Kind of makes your heart beat faster, doesn't it?
But hold on!
Not surprisingly, APAP's call for proposals for trans.ACT. caught the attention of trans dance and performance artist Ashley R.T. Yergens who noticed a curious absence of any mention of trans artists and their work.
Yergens took his questions about all this to Facebook:
The Association of Performing Arts Professionals, formerly known as the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, or more commonly known as APAP is calling for Professional Development Program proposals using the theme "trans.ACT."
They define the theme as the following:
"This year’s theme, trans.ACT, focuses on the transformative power of the arts and the multiple ways - 'trans' meaning across, beyond, and through – in which we 'act' upon our commitment to bring the full meaning, impact and experience of the arts to communities across the country and around the world."
While I understand the etymology of the prefix "trans," I can't help but notice that the theme reads as transact as in transaction. Also, it reads as Trans Act like an act that serves to protect trans people like me. This particular reading of the theme leaves me completely baffled.
There's zero mention of trans people - trans dance and performance artists - like me, which seems like a hugely missed opportunity and evidence of who was in the room to finalize this year's APAP theme for Professional Development Program proposals.
Again, I understand the etymology of the prefix "trans." I'm not here to police language. Words evolve. However, I question and I hold APAP accountable to how they're using the word at this point in the evolution of "trans." The word has finally entered the mainstream to describe people like me who don't identify with their assigned genders at birth. It's a word that empowers me and allows me to find other people who share similar experiences and hardships.
Honestly, this is like APAP naming the theme "Gay.ACT" and defining "gay" simply as happy and distancing the term from its loaded history pertaining to gay people.
Perhaps this theme wouldn't be so unsettling if it weren't for the fact that dance and live performance lacks history, documentation, and consistent opportunities for dancing and performing bodies of trans experiences. If you want proof of what this field is lacking, then 1) send money to my Venmo account, and I'll do the labor of sharing my research and personal experiences with you or 2) Google.
So, I'm holding APAP accountable to answering the following questions:
1.) Did you consult any trans people when you selected this theme?2.) Are there any trans people on your staff or board?3.) How have you supported trans dance artists and performers in the past? How do you plan on supporting trans dance artists and performers in the future?4.) While I understand the etymology of "trans," I find it odd that you chose to use a word that is currently used to describe identities that I and so many other people fight for on a daily basis. Why don't you mention trans people in your description? Was any of this discussed when selecting "trans.ACT" as a theme?
I look forward to APAP's thorough responses, and I am eager to see how they will transcend their faux pas with action.
I encourage you to contact APAP as well: https://www.apap365.org/About/Staff
Ashley R.T. Yergens
Yergens also sent the following email to APAP:
My name is Ashley R.T. Yergens. I'm a trans dance artist and performer based in Brooklyn, NY.
I was reading your description about this year's PDP theme for proposals.
A few questions come to mind:
1.) Did you consult any trans people when you selected this theme?
2.) Are there any trans people on your staff or board?
3.) How have you supported trans dance artists and performers in the past? How do you plan on supporting trans dance artists and performers in the future?
4.) While I understand the etymology of "trans," I find it odd that you chose to use a word that is currently used to describe identities that I and so many other people fight for on a daily basis. Why don't you mention trans people in your description? Was any of this discussed when selecting "trans.ACT" as a theme?
I look forward to reading your responses and discussing this further.
Minutes later, Yergens received the following reply:
Thank you for reaching out with your questions about this year's APAP|NYC conference theme. Given that we are heading into a holiday weekend, I wanted to be sure to reach out to you.
Our conference committee of artists, agents, presenters and producers spent a considerable amount of time discussing the multiple meanings of "trans" in creating the theme. We hope to bring together a wide range of professionals, including transgender artists, next January to explore how we can collectively advance the role and value of the performing arts in today’s complicated world.
We invite you to submit a conference proposal or otherwise happy to touch base following the upcoming holiday.
Scott D. Stoner
Vice President, Programs and Resources
Association of Performing Arts Professionals
1211 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 200
Washington, DC 20036
202-331-1890 | APAP365.org
Thank you for touching base. I look forward to hearing your responses to my questions, learning more about the considerable time spent discussing the multiple meanings of "trans," how you arrived at the copy on the proposal form, and learning more about how you will include transgender artists at this year's conference.
AshYes, I think it will be good to hear some direct, meaningful responses to Yergen's reasonable questions, and I welcome him to keep InfiniteBody's readers posted.
Ashley R.T. Yergens is a 2016 boo-koo artist-in-residence at Gibney Dance, and a 2016-17 Fresh Tracks Artist at New York Live Arts. He's a former project coordinator for DanceMotion USA, a program of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the US Department of State, produced by BAM. Currently, he works at New York Live Arts as a development associate.
Subscribe in a reader