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Dorchel Haqq Interview: DANCE AS A FORM OF PROTEST

Updated: Jul 5, 2020

"I am not going to harness someone's expression especially during this time. I do not want to do that. I can not even harness my own."

Those are the words of Dorchel Haqq. I've known her since we were dance students at SUNY Purchase. We've danced together many times and she also danced in my senior project "Bodies/Disposal".When I saw the images and videos of her (and other familiar faces) dancing to the beat of live drummers in the middle of a protest on my Instagram feed, I had many questions. Instead of bombarding Dorchel with my questions in her DMs, I figured it would be great to document her answers in writing and post it on this blog. She obliged and then suggested to document the interview on video, since it would be powerful to watch two Black women talk.

I did both.

Watch our conversation in full here:

Transcription of interview and photos below:

Joy-Marie: You know, I can talk a lot. So, I am going to get started. I am going to get these questions going. Explain to me what is happening?

Dorchel: Honestly, you know, when you get in public... I feel like this is a human thing, we get a bit shy, and we get just really caught up, and what it looks like. And that did not happen. It was like, truly like, that that church moment when you are in church in you are child and you are just watching someone, like catch the Holy Ghost. It was that moment that I have never experienced fully, especially with so many people watching me. And I did not care that moment. Like I — it was full like — release of ego — like this is not about me. This is not about who — what this — like physical body can do, but it was more about my spirit, like crying out to the world, and like the — the most vulnerable thing I can do is just like, just share that, and I was — I just — I was present for my community, for my people, to show that they — no one has ownership over our liberation. 

Joy-Marie: (Encouraging) Hey, come on!

Dorchel: We do, with our own body is each individual — and yeah, it just starts within yourself and like fully — like the music is cut. I like to go clubbing. I like to — I like to party, and when that like music really puts you in a trance, especially like live music, and you hear the drums, the horns, everything, and everything of myself, like literally just erase, and I just like, I am here to — I do not even know what I was there to do, but I have felt in that moment that I was — my body was speaking for every black person, just like the release that we — that we collectively need the — the healing that we collectively need. The joy that we collectively like — we are all seeking during this time. 

Joy-Marie: So, Jon Batiste, the musician organized a protest in New York City, and he put a call out on Instagram, and then you took that and organized some of your friends that are dancers to join, is that right? 

Dorchel: So, I have been with Loni London. And so, Loni and Rachel — Rachel, who is a connect with Public Records, which is also about a place that I like to go clubbing, but they also have a platform online where they show — digitally dance with musicians, and then show choreography. So, Loni and Rachel are both working together to create this platform called, Four Voices, and so through that, John was already going to be performing that week, and he just has like no — like this is — this is a call to action. Like I need to use my voice — use what the universe gave to me — the gift that I have, and enlighten — enlighten the world. And they called me, I think that was the Friday. Yeah. The Friday before, and was like, " John wants to know, like dancers, like do you want to dance? Can you get dancers? Can you like — how big can we make this? Also it does not have to be big. Do you even want to do this? Do you — can you dance right now...." type of situation.

Photo courtesy of Bram Vandermark

So, they called me, and like that Friday, I had a Reiki session which I am like forever grateful for because I was not in the best place. I was really like, yeah, not there, but the energy transferred definitely like rejuvenated, and really like reset my engine. And so, after that I was like, okay, like this is an opportunity. I need to figure out how I can use my voice as a black dancer to get other people together and show that art can really be a driving force in this movement as well.

And I think that is also important for young kids to see, for the elderly to be like — like there is — there is like some light and hope and it is not all grim and it is not all depressed in a way. Yeah, so they called me, and I was like, oh my goodness, like it is okay. Like that is tomorrow. Okay, got to get it. Got to get it together. So, called my people. I was like 'sup, we going to do this we out.... collected some people, emailed together. And yeah, it happened. We met at Union Square and I was just like, this cannot really be organized because it was like trying people — like try to organize dance, and honestly this time I do not — I personally am a strong advocate for improv and —  well, I uh, I cannot...

I am not going to harness someone's expression especially during this time. I do not want to do that. I can not even harness my own. I cannot control my own expression. So, I was just like we are going to go with the flow also, like I was on Face Time with Jon before, like the Friday before, and I was like your energy is the "one", I am like, I thank [him] for re-inspiring me to use my artistry. He is huge just like we were on the phone, we were just like smiling and laughing at each other and it was like that is what I needed to see, like that is what I needed to feel at the time, and I was like, I knew that Saturday would bring so much joy to so many people. 

Joy-Marie: Was there any, you know, spoken collaboration between you and Jon? 

Dorchel: Not really. 

