Thank you for considering a donation to this scholarship fund, which will provide financial support to dancers of merit for participation in my next Bring Your Best coaching series (BYB*6*). Below I explain the goals of the scholarship fund, and my reasons for creating it.
The BYB coaching series enables dancers to work deeply on a choreographed or improvised dance piece for performance, with tailored personal coaching from me, including education in Arabic music, culture, and dance traditions, within a community of warm support from fellow series dancers. This is a matching scholarship fund, in that I will match all donations to this fund 100 percent towards fees for the series, for selected dancers.
I have long been interested in socioeconomic justice, and in expanding access to dance education. For every event I have produced in New York, from small workshops to large conferences, I have included scholarship opportunities, mostly in exchange for volunteer help, as a way of balancing socioeconomic disparities in access to the dance. I haven't gotten rich through dance. But I still care about increasing opportunities through group fundraising. In the past year I started thinking deeper about how I could offer scholarships in my online courses, and to how I could contribute to equity in access to the dance.
The purpose of this fund is to offer a direct and significant discount to my coaching series for dancers from groups that have been historically marginalized in our dance community, who are on a performing and teaching path, and for whom the financial support could make the difference between participating or not participating.
In the past I have offered aid in exchange for work, and still do offer this in appropriate cases. This fund, however is NOT that. It is in the form of grants, with the understanding of active participation in the series by coachees developing their art, cultural knowledge, and performance skills.
Training contributes to a dancer's education and teaching profile, provides connections and networking opportunities, and builds community. It is essential that a diverse range of people have access to this training, to more deeply engage with the issues of cultural transmission and appropriation that are built into the form, informed by cultural knowledge and a critical eye, while enjoying the pure joy and physical empowerment that this dance inspires.
It is no secret that groups of dancers have been historically excluded from commercial opportunities in the field, simply because of the color of their skin, body type, sexuality or gender expression. As a nightclub and wedding dancer in New York, I witnessed racism, sizeism, and homophobia in many owners' and musicians' hiring decisions. Those venues are not only sources of income, they are also sources of education: about Arabic music, for example, and culture. I was not considered especially "Middle Eastern looking" in my nightclub days, and I was not the one with the "best body," but I was very definitely considered white, and I very definitely benefited from that. I saw who was excluded, and though I spoke up against it, I also benefited from it. In the Arabic music education I began to receive in those clubs, and in the connections I made with musicians that led to my New York coaching series and to my DVDs, I benefited. I was, in part, paid to learn -- an opportunity that has not been given equitably, because it is based on "commercial" criteria influenced by Western and white supremacist notions. My goal in offering scholarships towards my series is to honor the commitment of interested dancers by matching it with my own commitment. It is about passing on the legacy of my 31 years of practice and research in this field, and about contributing to a fairer playing field in the dance community.
The scholarships are intended to reward those with talent and drive who are strongly interested in Arabic music and traditional culture, interested in teaching it with cultural sensitivity, and committed to a group process, which is what my coaching series offer. This scholarship fund may also be used to support motivated dancers from other countries where their local currency offers severely limited buying power in US dollars. Priority will be given to non-white dancers for these scholarships, and this is why: It is a worldwide culture of white supremacy in the "standards" responsible for disparities in hiring, for performance and teaching opportunities. Indirectly, those unfair "standards" regarding skin color and body type end up controlling access to information. They exert a malignant influence not only in the USA but around the world, including in Egypt, the home country of the styles I primarily teach. And I believe it is important to counteract it.
I also welcome applications from dancers who do not conform in their sexuality or gender expression to "traditional" standards. They have faced discrimination, and often worse, worldwide, in their pursuit of knowledge in a traditional form that may have shut them out. I welcome a diverse community, and seek to support that goal however possible.
People living with disabilities are also invited to apply, and are encouraged to consult with me about how I can best accommodate their needs in this series.
Scholarship recipients will be selected through interview, application, and recommendations, with a priority for those who are already teaching or mentoring other dancers, or who are strongly motivated to pursue teaching in this dance field. Interested applicants can join the BYB waitlist at the top of the home page at https://gingercity.com or reach out with questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you so much for considering this donation, and for supporting this work.
- Ranya Renee