The Dance Union

Melanie Greene and J. Bouey

“And what if there are those type of moments that we decide to slow — you know we talked about slowing down and taking care. What if we decided to integrate that into our movement practices, right? Like what if we decide to say, ‘Ope! I think I’m hitting something, I’m triggering something I don’t like. Let’s like start to unpack that.’ So again, we have the tools we’ve been talking about. It exists outside. We’ve been doing it in our digital spaces, our love spaces. It’s like, and now it’s time to bring it into our movement-based practices and spaces. And we can do that. We have the capacity to do that.” – Melanie Greene

On the morning of July 28, 2022 artists and co-founders of the The Dance Union Podcast, J. Bouey and Melanie Greene, recorded a conversation about dance and digital care. Their podcasts and Instagram Lives were covered by the NY Times early in the pandemic and still continue today. Below, a recording of their July conversation showcases an exchange three years in the making. A transcript and audio file is also provided for accessibility.

Dance Union Recording Audio.m4a         

Transcript of the The Dance Union Podcast with J. Bouey and Melanie Greene


J. BOUEY: Yeah I think one of the more important things I’m really grateful for at the beginning of thinking about the recording that we’re doing— hey y’all…*laughs* is…the real invitation to just not move as fast as I have been moving in this New York City, like, art life, world life, and to really like take the time to contend with all the things that…come up when I’m invited to slow down.

MELANIE GREENE: Right. And the thing is the sort of urgency and the fast pace is extremely addictive—hey y’all, Melanie here—I realize is extremely addictive and even when I have an invitation to slow down like I do right now in this residency, if an invitation comes to speed up, I will do it because that is still—I have to acknowledge that it’s still my habit and that the work now comes into creating new habits; which comes in that invitation of slowing down and being thoughtful.

J. BOUEY: Exactly. So in the name of slowing down and thoughtfulness, let’s do some important introductions. Knowing that this is going to be transcribed, I just wanna give as much of visual descriptions as feels appropriate for the time. And I, you know what I love—okay here’s one thing I just wanna quickly say before we get into the visual descriptions and like land acknowledgments: I love when we do this with our full artistic ass. You know what I mean?

MELANIE GREENE: *chuckles* Yes. That’s the only way to do it.

J. BOUEY: Okay?


J. BOUEY: Yeah. So, hey y’all my name is J. Bouey. I use they/them pronouns. I am literally in my living room. Let me pull up my self-view so I can know what I look like, ‘cause I forgot. Alright. I’m wearing a blue bandana, got these gold rim glasses, I have a amethyst connected to a little earring, it’s a little stone dangling right there. I’m wearing a grey tank top. Literally in my kitchen, ‘cause that’s where human design said that I do my best at. There’s a little mic in the screen, but also more importantly, I am black. I am good, wonderfully like—this is a mahogany kind of brown, ‘s a little red undertone, you know what I mean? Respecting the indigenous ancestry that is part of my African lineage as well. You know, just, we here. We here. Also I’m in…I’m on Canarsee and Lenape land, also known as, and renamed as, Brooklyn.

MELANIE GREENE: Hey y’all hey. I am Melanie. She/her. I am a black woman. I’m still rocking my afro-mohawk, wearing a flowery dress, the skin is poppin’ because I am drinking more water. I am a choreographer, a writer, do these podcasts, human, organizer. And currently I am on Navajo land. Also known as Albuquerque. And there are a lot of other indigenous folks on this land as well, as I’m getting to learn and know more about—I’m currently in residency, so yeah.

J. BOUEY: Yeah I’m from Arizona, and I’m wondering if that’s also partly Apache land or not. But that’s just my curiosity. Oh I’m not…don’t let the rec–I’m not “from” from Arizona, I’m from the earth. But the point is a lot of times *Melanie laughs* in that region—*J. laughs* 

MELANIE GREENE: It is so complex. And can I just say, I got to see part of the Rio Grande yesterday which is pretty dry right now and very alarming. Just…just saying. So anytime y’all put some water to your lips, know that there are places and spaces where that water is not abundant right now. It is not doing what it needs to do. 

J. BOUEY: And rivers take care of like millions of people, by just existing where it flows down, and unfortunately there is a hierarchy that is based on who is the most north…who’s northernmost of a certain river, who gets it. Because the salt–salt water? Salt River? Salt River. Can’t remember if that’s the name of it. I’m just trying to remember that in Arizona the power company is called SRP—Salt River Project, it uses the energy of the river. But all to say, I believe the major river that Arizona and California gets their water from used to flow all the way down through Mexico City, and used to run literally through the center of Mexico City. But when that dried up hundreds of years ago because of colonization, they just went ahead and built the rest of Mexico City over it, so…


MELANIE GREENE: You know, again, this could be a whole ‘nother conversation topic, but it’s just for me, just seeing human existence and the way we are in conversation or not with land, and even with the Rio Grande and understanding where Old Town is, they built that there because of this access to water, and how now there are…it’s so complex. Because there’s this amazing artist here that I’ve met who does a lot of this advocacy work around this, and like, and talking about what’s happening with the river. A lot of it is because of fracking and it’s damaging the water as well. But the complicated thing is that a lot of the people who live here work in these fracking industries. So that which is giving them money on one hand to live and survive is also causing their ultimate extinction or destruction because it is ruining the water source that brings life. 

J. BOUEY: Isn’t that a wonderful analogy for the state of many of our dancers in the dance industry, especially during…

MELANIE GREENE: Yo. I got more to say on that too. Bring it. *Melanie leans back, adjusts her dress, and stretches her shoulders and arms forward and back*

J. BOUEY: Because at this point *J. laughs* You better stretch! *J. laughs again* Because…I have to be quite frank about the human experiences I’ve had since the Town Hall.[1] ‘Cause this is part of the questions we were asked to respond to in this recording. There was a major turning point naturally, as there should have been for everybody, in June of 2020 given the events that we experienced and the state of the world we’re living in. But I think being a member of this dance community in as many different pockets that we have been, from organizers, community members, just like showing up to stuff, dancers, producers, choreographers, administrative people, just seeing many different perspectives of it. The ecosystem itself is set up as it is in this dance industry to really intentionally take the life blood and force of the performer and create the work and the industry to exalt specific people. But unfortunately once you get into the industry and that is your primary, like, life, that’s your job, that’s your skill set, the idea of breaking away from it or upending the system, like there’s this huge potential wake of further destruction, at least in the first wave, for many of the people who are still working in it. So I say all that to say I was very frustrated internally, and my mamma said, like most mammas say, “If you ain’t got nothin’ good to say, don’t say nothin’ at all”. *Melanie laughs* So I was like tellin’ y’all I ain’t got nothin’ to say, ‘cause I ain’t got no kind words in my mind based off what’s happening in the world. Part of that was because I was judging both myself and—well I have to start with myself, because once I judge myself, then naturally that becomes the lens on the world. So I was judging myself as a dance artist for not getting out of certain situations, but waiting for the situation to kick me out. Like that last dance company, right? Why am I supporting this?

MELANIE GREENE: I think it’s one of those things that once you’re in it, it’s hard—it’s different, you know, when you look outside of a situation, I think we have to be more kind with ourselves on how we navigated inside it. Because you, me, whoever, we’re using the resources that we have available to us at that time to the best of our knowledge. Now once we step outside of that, or we have a chance to look outside of that, and we notice that there are other opportunities or resources available to us and we still choose not to activate or use them, then for me that becomes like a, “Actually you need to sit down with yourself.” And I took an amazing class yesterday that talked about preventative care and how we as movers, performers, dancers, how we’re taking care of ourselves, because the body that we use and we activate as a guiding tool inside of the studio has so many repercussions outside, right? So I think since the town hall, one of the biggest questions and conversations of like, “How are you taking care of yourself?” Not just outside of the work—outside of the studio, but inside. Because guess what? These two are in conversation. So you can’t isolate them and say, “Okay, I’m going to take care of myself in the dance industry over here, but I’m actually not going to take care of myself over here when I have to pop up on Zoom, or like, be in a meeting, or…” No, actually it’s a holistic way I think we have to start looking at care. And I think for me the Town Hall became the beginning journey for me with that. So like I’ll give you a quick example that I was exposed to yesterday: there are repetitious actions we do inside of the studio, whether it’s having your arms in what they call “fifth position” for instance, or whatever, that over time—if you do that over and over again, it’s actually going to have negative repercussions to your body, right? And then that shows up in the world. It shows up in how you’re able to walk down the street. It shows up in how you’re able to move in spaces, because of how your body is trained to move inside the space. So my question is: if I say I’m going to take care of myself or start to advocate for myself inside the studio space, that needs to also happen outside in the world. This is one of those big topics that is sort of floating all over that place for me, but this class also brought up sleep, right? And how you sleep affects the way your spine is laying. And if you are laying in a place, in a space that is not good for your hips or your spine, and then you decide to show up in the studio…that’s going to affect–those are going to be two different conversations your body is having. So I think part of one of the questions that was asked of us in this space was, like, how do we continue to care for ourselves—like what is our digital care, what does our digital accountability look like? Because I do think it is a holistic conversation. Just because the digital affects us in regular space, and vice versa. All over the place, but I’m’on get there.


