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In the News General News

A Message from BSA Dance Department Head, Laura Halm

As I have read the experiences of generations of dancers that have come through the studios at BSA on the @BlackatBSA Instagram page, I have had to take a long hard look in the mirror, facing a disturbing reality that is not easy to accept. Although I recognize that much of what is mentioned took place in the past, I also see very clearly what has taken place in the two years under my watch, and I hold myself accountable for not recognizing the harm that the dance department has continued to cause to many of our students. I apologize for any part I have played toward any student feeling uncomfortable, or unfairly treated. It is my most urgent concern to address these issues meaningfully and begin the process of healing within our community, because I am passionately committed to making sure this department is a safe and nurturing environment for all of our students. Moving forward, I will hold both myself and the dance faculty more accountable for our words and actions, and anyone not aligned with this effort must face consequences for engaging in behaviors that will not be tolerated at this institution.

When I became the Dance Department Head, I worked to bring a newer, more empathetic sensibility to dance education at BSA, one based upon the dance world as it will need to be in order to remain sustainable and representative of all people in the city and community we serve. Our students are the ones that will lead this revolution once they leave our doors, and it is our duty to encourage empowerment for them to do so. This remains the goal, but I also know there is much more work that is needed to be done in our studios to make all of our students feel valued and appreciated for their inherent worth and their dance talents. The comments on the Instagram page lay that reality bare for all of us to see and understand.

Since my arrival in August 2018, we have tried very hard to work towards implementing my philosophy that anyone who has the sincere desire to dance and develop as an artist can achieve it with the right amount of work. We as faculty must accept and value our students as they are, meet them where they are, and encourage them to grow in their craft using the instruments they possess. While the historical reality of some elements of the dance world have been inherently exclusive, it is our fundamental belief that dance at BSA will be a wholly inclusive practice. Physical differences and body shaming will not be tolerated, and norms of the past will be challenged. We have much work yet to do. 

As this department evolves, I hope to acknowledge the strengths of each individual student regardless of race, socioeconomic background, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, and encourage the honing of artistry and athleticism unique to each. 

There is real beauty in the diversity of the students in the dance department at BSA. It is my hope that we can learn how to truly see, respect, and value another person in all their uniqueness. We strive to make this the lesson our students take out into the world. We as a community need to do better and be better at modeling that honor and respect towards each other. That work begins in our studios with our teachers at both the high school and in TWIGS. 

Through the genuine commitment of each and every single member of this community and this department, change will come. It will take time and work: real, genuine work. I am completely, and unequivocally, committed to this fight as are all the dance faculty members at BSA. 

Please be sure to make your voice heard in one of the forums that begin taking place this week. This institution can only improve and thrive when everyone is empowered to sincerely and honestly share their experiences and perspectives.

I humbly ask you to work with me, continuing to use your voice, so that my faculty and I can make the dance department at BSA a space that positively models and affirms the experiences of our students. I need to hear your truths to make necessary, meaningful, and impactful changes. I will strive to be a leader worthy of your trust and respect so that the BSA Dance Department is a place that students are proud to call their own.

This is the dawn of a new beginning of dance here at BSA and I adamantly believe that with deliberate and decisive effort from all of us, we will build an environment of support, respect, and empowerment.

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