Joy-Marie: When you got there, was it like, "Okay, we are here, boom!". And then, it just happened?

Dorchel: Yeah. There needs to be no words. Like we are on the same page, like this is for our people. We are the people; we want to give back and we want to speak out. This is our way to speak out as artists.

Joy-Marie: Who took those photos?

Dorchel: When I tell you, I was just like so overwhelmed there is so many--

Joy-Marie: There were a lot of people, okay. 

Dorchel: Oh, a lot of people. And then, like people — I would see it on someone else's story now, then I will be like wait like, who is that... "Can you send me this?"... It is like picking it up afterwards. After like looking it up. I was so — that protest my — but I almost passed out three times. Like honestly, like what — I was drinking so much water, but my physic — like my spirit-- 

Joy-Marie: Yeah. 

Dorchel: And it took like.... so many times.

Joy-Marie: You are purging a lot of trauma. 

Dorchel: And I had to leave. Like I removed myself out of the — like they kept going. I mean, we were dancing and marching for hours, like we marched from Union Square to then, Washington Square Park to then, all the way to 36th Street. Like it was just a long — and they kept going. And I was like, honestly, like I do not know about. Yeah. 

Joy-Marie: I really commend people that go to protest. I am not the one that usually does that, especially now, but coronavirus. And I also — I mean, I cannot fight. So, there is I do not have hands. No, I — joke-joke-joke. No, but like in all seriousness, COVID-19 is still a real factor, and also police officers, every time, commit to violence when it comes to protesters, and that is a real, you know, risk that every person that decides to protest takes. So, I really — really commend you and everyone else for going out there in those streets and marching for our lives. I mean, you really did take a risk and — to do that...

And so, I just wanted to ask you, how — like you — you spoke about the experience of how amazing it was. I can already imagine how healing that must be, right, to march, and then dance alongside other black people, and feel that camaraderie, but would you like to speak on that a little more? Like what did you take from that? 

Dorchel: In the protest, it feels like... I also went to one, the Saturday before that, and the energy is just like...COVID does not matter. 

Joy-Marie: Yeah.

Dorchel: Like — and yes, I was risking... Honestly, my life, my mom's, my grandmother's, it is like, so many people that — my mom has to come in contact with to take care of my grandmother and my aunt. But I knew, deep down, like everything was going to be okay. 

Joy-Marie: Yeah.

Dorchel: And the real problem is not COVID. Racism is the pandemic, and it just — I cannot even — I am trying to think of like how — what my takeaway is from it because it is a continuous experience that I am like still unpacking today.

Photo courtesy of Bram Vandermark

Joy-Marie: How do you feel now?

Dorchell: I feel like I have come to terms that I cannot jump into people's bodies and change their mind. I — the only — I think of the — the revolution starts within, and it's someone's choice to start that within themselves. And there are a lot of — in protesting, everyone says, "White silence is violence", and — yes. But then, there is another part of silence that is also important — the listening. The — the listening of energy, the listening of other people, like knowing when to speak out, and really evaluating yourself before you speak out. 

So, I think my takeaway from this whole experience is to really — is to really step back and say that it is not about me at all. Like any of this. I do not matter, like the my — yes, I matter, but like I — how do I explain this — every single person is of this Earth, like we are made from this Earth, and the Earth will continue without humans. Grass will be there. Plant will be there. The Sun — we are destroying ourselves by not having all that love from the Earth — that the Earth provides us — the Earth has provided us like so many things. And like, to coexist, we need to really understand that we cannot be selfish.

Joy-Marie: There is a shared... there is a shared human experience that — that maybe — clearly,many people do not know of. There is a lot of — people — people are coming to terms with a lot right now. I think even — even in a lot of people's personal lives. I mean, I will just speak for myself, like there has been a lot of things that I have realized in my own life. I was like, oh that really was not okay. You know, and I think that the current political and social environment is just ramping that process up a bit. 

And so, it is exciting, it is hard because it is gross, but it is exciting because-

[background noise of an explosion or boom]

I have said enough. Last thing that you would like to say. Like to share?

Dorchel: I just think everyone's — everyone's voice is valid. Everyone's activism in their own way is valid. And in order to unite, we have to first go within ourselves and love ourselves first before we can love one other people. Yeah. Art is about vulnerability, and it is hard to do that. It is hard to always like show. It is like Martha Graham, like literally like why she has the cups of the hand, and why there is a pleading? That the information of — the vulnerability and your body will read way more — been screaming, I think, because energy is so powerful. Yeah. 

Joy-Marie: That is all in that, period. Thank you for talking with me. Thank you for talking with me. Of course. Great. Bye!

Dorchel: Bye!

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