J. BOUEY: No no no, I wanna support that and see if I can weave some of the stuff that I heard in my mind about astrology…what else did I hear? Going back to that fracking analogy, ‘cause like you said, there’s this capitalistic source that helps keep people alive which is this fracking job. And in turn, unfortunately, participating in this fracking job deteriorates your overall livelihood outside of and beyond the idea of and imagination of capitalism. Similarly in the dance industry when you literally have accepted the call and the invitation to be an embodied artist— again separate from the imaginations of capitalism, separate from any other kind of systemic oppressions—just you know that your manifestations in your world, in your body, in this lifetime means that you know that you can offer something great to humanity by being in your body and showing all that is possible with it. And you learn that the only real place you have to show that and exalt that is this dance industry which is also destroying your body in turn. Like, I have a lot more empathy for myself and in turn for the people in my mind that crossed my mind, or the communities in my mind that crossed my mind, that I was not as patient with when I was off the mic. And I’m not saying I jumped on and said anything, I’m just saying I have to hold myself accountable—in relation to this conversation—to the ways I saw the world now that we are shifting, right? But as I’m holding myself accountable, I’m realizing that I did not identify with my body beyond what it can do for dance. Especially given the fact that the industry didn’t allow for me to have much respite outside of that identity. Because the pay is so low, and the resources are said to be so scarce, that the illusion requires you to hustle hustle hustle hustle hustle to the point that, like, you know that you should roll out every night. You know that you should soak these bones. You know that you should make sure you get this amount of rest. But when you know that you sit back at home and the only thing you end up being able to do—I’m talking to myself—the only thing I was able to do with that knowledge was shame myself for not doing it, you know? So then I get back in the studio, my shoulder hurts, I’m trying to get back in that fifth position, the choreographer is upset about something. Then here’s the last shit—and I want to point out that this is an illusion about the lack of resources because there are dance companies that have millions of dollars in their budgets to put on shows at Park Avenue Armory, at the Mann Center, at these huge places, and then in the budget still wanna give dancers a salary that requires that they be on food stamps, that requires that they be on unemployment in between the seasons. And also without enough time in the off season to hold a second job if that’s what it is. So everybody’s hustling, nobody’s resting, and bodies are deteriorating when that is the main and literal only instrument for the quote-unquote Dance Industry. 


MELANIE GREENE: So here’s the thing that at a couple of points you brought up that I’m like, well first of all I think the reason why that also happens is because even in a space where they try to act like things are scarce, they feel like there’s an abundance of dancers, so that they’re dispensable. So one thing I’m excited about inside this turning point that I’m seeing—and I think this work has been happening for a very long time, I’m thinking about people who have engaged in somatic studies and things like that—is that now we have an invitation to consider: “Yes, and…how are we existing and living outside the studio and how are we moving in [it]?” So for instance I’m thinking about advocacy. So you know one of my huge points of advocacy around digital spaces is that I like an hour meeting. Anything over an hour and a half, I’m logging off because I am not interested in engaging in this digital space for that long. Right? Or another thing is I will lay down if I need to. And I don’t feel bad about that. So those are two ways that I advocate for myself inside a digital space. Now it’s interesting then, ‘cause I’m curious of like how the advocacy now shows up inside a studio space. ‘Cause a lot of us are starting to understand, like, how we advocate on a mic, how we advocate in a town hall. And it’s like, okay now we need to actually start to unpack how that advocacy can look in a studio. And what somebody brought up yesterday in this class that I was in is, she asked, “How does one take care of their feet when they’re asked to do repetitive jumping or movements over and over and over and over again because you’re getting ready for a performance, and it requires that you do this action over and over again on these same two feet, and then at the end of it the balls of your feet are bruised?” And then someone brought up a good point, and they said, “Well one: how can we start to encourage that that type of repetition is not necessarily needed in order to execute that which we need to see? Is it that we alternate feet? Is it that you do it a little less, and part of your rehearsal is to take care of your feet, soak your feet, massage your feet?” So it was interesting for this dancer to hear that because she was just like, “Well what can I do after the fact?” and the person’s invitation was like, “What can you do during the fact? How can we try to shift that now?” And so I wanna see more of that come in. More of that advocacy. And I’m not saying—it’s not about being contrary. But like I think a lot of movers don’t know how to activate their agency in space that feels authentic and feels empowering. Like another thing is—oh I think you were going to say something?

J. BOUEY: Yeah real quick I just wanted to add that there’s also the “before the fact.” So you’re talking about—the question was about after the fact of the room and foot movement. The offer is like during the process and then before you get into the studio as a choreographer when you’re imagining the movement and what you think is necessary for the process, how can you make sure you can incorporate care for the human bodies that are going to do it? Like do you literally need to see that for thirty minutes or fifty minutes back to back so you can get your idea? Or can you get a recording of someone doing it once and take that back home and just watch that over and over and get your mind going?

MELANIE GREENE: All those things. So again, it’s an opportunity for all of us to start rethinking about how we choreograph, what we ask of dancers, what we ask of people during—like you say—before and after, so that we are caring for the whole human inside the work we wanna make. Another one that came up, and we’ve seen this, is the advocacy of parallel versus first position for some people. And this constant, “Oh everyone’s first is different, everyone’s parallel is different depending on their body.” Okay so we know that for a fact, yet we exist in spaces where we expect everyone’s parallel to look the same. And so what you’re doing for some people is you are training their body to do something that it is not supposed to or is meant to do. Right?

