Recent grads raise money for Black Lives Matter

'By donation' remote dance classes offered weekly by community dancers

Some of the DSC executive team meeting over Zoom.
Nina Li

Two recent Queen's graduates have teamed up to raise money for Black Lives Matter through remote dance classes.

Dancers Standing for Change (DSC) is an initiative run by a group of dancers who want to create tangible impact toward the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. DSC offers a series of "by donation" dance classes with 100 per cent of the proceeds going to two Canadian-based organizations, Black Lives Matter Toronto and Black Health Alliance.

Organized by Nina Li, Comm '20, and Bianca Celotti, ArtSci '20, the DSC executive team includes Ampai Thammachack, Mariam Anwar, Shayna Buckle, Lauren Johnson, and Alex Moraru.

"The Black community's contributions to the dance industry have been monumentally influential, and we as a dance community feel strongly about celebrating these contributions while standing as allies during this difficult time," Li and Celotti told The Journal.

READ MORE: In conversation with Queen’s Black Academic Society

Though Li said she was taking steps to educate herself about Black Lives Matter, she felt overwhelmed by the amount of information and resources and felt alone in the process. She partnered with Celotti to create a platform for change and source a team of individuals to teach classes.

"Amidst the Black Lives Matter movement, I often found myself feeling a sense of helplessness and guilt," Li wrote. "I felt as though I was exhibiting performative allyship and not doing enough as an individual, despite the support I felt for the cause."

Li and Celotti had previously worked together to choreograph The Olympian for the Vogue Charity Fashion Show (VCFS) in March.

They reached out to a list of dancers and dance teachers they knew in the community to explain their mission and immediately received support. Most DSC teachers come from Queen's Dance Club, Queen's Competitive Dance Team, Flow, the African-Caribbean Students Association, and VCFS.

The classes are offered through video platform Zoom and feature a range of styles, including Afrobeat, Jazz, and Hip Hop.

To sign up for a class, participants can donate to the DSC GoFundMe page. Li and Celotti grant access to the classes based on the list of donors.

While there's no minimum donation, the recommended amount is $3 per class and each donation grants the individual access to all classes offered that evening.

"[This initiative] creates a platform that incentivizes people to contribute to the cause in a tangible way," Li and Celotti wrote. "By offering dance and workout classes, people can [participate] in exchange for a donation and feel good about where their money is going."

READ MORE: Queen’s Student Diversity Project leads discussion on anti-racism & allyship

Regarding the educational aspect of the initiative, Li and Celotti are hoping to promote new research and information through original content on the DSC Instagram account. The content is focused on celebrating and acknowledging the contributions the Black community has made to the music and dance industries.

"[H]istorically, [the Black community has] been unrecognized and unappreciated for their massive contributions and we wanted to create an opportunity for people to do so through dance," Li and Celotti wrote.

They've been encouraging teachers to use songs from artists in the Black community to teach their classes and present information about the history of the artists, the song, and the style of music to participants. The first 10 minutes of each class are spent acknowledging this information and encouraging participants to educate themselves.

"We had an overwhelmingly successful Launch Day [with] eight classes, successfully raising over $1,000 in one day." Li and Celotti wrote. "Since then, we have been running classes through a weekly schedule and will continue to do so as long as we have interest. We would like to reach our goal of $5,000 by the end of the summer, ideally."

The fundraiser had collected $2,364 at the time of publication.

They added that, even if classes are no longer run due to external factors, the DSC Instagram page will continue to be active.

"[T]he publicity that the Black Lives Matter movement has recently [received] is long overdue, and we feel that it's our job as allies to continue propelling this movement forward and standing for change," Li and Celotti wrote.

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