Dancing on a fine line
Feature article in The Dance Current MAY/JUNE 2020 edition – out now!
When the news broke in Toronto that Rihanna and Drake were potentially shooting the “Work” music video in the city, dancers were eagerly waiting to hear the details. Then, the closed casting call was released, and I saw something I wasn’t expecting: a $200 fee for the dancers who got the job. Many of us were fuming and I actually decided not to go to the audition. I was adamant to make a statement and take a stand because I was over Canadian artists being taken advantage of. But when the closed audition turned into an open call, I witnessed another major problem.
Half the city was auditioning for the dancehall video. Dancers, non-dancers, parents, children—everyone wanted a shot. I was teaching the evening of the audition and I remember going on Facebook before my class and seeing my students posting about the audition. These were students who hadn’t taken a lot of dancehall classes or knew the culture, so I got upset. This was a big chance for Toronto to be seen on the world stage again and I wanted to make sure that
authentic dancehall party vibes were present. So, I put on makeup, bought an outfit and went straight to the audition knowing I would dance my way into the video—and I did. I’m the one in the army tights and shining silver top; I’m even in a great slow-mo shot at the end.
I did this because I think representing someone’s culture should be done with respect. I spent years at dancehall parties, and I understood the vibe that the video needed. Many people see the music video and think that it is oversexualized, but they don’t know that it’s a representation of a culture and a people that need to be respected…