J. BOUEY: And this is where the indoctrination and the grooming of like Western dance forms really sits in. It’s rooted in the idea that there’s a form that your body should fit into. And that requires that you obscure the reality that everyone’s body is inherently different. And the idea that anyone’s body should be able to replicate the shape or the pathway of another person’s body should be one of those things that is a root foundation of our dance because we already know that inherently, right? Like everyone always goes to those old videos or tries to relearn some rep and realizes both the prowess of someone’s ability to have created those shapes and pathways and then also contend with the inability of you doing it yourself. So you then have to find that reality of “how do I create a similar effect with what I have as my tool in my body?” And I just wanted to tie it back to what you were talking about when it comes to sleeping and the spine—we’re recording this on the day of the new moon in Leo. In astrology, Leo rules the spine specifically, right? And Leo is literally like the sign of like royalty and it’s the sign of like big self-love. It’s the sign of individuality. It goes on and on. Like all that you know about Leo is exalted in the manifestation in the spine and the heart because here’s the main thing about the spine that I think we should break down more in our dance communities: the spine is literally like a telescopic tube that holds every freakin’ nerve that connects from the brain through the rest of the body. If the spine is not well, if the spine is not healthy, if the spine is compressed in any way, it affects the integrity of the rest of the body to literally transmute energy. It’s literally like the lightning rod or the conductor for our relationship with reality. So if that’s off, if that’s not healthy, if that’s compressed, and if there’s held, stuck energy in the fascia of the body, it’s going to determine what a body is able to do to replicate a shape or a pathway. And lastly what I really want to connect back to is like, in astrology everyone’s astrology chart is as unique as their fingerprint. It tells you about yourself.


MELANIE GREENE: And their spine. Because I hear all spines don’t look the same. We all have different curvatures. 

J. BOUEY: Yeah, exactly. And it changes through your lifetime. It’s not a static experience. Like your spine is inherently dynamic. But the wheel of an astrology chart, if you haven’t seen an astrology chart, it is literally set up in a wheel, oftentimes sliced up into twelve different areas of life. More specifically I’m saying this because the hierarchy idea is inherently demolished when you’re looking at a wheel and you’re imagining yourself in this equal environment with other people. So when you find the planets, the signs, and all the other information in the astrology chart that supports how your spine is set up and the events of your life that contextualize how your spine is set up, it brings us back to the fact that our body literally keeps a score like the book told us. And in that way your relationships to your environment through your body that you’ve accumulated through your life are held in your body. Held fascia in specific areas of the body speaks to the certain kind of traumas we experience, whether they’re physical, emotional, or psychological. And then they show up when we dance. So when we see somebody can’t get their leg into a certain position or a pathway is blocked and things like that and you shame that dancer for not being able to move through that pathway, what you’re also communicating to them is that you are choosing to deny the reality that their body is an accumulation of their life experiences and stories, which you can connect with as a human being in this space, or you can continue to shame them for being exactly who they were. 

MELANIE GREENE: Yeah. And so what I love about this idea and an invitation to look at people’s body stories is—I decided to take this class while I was here and I really had a “flight” moment several times in this class. And it started from the very beginning where the explanation was, “This is modern, this is technique, this is formal.” And I was like, “Ugh, gross.” ‘Cause this is what I fled in 2010, 2011. And so already my body, I could feel my body locking up. Now what I am grateful for is that I have so many resources and tools now, that I was like, “Well, guess what, Melanie? You are not 2010 Melanie. You got so many more tools and resources that you’re going to actually start–-I’m gonna invite you to start to activate that in this space right now.” So part of my taking this class was like, how will I continue to advocate and take care of myself? Now what was interesting was–-and also to say that this technique was Horton’s technique. And I don’t like his technique. And I think that’s okay. And there are a lot of people who do, and that’s cool, but it never felt good in my body. I don’t know him. I do not relate to him. He does not relate to me. His work does not feel good in my body. This also goes back to the fact that if we’re looking at this, a lot of technique is one person deciding what feels good, looks good in their body, what they are aesthetically interested in, and they choose to codify it and put it on other bodies. Now, whereas I think that if that’s what you choose to do, great. I also think it’s great that there are purists in our field who decide to hold onto this information. The person teaching this class was third generation Horton. Cool. Let’s hold on to that. This is also not the only reality that we can exist in and it’s actually one I’m reminded that I choose not to. So inside of what I’m being asked to do in this moment, this movement, how’s Melanie gonna show up? So it’s very interesting, because some of that fucking movement was still so ingrained in my body, I found it really quickly. And I was like, “Hmm”. I haven’t done this in a long-ass time, and it is still very much there. And—yeah, go ‘head, what? Say it.


J. BOUEY: Oh, I thought you had more. Do you have more?

MELANIE GREENE: I do. I mean I’m just saying how it’s still in my body and I get to decide how it moves through and what I want to do next. But I’m just saying like that was such an interesting experience, y’all, because like literally there were three times in that class and I was like, “I could actually walk out right now. Where’s the door? How close am I to the door? Can I get my stuff and not be disruptive?” And I chose to stay. And I’m glad I chose to stay. Again, it’s how it shows up.

