which was also streamed live on Instagram and edited into a video piece. This work tarries with the paralleled processes of dehumanization and extraction, emergence and rebellion, as sustained by Black bodies and rock bodies. It has been part of visual art exhibitions, new international research, and is in the works for touring in 2022.

This past year pushed me to increase my artistic toolkit and versatility. Zoom-based singing lessons with Micaela Tobin and artist coaching from Julie Potter awakened skills and unlocked perspectives. I learned about dance filmmaking with the LA Women Choreographers Winter 2021 Brockus Project SHIFT/west artist residency, and classes with Kelly Hargraves of Dance Camera West. I co-directed, choreographed, and performed in a short dance film STALK, which premiered June 2021 as part of the residency.

I’ve listened and learned from so many inspiring voices through podcasts, books, social media streams, online classes, virtual events, and conferences. Accessibility and mutual aid are paramount.

Lastly, I have been deepening my spiritual and meditation rituals, caring for houseplants, appreciating nature, and developing home-based and neighborhood sites for fitness. These practices ground me and nourish my whole health as a human being.

Dance is ancient.

I feel I made it when I…

Took four Monsters of Hip-Hop dance classes back-to-back and didn’t quit.

Enrolled in Impulstanz dance classes in Vienna, with justification of my professional dance experience.

Participated in artist residencies for dance.

Engaged with contact improvisation and hip-hop dance communities around the world.

Attended APAP conference in New York City and networked with brilliant artists of multiple generations, as well as solidified a new gig updating a dance website.

Interned at Contact Quarterly – recalling the spark of the late Nancy Stark Smith…she executed a spontaneous handstand hop on the side of her desk one day, her zest pinging the space with fresh views, clarity, and fun.

Wrote and edited dance articles for Hot Stepz Magazine in Boston to amplify artist stories and support the mother-daughter team behind the magazine.

Worked at ODC Theater in San Francisco with Christy Bolingbroke, who taught me about curation, production, communication, and genuine enthusiasm. She builds bridges so artfully. Her guest appearance on the Work Doesn’t Suck podcast gave me a distinctive dose of practical hope and resolve in the pandemic to consider particular cracks in the field around cashflow and contracts, and highlighted new opportunities such as increased capacity with virtual dance classes.

Wrote meaningful interview and research articles about dance for inDance by Dancers’ Group in San Francisco.

Produced full-length dance theater show Rocked by Women for Sarah Bush Dance Project at Dance Brigade’s Dance Mission Theater in San Francisco. Sarah Bush and her colleagues helped me mature into dance company management skill building, while upholding and centering feminist values.

Wrote successful grants for SAFEhouse for the Performing Arts in San Francisco, where I was able to build capacity in this line of work with Joe Landini’s trust and healthy sense of humor.

Performed Isadora Duncan Dance in Tokyo with Mary Sano after training with her for many moons in her San Francisco studio.

Developed, workshopped, researched, co-produced, performed, and sold out the opening night of task by GROUND SERIES – a breakthrough in leveling up my artistry.

Instinctively knew how to offer an embodied grounding practice prior to an artist talk experience that I conceived of, organized, facilitated, and moderated at a community theater space.

Received an artist residency at Buckwheat in Morongo Valley, CA, and welcomed in GROUND SERIES artists and local artists.

Commissioned an original sound score from composer and multi-instrumentalist Jordan Lewis for my dance film STALK.

Received the opportunity to choreograph and perform a new site-specific piece Rewilding with musician Emer Kinsella for Heidi Duckler Dance’s Ebb & Flow: Chinatown Festival at Los Angeles State Historic Park.

I feel I am “making it” when I…

Utilize knowledge of anatomy, somatics, and bodywork to support and investigate discovery, pain relief, pleasure, healing, wisdom.

Connect dance to and across multiple disciplines, sectors, spaces, generations, contexts.

Acknowledge and strengthen my commitment to dance – dedication in practice, production, audience participation, scholarship, literature, advocacy.

To conclude, I offer a poem inspired by this prompt:

“Making It” (2021)

Making dance divine

Making dance heal

Making dance accessible

Making dance feel

 

Making dance real

Making dance grow

Making dance wield

Power for all to know

 

Making dance transform

Making dance taste

Making dance sacred

Making dance come face to face

 

Intersecting politics, places, and ideals—

making it travel in life and death wheels.

 

We are always making

and being made.

Dance is life, life is dance.

This path is never strayed.

Brittany Delany whirling in park

Rush Varela photography courtesy of Heidi Duckler Dance – Brittany’s ‘Rewilding’ at Ebb & Flow: Chinatown Festival.

~~

Brittany Delany (she/her) was born in Boston, MA and is based in Los Angeles, CA. As she grew up playing sports and learning dance moves from Janet Jackson music videos, she found dance homes in several communities including hip-hop, jazz, contact improvisation, modern, and postmodern dance. She loves to research, teach, and perform around the world. Hip-hop aesthetics such as the break, satire, remix, cypher, one-upmanship, and innovation are key values in her choreography and movement. She has studied east coast and west coast styles and learned from some of the pioneers at hip-hop events around the world. Postmodern sensibilities of abstract composition and ‘everyday’ movement also underscore her approach and design. She has performed with dance companies and a constellation of artists and choreographers at CounterPulse, Highways Performance Space, Joshua Tree National Park, Movement Research at the Judson Church, Temescal Arts Center, among other stages and sites. She is founding co-director of GROUND SERIES dance & social justice collective. She holds a BA in Dance from Wesleyan University. With over a decade of experience working as a dancer, choreographer, event producer, and writer, Brittany values the power of imagination and teamwork. Connect with her at brittanydelany.weebly.com.

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