Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Embracing Pluralism Through Actions Made Friendships Possible

I did not come to Georgetown to be a dancer, and I never expected to be involved in student theater. Still, as I depart the Hilltop this weekend, some of the toughest goodbyes I’ll say are to my friends and mentors in the university’s performing arts community.

It’s not that I never made friends on my freshman floor, in my classes, or at The Tombs while waiting tables, but there is something unique about a friendship forged backstage while wearing too much make-up, one false eyelash and multi-colored spandex, or in the scene shop while constructing an 800-lb set for a play.

Some people call it being sucked in, others call it being overextended, but I like to think that this campus has a way of presenting interesting opportunities just when you least expect it. Such was the case when I discovered Black Movements Dance Theatre at my first SAC fair. The student director saw me lingering in the vicinity of her table and called out, “Hey, do you dance? Join Black Movements!” I don’t know if I took her seriously then or not, but BMDT was about to become my home, a place I would find comforting and at times uncomfortable. And I was about to discover that it was not just a group of people who liked to dance, but a pre-professional modern dance company that would keep me in rehearsal for 10 hours a week and teach me the ins and outs of light design and technical theater.

Before this goes any further, I should tell you a secret: I am not black. For this reason people often ask why I chose to join Black Movements over any other dance group on campus. My response to this particular question is simple – I wasn’t trained in ballet and I looked miserable in a kickline. This process of elimination does not answer why I chose to stick with BMDT for four years, however. The answer there is more complex. It has something to do with the company’s clear sense of identity, artistry, and sisterhood, and also that the sounds of Lauryn Hill, Nina Simone, Sade and the Verve Remix CDs kept me returning to each rehearsal. I was hooked on the company the day we moved into Walsh Black Box before the fall concert of my freshman year.

In 12 hours we converted a classroom space into a veritable theater by installing lights, speakers, curtains, and a marley floor. In one week we perfected our existing pieces and choreographed three new ones to flesh out the concert while our beloved artistic director shouted things like “That is a hot mess! Y’all better make it pop and sizzle!” The experience taught me to be disciplined, to love being stressed out, and not to settle for mediocrity even when up against a deadline, midterms and a tight rehearsal schedule. The amount of wrenches, cables, and physical labor involved in the process made the concert oddly satisfying even though I only appeared on stage for a grand total of seven seconds to do a port de bras in a semi-blackout.

There are not many times when a Catholic, middle class, white girl is in the minority at Georgetown. But let me say, it is a humbling experience. People on this campus often tout pluralism, diversity and privilege, but I question whether we believe what we say. We have an abundance of culturally based student groups and activities which prove the existence of a diverse student body, but I’m skeptical as to how integrated we actually are. I say this because I imagine all Georgetown students to be more open-minded than the average population, but the responses I’ve received when I have spoken of my involvement with BMDT have shown this is not necessarily true. It scares me that so many people assume that a white girl would be discriminated against in a group like BMDT, while they are blinded to other, more painful acts of discrimination that happen here every day. To set the record straight, what matters in Black Movements is one’s commitment to the company and passion for dance – not the degree of color in one’s skin.

Rather than be disillusioned by the complexity of racial relations at this university, I simply thank BMDT for broadening my own horizons and teaching me not to idealize Georgetown. This place has been my home for four years, and in that time I’ve come to love it despite its faults. I’m also grateful for the opportunity to have mounted seven productions with such a charismatic group of women in the Black Box and in the new Gonda Theater, which was just a grassy field when we were freshman.

And I know that when I walk in the graduation procession I will feel “lifted and gifted,” as we say in BMDT.

Celeste Tinari is a senior in the School of Foreign Service.

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