J. BOUEY: Exactly. And that’s exactly how the physical manifestation of oppression—Sonya Renee Taylor told us in The Body is Not An Apology that every system of oppression is body-based. One more time: every system of oppression is body-based. The reason why it’s body-based is because it specifically says—every system of oppression says this thing in a different manifestation depending on the oppression: if your body does not manifest into reality in this way, you run the risk of death. You run the risk of neglect. You run the risk of actually experiencing pain and suffering based off of it. If you don’t look a certain way—[I’m] talking about fatphobia, if you don’t move a certain way—[I’m] talking about capitalism, if you don’t contribute to society through your body in specific ways XYZ, it’s all a body-based oppression. And the reality is that we as dancers have been experiencing the brunt and sometimes the most exalted experience of oppression in our forms because that is what a lot of the Western dance training is founded on. The idea that your body should do, be, move, and contribute in this way. And I want to add a little bit back to astrology on this because Saturn is this planet that I’ve been studying for a project literally named Saturn, and in astrology we say the language is that Saturn rules Capricorn and Aquarius. Capricorn is the manifestation of bones. Saturn is literally the planet of like boundaries and structures. Saturn also rules Aquarius, like the connective tissue, fiber, and fascia in that way. Two body experiences that Saturn rules. Saturn is also exalted, meaning like it has all the tools to do what it needs to do in Libra. Libra is the manifestation of like a judicial system, relationships, and the idea of like where the scales tip at. And the reason why Saturn is exalted there is because Saturn wants the control. The Greek myth of like Kronos, Saturn, taking down Uranus and essentially assuming that control—Saturn wants to have all that kind of control. He gets a little bit of it in Capricorn with the idea of like an enterprise and system of government, but it really is fucking exalted there. And I wanna point, just real quick as a tangent, that the United States government has Saturn in Libra. Our judicial system has that kind of exalted power as we’re experiencing right now with the amount of Supreme Court cases that have overturned and are threatening to overturn more things that we have found freedoms and liberty for and literally fought for in past generations. But the last thing I want to add—and when this connection was made to me when I was studying in the astrology community it really made me have to like sit down and cry for a little bit: most people in the astrology community understand that Libra is also a wonderful sign of aesthetics. So for an example, Beyoncé and many of the artists born between 1981 and 1983 were born during MTV generation and their artistic presentation is like pristine, right? They have a stellium of things in Libra. They just have the ability to make things look aesthetically pleasing. Saturn also wants that aesthetic, clearly. They often use ballet and Western dance forms as the manifestation of Saturn in Libra to get most people who are studying astrology to understand how Saturn is exalted in Libra. So this idea that there are many perspectives that say that our experience in Western dance cultures is literally an oppressive one that’s exalted *laughs*. That’s one that should allow us to change some stuff. But I don’t want us with that doom and gloom with it, because it’s just one manifestation. Not all things are good or bad when it comes to astrology, and I really appreciate that lack of a morality system when we get to think about the world. Saturn exalted in Libra is also another, in a generative sense and, you know, a really helpful sense for dismantling systems of oppression, is that Saturn has the ability to right the scales, because it wants that kind of aesthetic, it can create that kind of aesthetic as well. It’s just aesthetic. What we choose to believe as beautiful, we can exalt it. So if we’re in our bodies and we decide as a community of dancers that the ability to move in your body uniquely to the way that makes sense to you—calling in jazz aesthetics, calling in Africanist practices with art-making—then we exalt that in our bodies and change the culture. It doesn’t have to be what the system was set up before us that we have to step into. We can—as literally the lifeblood of the dance industry, as performers—change this shit on a dime and make the rest of the industry get with it.


MELANIE GREENE: Right. And really I feel like you started to ask questions and to even simplify it a little bit, just to say that I think part of what you’re asking or what you’re saying that we have access to: start small. No one’s asking you to change the dance industry overnight.  And these are like–I always like to say this: there are always these sparks before the flame. And so like what are the small ways that you can start doing this in your own practice? Because as you’re talking I realize with me in this experience is that even when you do a lot of work to sort of combat and heal from trauma, it actually never—it doesn’t go anywhere in your body. It’s still in your body in some kind of way. And the way in which I was able to–even though I’m like, “Oh I picked up this movement really quick,” what I was also saying is, “I picked up that trauma again really quick.” I accessed it super quickly. And the way that this class worked and functioned, it moved at a pace that did not invite an opportunity to slow down and say, “You know what? I’m actually going to come over here and do this gesture over here. I’m actually going to ask some questions in my body first before I go across the floor four times. I know y’all wanna jump on the left leg, but for me there’s something about this right side that feels really juicy.” Like, there weren’t those type of moments. And what if there are those type of moments that we decide to slow—you know we talked about slowing down and taking care. What if we decided to integrate that into our movement practices, right? Like what if we decide to say, “Ope! I think I’m hitting something, I’m triggering something I don’t like. Let’s like start to unpack that.” So again, we have the tools we’ve been talking about. It exists outside. We’ve been doing it in our digital spaces, our love spaces. It’s like, and now it’s time to bring it into our movement-based practices and spaces. And we can do that. We have the capacity to do that.

