Healing Divides through the Arts

"Dear Barry. Don't sit down and consider what you want to write. Open up your iPad, take a deep breath, and create a post about exactly what you want to talk about in the moment."


I'm glad I'm giving myself permission to write freely, openly, and without prompt. I've been spending a great deal of time since Tuesday feeling the pull of generalized and social media telling me how to feel. When I angrily turn off the television or slam my computer shut, I sit in my own mind and begin doing the same. "Barry! It's time to move on. You need to find some way to focus and accept what has happened." It feels nice that by writing this I can remind myself through my work that it is alright to choose my own path through any experience.

Not all, but a great majority of us United States artists experienced a devastating loss early Wednesday morning when Donald Trump was named President-Elect of our great country. Aside from the explosive release of the most stressful, negative campaign on record, people of all minorities sunk deeply into their seats imagining how their rights, safety, and livelihood would be affected by this news. I wasn't sleeping at home that night, instead on my friend's couch on the 19th floor of an apartment overlooking a frighteningly silent New York City. I felt alone and dazed until I finally fell asleep. But not before only one tear dropped down my cheek onto my pillow.

I woke up the next morning equally dazed. I couldn't turn on my regular morning talk show, The Today Show. I couldn't watch anything where I had to see people happy or faking their disposition for a television audience. I almost couldn't bring myself to pack my clothes and get changed to stop and take class at Steps on Broadway before I headed back to Philadelphia. But I somehow found myself standing at the front of the studio, barre in hand and taking the deepest breath as I began moving my body to the sullen melody our pianist played expressing himself in the best way he knew. Like the moments before a drug kicks in, you are already committed to the ride. Just you don't know exactly how profound or regret-filled this experience may get.

With such intense emotions clearly at the throats of this room of 40 or so dancers, we all began to do the one thing we knew. We began to look into ourselves. We began to look at ourselves. And we began to work on the only thing that was truly in our control. Ourselves. And slowly, but surely, teary eyes and broken hearts turned into smiles, hard work, and determination. At this point, I knew everything was going to get better.

We dancers are the lucky ones. We truly are. On even the darkest days, we have something to turn to, something to distract us, something to improve our very being. And even better than the fact that art heals, it makes us more compassionate people. People who understand the way the world works a little better, who can look at someone unlike us and see that they deserve no more than we do, and who aren't afraid to express the best and worst parts of being human. When tragedy strikes, we share our voices silently and express physical grief to heal others. When seething differences become apparent, we explore how to look at this person with compassion and understanding.

There is so much that art offers during trying times. And I fear that we may need art more than ever over the next few years as our leader's core-values seem to be heading in the direction of reinstating old, regressive, and potentially hateful ideals within our progressive nation. So, as we continue on this journey of life in and out of the dance world, I urge anybody who reads this to go out and work on improving yourself first. Then, once you feel that the time is right, find ways to use your art to help society cope, understand, and move forward with the challenges that our great nation will face as it tries to find a middle ground among a divided nation.

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