In August, I will turn 69.
A handful of people have already heard from me that I am retiring from reviewing dance and, indeed, from much engagement with writing about dance, serving on artist selection panels, speaking on panels and similar activities. Some folks have responded with shock or just surprise and sadness, especially to see a Black woman, or any rare person of color, leaving the field of dance criticism and journalism. Others have kindly expressed relief for me and even excitement that, after more than 45 years pursuing this work--I first took dance criticism courses at The New School and Dance Theater Workshop in 1974--I finally feel free to say I’ve done my do, given what I can, and now I’m reclaiming my time.
Like so many others, I have the pandemic of 2020-21 to thank for a radically-altered life.
But, actually, retiring from this work has been on my mind since before I suddenly got hired as Gibney’s curator in July 2018, a life transition that plunged me even deeper into a whole mess of unanticipated things.
However, these drawn-out months away from you all and the live performances I dearly loved have rewired me. On the physical level, I now find myself incapable of staying awake very far into the evening, making even the thought of turning up alert and receptive for night-time shows completely impossible. Seriously, my body rules it out, and I’m not going to fight that body wisdom. I cherish the extra sleep.
And on the mental level, well, my mind seems to be making its selections crystal clear. If something does not spark and hold its interest, engagement is short-lived (or never-lived). That means I might prioritize certain things and let others slide, not always rushing to be there for everything and everyone. No apologies. This is real.
But there’s unexpected fun, too, at this moment. Suddenly and brilliantly, BodyMind has skipped in the direction of healthier (and more colorful and flavorful) eating. Things I somehow just know to throw together work out well and have good health value for me. Intuition kicking in again and right on time. Again, something I’m not going to question--just make more time for and enjoy.
Listening has always been a central part of my spiritual and professional practice (and of my superpowers as an introvert). That continues. Listening to what I need is central to what’s centered. Even the things and spaces I’ve chosen to create for others during this time of uncertainty, anxiety, loss and grief--initiatives such as my Black Diaspora group for rising Black dance and performance artists and the Imagining journal at Gibney; the Black Curators in Dance and Performance group; and my monthly Zoom “séances”--are things and spaces I also happen to need for my own mental and spiritual well-being. As they serve and fulfill their purpose for others, they nourish me. These will continue and flourish. Over the next few years, I will also be shifting the areas of my focus at Gibney to better reflect the community relationships, broader concerns, and activities that matter most to me now.
I have spent decades tending an art discipline that does not get what it needs from this society. Far from it. It needs a ton of care, and working around that can be all-consuming. As I enter my elder years, I choose a wider world and a chance to reclaim some of the things I’ve had to push aside.
I thank everyone for receiving me into the world of dance and for always being, whether you knew it or not, my teachers. You have offered me a way to give back, as a writer, for all the wonder and beauty you sacrifice so much to create. With all the fierce questioning and work being done now towards true justice in the arts, I hope dance artists will also fiercely commit to making dance writing a necessary bridge to the outside world, a tool of witness, clarity of expression, openhearted sharing, much-needed documentation, and acknowledgment. Yes, a force for justice.
Eva Yaa Asantewaa
[Note: InfiniteBody will stay up, serving as a space for me to just keep saying whatever I need to say! :-D]
DISCLAIMER: In addition to my work on InfiniteBody, I serve, at Gibney, as Senior Director of Curation and Editorial Director. The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views, strategies or opinions of Gibney.
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