J. BOUEY: We literally do. And just to add some more to what you were saying, referring back to astrology, when I was studying medical astrology specifically, I learned that Saturn is specifically, in medical astrology, is specifically the planet you need to heal because it’s the planet of rest. It’s literally the planet that says, like, “You need to stop.” Because there’s a realm of healing that’s inaccessible if you keep moving. 

MELANIE GREENE: Ooo! I love it. I love it.

J. BOUEY: Right? Slow down, rest, and I think it’s convalesce—this actually used to be a part of like most medical Western prognosises or prescriptions, which is to literally just go to an area, be in flowers and nature, and just do nothing. Nothingness as a remedy, right? Again, I just wanna say, last thing with the Saturn being exalted in Libra, that’s one of the ways we can change things over night. We don’t need like a huge 180 degree shift. I think that’s part of the pivot we experienced with the Town Hall that really sent us into whiplash and required that we rest for as long as we did. But a one degree shift, kind of like with the spine, when you change your posture—like my head is often forward, I notice, because I spent a lot of years without my glasses and to try to see I would send my neck forward. All I need is just the shift of bringing that chin back into alignment and there’s a bunch more ease in my life. And I think that’s what we’re also naming: a tiny shift in your personal life can change your world, which is what’s more important. You’re not trying to change the world. Change your world.


MELANIE GREENE: Yep. And I’ll say: rest is not a task, y’all. It’s actually like if you just listen and be, it’ll come naturally. Like part of this residency, we have studio time in the morning, and then there’s studio time in the afternoon and some other stuff. And I already knew, I was like, “I’m gonna do morning. And I’ll do maybe a class. Maybe. And the afternoon is gonna be me resting.” And after I took that class which was both emotional and physically taxing, I literally like took a shower and got into bed around 3pm. And I watch TV, I got up, played some Candy Crush, did some Duolingo, I ate, and let me tell y’all something: this wasn’t work. This wasn’t laborious. I was doing exactly what my body wanted to do, and I knew every second of it was part of my healing, was part of my journey to be able to be in my body the next day the way that I want to be in it. So I invite you all to find the luxuriant and the pleasure of being in rest. And to J.’s point, I think for everyone: what is that one degree shift that you can do in your life? Like just discover it and play with it and be in it. And it may take a day, it may take months, it may take a year. But I love that.

J. BOUEY: And I love that, and I really appreciate…in hindsight, right, ‘cause when we first started to rest, I was anxious.

MELANIE GREENE: Me too *laughs* Even in your anxious though, even in your anxious you told me to slow down. Remember? I was like, “Go go go go go go go!” You were like, “Actually Melanie, I don’t know that that energy is actually required for this next thing.” I’m like, “Bet!”

J. BOUEY: *Laughing* I love little moments like that ‘cause you know sometimes it’s easier for me to care for other people with the knowledge that I have than to actually embody it, right? One of the things—like I said with the hindsight of resting now—I realize is that…I’m appreciating being able to talk about this having lived in it and experienced it, and the literal greatness of it as opposed to what I realized the first era of The Dance Union Podcast has been which was me repeating the rhetoric and talking about like the one to two experiences I’ve actually had to try it, right? So in this way I feel like there’s a lot more clarity that we get to return to the podcast with. And one of the things I’m very clear about, and I just want to share this quick story, because I think this is something almost every dancer can relate to given the pandemic shift. And this is my think about care and accountability for anybody who holds any positions of power that is relative and contextual in this dance industry. Choreographer, organizer, administrative lead, so on and so forth. Just everybody who is not literally on the stage and performing and is there to help make sure that that performance happens. When the pandemic hit, I became aware of all these physical sensations in my body that I did not know were there because I had never rested long enough to listen to my body. I wanted to run away from them. I wanted to get back into a class, I wanted to get onto a roof and dance, go in a park and do all this other stuff, but those sensations wouldn’t leave. I chose not to listen to those sensations. And I literally bought a bike, because I feel free when I ride a bike, right? I just wanna be free. Jumped on the bike, 6AM, first day of having that motherfuckin’ bike. Was just gonna ride up the Hudson River essentially. And as I’m checking my phone—I’m in a parking lot, there was no cars there—you know when you’re riding slow and that bike begin to lean, I’m just letting it lean, I’m not putting my left foot down. All of a sudden a car popped up. And as I’m falling the pedal of the bike, the left pedal, got caught in the rim of the car and severely twisted my spine on the exact vertebra that I’ve already had fascia bound up and tensed up at from three to four years of dancing in and through injuries without actually resting. So basically from the tip of my left big toe to the top of my head, fascia had been twisting, corkscrewing up my body. And I had tried to get acupuncture, tried to do all these things, literally just not resting enough for the muscles to relax. And I was also weight lifting so of course I gave it extra strength to twist that. Severe migraines, all kinds of other physical issues happened. And then when I went to physical therapy at the Harkness—so shoutout the the Harkness Dance Center for this—I was talking to my physical therapist about like how I can use the few sessions that I had to get the best out of it, you know what I mean? Insurance wasn’t going to give me years. A few sessions. And she said, “A lot of it is our dance industry and culture that needs to shift because we dance and we perform at the level of Olympic athletes.”


