Dancers want St. Louisans to get into the rhythm of voting | St. Louis Public Radio

Dancers want St. Louisans to get into the rhythm of voting

Jun 29, 2016

Dancers are helping people get a leg up on voting this Saturday afternoon in University City.

An outdoor performance in front of Vintage Vinyl is designed to encourage passers-by to register and cast their ballots in the Aug. 2 Missouri primary. Three dance companies will alternate voting-related performances from 2-5 p.m.  Four spoken word artists will also participate.

Joan Lipkin, artistic director of That Uppity Theatre Company, who came up with the idea for “Dance the Vote,” said the effort brings artists into the arena of activism.

“It’s a way we can actively participate and bring our particular gift to the table in order to promote active citizenship,” Lipkin said.

Participating dance companies include Ashleyliane, Karlovsky, Beyond Measure Dance Theatre and the AfroKuumba Dancers and Innervision Dance Theatre. Some will focus on voting issues around immigrants and women. Ashley Tate of Ashleyliane said her choreography reflects the difficulties faced by African-Americans.

“We’re going to be touching on the subject of African-Americans and the journey it is for that particular group of people, over the years, to fight for the right to vote,” Tate said.

Dancing for deadlines

The event, the first in a planned series, is designed to let people know that Wednesday (July 6) is the deadline for registering to vote in the primary.

Joan Lipkin founded and heads That Uppity Theatre Company and is also a social activist.
Credit Joan Lipkin | Provided

“The governor’s office, all of Missouri’s statewide posts except for the state auditor are up; two U.S. Senate seats are up, many judges,” Lipkin said. “We think it’s important that people participate.”

Several more dance companies are expected to take part in future performances. A second presentation is planned in advance of the Oct. 12 deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 8 presidential election, during an upcoming First Fridays in Grand Center. At least one other venue has turned down Lipkin’s request to perform there.

“They’re saying we’re concerned about the political content of the work; ‘we need to be neutral, can you guarantee what the content of the work is?’” Lipkind said. “My answer is, ‘Of course I can’t. Nor would I.’”

Lipkin says the event is nonpartisan and intended to appeal to all potential voters.

The idea is for the dancers to get people’s attention, and bring them over where they can register to vote or learn more about the elections. But creating a dance around an activity like voting can be challenging. There are two ways to do it, according to Tate: literally or through abstraction.

Ashley Tate teaches in the public school system as well as running her dance company.
Credit Ashley Tate | Provided

“If I were waiting in line to vote and I was barred from it, would I show, literally, how I’d be standing there?” Tate said. “Or is it more abstract, where I’m moving and kind of illustrating the feeling?"

Tate uses each of the concepts in the program. Dancers will portray the raising of hands to ask a question as well as performing movements that demonstrate a feeling of defeat.

“It just depends on whatever feels good to you as a choreographer,” Tate said.

Follow Nancy Fowler on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL