Dance thesis to tackle racial issues

Protests, rallies and public demonstrations have been popular media to criticize the state of race in America. However, a less popular medium for this type of expression is art.

One Master of Fine Arts student at Sam Houston State University has brought her first-hand experience with racism and dance to construct a program commenting on discrimination.

“DiscrimiNATION” is part of a Takiesha Scimio’s work for her Masters thesis. It is based on the foundation of the research she has done for her thesis paper.

The entire production, including choreography, was done by Scimio with the aid of a technical crew.

“Some things to expect are addressing and confronting various ills in our society, such as stereotypes and discrimination based on perception,” Scimio said. “I try to illustrate these various concepts on stage with the help of gestural movement, costumes and lighting. It is my goal by the end of my concert to evoke, entertain and enlighten the audience. It is also my goal to encourage empathetic understanding, which is the first step to social change and community.”

Scimio said she was inspired by two different events that happened in her life. The first event occurred when Scimio received her Bachelor of Science in sociology in Clarksville, Tenn., where she was part of the dance team as an undergraduate student at Austin Peay State University.

“I was the only girl of color, but that did not bother me at first,” Scimio said. “One of my teammates would make negative racial remarks or references about my hair texture, skin color and love for hip hop music and dance. I figured since we were teammates, almost like sisters because we spent so many hours together due to practice and performances that it should not have mattered whether or not my physical appearance looked different from the rest of the girls on the team. We were supposed to be a team.”

The events in Ferguson, Missouri over the summer were the second factor that helped birth the idea of the concert.

“The case is far more complicated, but the bottom line is how individuals of color are still being categorized and stereotyped because of their physical appearance,” Scimio said. “It’s saddening because this is still happening in the year 2014, long after slavery and Jim Crow.”

The two events originally seemed different, but they are tied by the act of discrimination present in each, according to Scimio.

“In both cases previously discussed, the character of the people involved, including myself, were not taken into consideration,” Scimio said.  “Because I and Michael Brown looked or liked certain things, we were discriminated against – for different reasons, of course. The stories do differ, but the parallel between the two are discrimination.”

The dance concert is free and open for anyone to attend and experience the event.

The concert will take place on Nov. 7 and 8 at 8 p.m. in the James and Nancy Gaertner Performing Arts Center Dance Theatre.

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