MELANIE GREENE: With no off season.

J. BOUEY: With no off season. Every athlete gets off season, preseason, season, postseason, repeat. So they get to respite. And that’s how you can be on the football field for a long time. You can be on the basketball court for a long time. You can be Serena Williams, she’s the most awarded athlete on the planet. She’s been doing this since she was what? Like nine? Because she has this repetition of resting. But in our industry the people who hold the positions of power do not create a system, do not create an ecosystem that supports the rest. And I don’t want to blame it on the dancers. Because I think a lot of times when we get on the mic and dancer to dancer we talk about how we can support each other through the system. I want to talk to people who have held positions like artistic director, you know what I mean? You are making these seasons. Programmers, curators, you are making these seasons. Why are we making it so that the entire dance season is year round as opposed to literally coming together and being like, “What season are we going to take off to give our dancers the rest that they deserve? Because they need to eat, and this is their industry to work in.” So if this industry doesn’t rest—NFL has their rest. Fucking tennis has their rest *laughs*. Olympics is only every four years. 

MELANIE GREENE: Right, right. Here’s the thing. And I think this is another topic I won’t tangent into, but I think we’ll click save it for later: one is that a lot of these people in these artistic positions and these directors were once or are still dancers. So I think we’re still talking to our community. Because what happens is they get into these positions of power and they start to inflict that same trauma that was inflicted upon them. And they’re being pulled, string-wise, by funders, and that’s another conversation click save for later which is us letting funders tell us what we’re doing versus us telling them, “No, this is what you’re funding and here’s what we’re gonna do. Here’s what’s shifting. Here’s what’s going. You don’t get to tell us the narrative, we will tell you the narrative. And you will fund it, because you actually need us.” Again, I was in another workshop of like—a lot of times we’re like, “Oh we need this money.” They actually need us too. We provide them tax write offs. Among many other things. But again that’s another click save topic. And to your point about the rest, and I know a lot of people don’t want to take it, my invitation is to take that rest before it takes you. And I know that when I was in New York I had chronic hip pain constantly. It was a lull of five years of me being in New York. And I could not get any reprieve from it because not only did I dance, I walked. And this was a side of my body–you know you have a strong side–and so my right side was super strong, that was my standing leg. My left leg was my most flexible leg. It was my most, you know, luscious leg. And because of that I think it had less strength when walking and other things. And I don’t have that pain anymore. And I know it’s because COVID said, “Sit the fuck down.” And so I didn’t walk as much, and I got to rest it. So, you know…

J. BOUEY: You know, I feel like we’re coming to a wonderful close, right? Given the time that we’ve also been on Zoom *laughs*. I say all that to say that I think I have just one last thing I want to share in this conversation. For everyone who identifies—within our dance industry—everyone who identifies with some of the oppressive actions that we’re naming both on the mic and in our industry as like things that need to go, I want to impress upon you two thoughts that I hope take root and grow whatever flowers and fruits are going to benefit you. You are not your body and you are not your mind. So the things that your body does irregardless of what you know is right after you’ve read how systems of oppression work, and things like that, is a response to the fact that you too are oppressed by the same system that you use to oppress others or that you’ve stepped into to hold a sense of the power to oppress others. You were oppressed first. You were once a child who grew up in this fucked up system, who learned a bunch of things that you now have to unlearn just like all of us. So it’s not about coming at you for being right or wrong. It’s about that we’re just inviting you to change your body that you have control over and that you’re also not. And since you’re also not your mind, every thought that crosses your mind, even when it is a racist thought, even when it is a sexist thought, even when it is a fat shaming thought, especially in relationship to dancers, when you allow yourself to no longer be that, you don’t have to feel attacked when someone names it and talks about how it shows up subconsciously in your body. You can also, too, be like, “Yeah, thank you for that. I do need help getting that thought out my mind.” So what can we do to help create an environment so I can stop having these thoughts run me, you know what I mean? I just wanna exalt that, because one of the major issues I noticed is that—better yet, one of the only things I was concerned about when I invited you, Melanie, specifically, to start this idea of doing a town hall, was that there were people in our industry who were on multiple sides of being dancers, performers, artist, and also working within that were like oppressing people after Nana Chinara’s callout. And seeing how the line unfortunately identified people within institutions—remember when we were talking to Carla Peterson and talking about how like institution’s really just an idea, it’s a shell. People work within it but they’re people first.


MELANIE GREENE: Yeah. But they are people first. 

J. BOUEY: They are people first. My intention for the town hall, whether we hit it or not, or how close we could hit it or not, my intention for the town hall was to help remind us that in this dance industry together we are unionized already because we are working within this craft. In the relative world of all the other artforms we are barely a spec when looking at the finances that are coming through. We are barely a spec when it comes to who actually considers us humans in this world, right? And we have an opportunity now to really allow for our craft and how we organize within our craft to be reflective outside of the art-making process and in our culture, so that we can begin to show the rest of the world how important {word unintelligible at 46:52: “vital”?} is at this time in this history on our planet when there’s ecological collapse to do something different. ‘Cause everybody needs to to be embodied.

