What is Transform Dance?
Transform Dance is a project initiated and led by Generator and supported through Toronto Arts Council Strategic Funding. This project is about finding ways into healing and transformation (at both the individual and collective level) within the dance sector in Toronto. In particular, we are interested in interventions that address harassment (sexual, gender-based and otherwise), and support cultural transformation within the dance community.
Who is this project for?
This project is for anyone involved in the dance sector/community in Toronto who feels their ability to participate fully in the sector has been affected or compromised by toxic, negative and/or harassing interpersonal behaviours. In particular, we are aiming to reach people for whom these behaviours have had a gender-based or sexual aspect. Language that some people commonly use to name these experiences includes: sexual harassment, bullying, relational violence or interpersonal harm. It is not necessary that participants identify with any of these labels in order to participate.
Transform Dance is also hoping to reach the wider dance community by sharing learnings from the project (in a generalized way that protects the confidentiality and identities of anyone who has contributed). In this way, we hope the project will contribute to a more diverse toolbox for intervening, and a more robust conversation about harassment in the sector.
Transform Dance is not a crisis service; we are a small grant-funded project and as such do not have the resources to support and intervene in crisis situations. If you are experiencing crisis or are in danger right now, please click here for a list of GTA crisis resources. (To view these resources as a PDF, click here.)
What is the project offering?
There are two channels of support and service we are hoping to offer the community:
1. We have funding for three (3) Transformative Justice (TJ) processes for individuals or groups of individuals who have experienced workplace harassment. (Transformative Justice is a model for responding to harm that focuses on creating safety and healing for the person/people directly affected, while also opening up opportunities for transformation and healing for people who do harm. For more info about TJ, see the next section.)
Your meeting with Meg is entirely confidential and does not obligate you to participate in the project. Meg is a Registered Social Worker with a background working in gender-based violence prevention and response. You can also choose to keep the consultation anonymous (by not sharing your name or identity) if you prefer. Access the anonymous contact form by clicking here.
2. We are also interested in interventions that support community dialogue and learning about harassment. If you are a group or an organization seeking to convene a conversation, workshop or other event focused on relational dynamics in the dance community, please reach out - we may be able to collaborate.
We’d also like to let interested groups know about the Cultural Human Resources Council’s resources on harassment in the arts. Until the end of March 2020, the CHRC is offering funded in-person trainings on recognizing and responding to harassment in arts organizations. Click here to learn more or request a training.
What is Transformative Justice? Why did Transform Dance choose this framework?
Transformative Justice (TJ) is a framework for responding to harm that has emerged out of the practice, wisdom and experience of communities of colour in the United States. The basic concept behind TJ is to respond to harm in a way that does not create further harm.
Because of issues of police brutality and bias in the legal system, many communities of colour (in particular those which include high numbers of undocumented people) have had to develop alternate methods for keeping their communities safe. TJ has grown out of this experience. Philosophically, it is an abolitionist framework - this means it does not rely on prisons or punishment as a solution to harm. Rather, TJ seeks to create opportunities for people who have been harmed to heal, and for those who do harm to learn, change and grow.
We chose the language and framework of TJ for several reasons. Arts communities (especially small or niche ones) are a hybrid of workplace and social networks. As such, people are often very hesitant to formally report harmful or abusive behaviour, for fear that it will impact both their livelihoods and their social relationships (which are often very entwined). Additionally, many people who experience harassment express a desire not so much for punishment, but rather to see the person who harmed them commit to learning, change and growth. TJ processes are one-size-fits-one - they are designed according to the particular realities of a given situation, the needs of the people directly affected and the willingness of other parties to engage. We felt this was the most flexible and effective way to address the complexities and nuances of harassment in a small community.
Who is behind this project?
The idea for Transform Dance came out of a dialogue between a group of dance service organizations in January 2018. The meeting happened amidst a cultural upheaval and moment of reckoning around issues of gender-based and sexual harassment in the workplace generally, and particularly focused on Canadian arts workplaces.
Transform Dance is supervised by an Advisory Group - you can see more info about that group here. The role of the Advisory Group is to provide suggestions, oversight and support for the project. They do not need to know the identities of process participants, and they have all signed Non-Disclosure Agreements.
Transform Dance is coordinated by Meg Saxby, a social worker and educator who works in gender-based violence. Meg is a Registered Social Worker; as such, your conversations with her are confidential and protected by provincial privacy legislation.
The processes themselves will be facilitated by experienced TJ practitioners. If you decide to engage in a TJ process, Meg can help you choose a facilitator who feels right and has the most fitting experience for your needs.
No Generator staff (including Lead Producer Kristina Lemieux), or anyone working with or at the Generator office will have any access to the identities of project participants.
What values guide the Advisory Group, the coordinator and the project as a whole?
Our values and principles:
Safety, healing and agency for people directly affected is our first concern - this might mean that processes occur slower than anticipated, or that processes consist entirely of healing work and do not involve the engagement of people who have done harm
Choice and consent are crucial to the process - we do not rely on coercion; rather we invite people into dialogue, collaboration and growth
Harassment and gender-based violence are cultural problems, not just individual ones - we are all learning and unlearning
Respect and dignity for all parties is integral to a healthy process
Privacy is extremely important - we understand that reputation and relationships are integral to arts livelihoods, and concerns about privacy are a barrier to seeking support; we’ve put a number of mechanisms in place to care for the confidentiality of everyone involved
Working towards equity - this means we look at harassment through an intersectional lens and seek to prioritize access for people who are affected by identity-based discrimination such as racism, ableism, homophobia and transphobia