A Dancer, Two Hostage Governments, and a Pizza Place

So thanks to the Binational Fulbright Commission in Egypt, this week I am attending the 36th Annual Fulbright Conference in Washington D.C. The conference is taking place near Capitol Hill. And the government is shut down. Not a lapse of appropriations, but an actual government shutdown. Only other time that happened was 1995. And this is the first time it is happening by a refusal to fund passed legislation.

With The Sequester, Benghazi, plus The Shutdown, the US has closed 19 diplomatic posts in the Middle East and South Asia. Fulbright program has been cut by 1/4th. United States Institute for Peace (USIP) and Wilson Center have been zeroed out.

Heart. Sink.

Public employees and civic heroes across the land are working for no money. Places and services severely hindered or completely unavailable. No museums or parks. But the DC Jumbo Slice experience is hot and ready 24 hours.

In today’s opening session at the conference, Congressman Jim Moran (VA) spoke generously, and then he rushed back to the irrational Hill. He started out by apologizing for the government and said that what was happening was inexcusable. As he was speaking and I was taking notes, the lines between Egypt and America started to blur in my mind. I knew he was talking about one country, but his ideas could easily be describing the other.

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  • Our government has ground to a halt on the basis of ideological fundamentalism.
  • Should we make the Presidential election the referendum?
  • A conservative fraction that is inexperienced politically
  • They cannot be challenged electorally. They represent an ideological point of view and the more extreme you get, the safer you are.
  • Taking the government hostage
  • Isolationist and anti-government
  • The military industrial complex
  • How to appropriate the funds from the spoils of war
  • Military funding strong but diplomatic efforts stripped
  • [Speaking to the Liberals, Artists and International Scholars] “Thank you for being who you are.” “You got to engage! Get out of your comfort zone. You are more numerous than you think. We need you. desperately. now.”

Now you might ask what a dancer is doing writing about governments or politics. You will understand in a minute. Keep reading.

At the conference, we are talking about Education. Brandon Busteed of Gallop explained that the top two reasons people say a post-secondary degree is important are…

1. To get a good job (however you define “good job”)

2. Make more money

*Note that in the mid-1960s, the top answer was “to develop a meaningful philosophy of life.”

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There are many ways to define a “good job.” Dr. Angel Cabrera, President of George Mason University, told us he defines a good job as one you would want your children to have. I thought of my parents. They would probably at-first say they want me to have a good paying job, financial security, health insurance. I am currently uninsured and was for years earlier in my career. Luckily, I live in Egypt and have access to affordable care.

Beyond the salary, my parents they would probably add something about a job that makes me happy, puts my talents to use in the world, offers opportunities they never had, keeps me dancing, and keeps me physically safe. And to be on that road to a good job, I had to go to college. I was the first person on either side of my family (and remain the only one) to attend a 4-year university. The only one to graduate. The only one two live abroad. Twice. The only one with a Masters degree. I am the only one in the arts. My family contributes so much to this world and their paths are all different (community leadership, nursing, technical training, sports, retail, faith, parenting), but Academia and the Arts Academy haven’t been a part of their lives.

I am not here as a representative of Academia or the Arts Academy. And I am not talking about the arts conservatory model. That’s not my interest. I’m not talking about e-learning, or blended learning. Or a form of education delivery that can often morph into something elitist, expensive, pretty, insular, history-focused, antiquated, and disengaged from the real world. I’m not talking about what Dr. Cabrera referred to as our “romanticized” ideas of the liberal arts classroom. Because many of our classrooms and conservatories have little to no quality human interaction in actuality.

I am responding to Congressman Moran’s call for agency. “Thank you for being who you are.” “You got to engage! Get out of your comfort zone. You are more numerous than you think. We need you. desperately. now.”

And the idea I am speaking about is  redefining a “good job” both in Egypt and the US. Helping families and students define it for themselves. Help governments, investors, entrepreneurs, educators, and funding bodies create “good jobs” and “good education” to match. Appropriations and programs to match. Especially in the arts, in dance.

I am saying that if we focus on Dance History , we also need to offer Dance Present and Dance Future, Dance Diplomacy and Dance Civics.

Someone needs to start fixing what’s broken in our two countries. It might as well be dancers.



P.S. Getting a replacement camera next week. Next blog post will have pictures.




1 Comment

  1. Heather Vaughan-Southard

    Yes to the meaningful philosophy of life but also yes to the dance present, dance future, and dance civics. Yes to thinking dancers have a right to leadership roles because the nature of our work encompasses or can encompass all fields. Thanks for sharing, advicating, and representing so gracefully.

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