MELANIE GREENE: Yo, I mean, right. And that goes bigger than–I just feel like, you know, inside of our industry, looking beyond “us” and “them;” it’s a “we.” It will take us some time to get there, but I think first is realizing that we’re all humans. And again we need to look at also bigger picture is that we’re existing on a planet that’s got some things to say. And are we listening? And how are we using even—how are getting ready for, how are we living inside of all the things? So again, I feel like what I’m interested in and would love to hear as we move forward, one, is what are folks’ one percent? Like what what is that incremental thing that you are interested in looking at or addressing or naming in this moment? And I know for me I’m just going to go into the studio, and I’m going to start thinking about my body story. ‘Cause even I’m thinking about the weight I’ve gained since COVID. I’m like, “Oh, it’s just COVID.” The information that rests on this beautiful body is a consequence of environment, food, emotional state, activity. There’s so much information here that I’ve not even taken the time to get to know. Again, ‘nother story because J. you’ve done a bit of that work over the past two years. You’ve talked about it a little bit, like what your body’s telling you then and now and how you’ve shifted your practices with the new information you’ve been given. So. More soon.

J. BOUEY: More soon, more soon. So. On our way out you wanna hold our tradition of what you’re doing next and what you’re dancing next?

MELANIE GREENE: I do! But I also wanna shout out our Twerk Team who has been an amazing branch, tentacle, supporting this work that we’re doing. So shout out to Christine Wyatt, Troy Ogilvie, and…

J. BOUEY: Natasha…I realize I never said your last name. It’s spelled C-A-L-I-X-T-E, so for the record…

MELANIE GREENE: *Melanie makes a sound of exclamation* 

J. BOUEY: *Laughing* No, no.


J. BOUEY: It’s not–okay yeah I love it too *laughs*

MELANIE GREENE: That was sort of like my *Melanie makes the DJ airhorn sound* bwabwabwabwaaa

J. BOUEY: Oh I thought you were pronouncing the name. I was like, “Nope.”

MELANIE GREENE: No! *they both laugh* I was trying to give a sound effect.

J. BOUEY: Yeah, Natasha’s also wonderfully new to the Twerk Team. We are—Melanie and I are only two-fifths of the Twerk Team. You’ll learn more when we get back on the mic, but all to say we are only here because of the community we’ve been able to cultivate within The Dance Union since the town hall, and that was a major pivot. Melanie and I realized we really can’t do all that we have dreamt for The Dance Union by ourselves–-

MELANIE GREENE: Nor should we.

J. BOUEY: And nor should we. And we’re fortunate enough to have some resources to expand, and we did. And when we come back you’ll be able to understand the benefits of that, but as we make our way out, whatchu gettin’ into next?


MELANIE GREENE: I am in postproduction for the Sapphire Dance Film *Melanie makes DJ air horn noise* You know, and I’ve sent off, as Abraham Hicks would say, a lot of rockets of desire, and now I need to be in a space of listening and receiving the answers to those rockets that I have launched. And you, J.?

J. BOUEY: Ah, come on those answers! You’re ready to receive those answers to rockets you launched, that’s what I’m talking about. Come on, Afrofuturism. What I’m getting into next, it’s the new moon in Leo so I’m gonna do a big house clean. I love to bring in the new moon season, or the new moon cycle, with as much of a fresh start as possible. And more specifically I have a vine that has many a yellow leaf, so I’m kind of nervous to face the fact that there might be some fungal rot that I think might be reflective of some other subconscious in my life…

MELANIE GREENE: Yep. Yep. Sorry, but yep. *J. laughs* Again, click save another topic, ‘cause let me tell you something: my hibiscus plant, she really taught me something about myself. Next.

J. BOUEY: *Laughs* so last thing, what does your Dance Union have? Oh wait, real quick, while you’re thinking I just want to put people back on to what “my Dance Union has” is. I was very intentional about this phrase, because when you name something in real time, like you have it, that you claim it, with the vibration of your voice you’re telling your body that that is now a reality, and you get to live into that and nurture that seed, so we can all practice that together beyond just saying “my Dance Union has.” This is just a creative practice of it.

MELANIE GREENE: No pressure. My Dance Union has sustainable practice to be a full and realized dance artist in this career. This is my career, this is my chosen career, and it will be sustainable. It is sustainable. It is sustainable! And let’s discover how. J., what’s your Dance Union have?

J. BOUEY: My Dance Union has overwhelming majority of the performance populous (?) practicing the radical experiences of resting. Including, but not limited to, choosing not to perform where you don’t get what you need from the people who are supposed to make sure, as a dancer, you get what you need. And pay, and rest, and resources, and an environment to dance on.


J. BOUEY:  Asé.. And with that we say thank you so much for being here with us. This ain’t even our specific podcast, but you know we just have to practice, get back into it. A little rehearsal. *laughs* Five-six-seven-eight?


J. BOUEY: We out, we out, we out this bitch. See y’all later.

MELANIE GREENE: Go drink some water.

J. BOUEY: And rest.

End of recording: 53:26