One of the main challenges in attending a BFA dance program is that there was a specific idea of what they were preparing us for. There was this divide between what you want to do and what you are being prepared for. That’s why I’m so heavily invested in critical dance studies. I wasn’t sure why we were being made into these modern dancers that came from competition studios. We never talked about what dance is, about what our responsibility was as dancers. We never talked about why we’re doing this.
Yes. Part of what I teach is dance history. And what I’m doing is educating undergraduates about how dance is the expression of humanity. Part of humanity is social justice. We see it in so many ways. Even party dances. The underpinnings of hip hop is social justice. It emerged from people who were disenfranchised. City services disappeared and only recently reappeared as gentrification moved. And these folks said, “You can’t stop us from expressing who we are and that we exist.” If you look at hip-hop in Zulu culture, it’s peace, love, unity and having fun. Those ideas become means of survival for people who are not given the civil liberties expected of all Americans. Many of us understand the foundation of this country is built on the backs of black and brown people.
MiRi Park is a b-girl, choreographer, performer, producer, scholar and mother based in Thousand Oaks, CA. She spent 15 years living, working and performing in New York City where she learned the art of b-girling and other underground dance forms. Notable performances include the Bessie Award-nominated evening-length piece A Single Ride by choreographer Ephrat Asherie, RENT at the Hollywood Bowl (Dir., Neil Patrick Harris), and the final Broadway tour of RENT (Dir., Michael Greif). She has also worked with choreographers Maura Nguyen Donohue/inmixedcompany, Doug Elkins, Marlies Yearby, Nia Love, Rennie Harris, and actor/producer Kate Rigg. MiRi was the B-Boy Consultant on the Sony Screen Gems feature film Battle of the Year 3D (Dir., Benson Lee). MiRi served as Producer/Curator and Marketing Director at Dance New Amsterdam (formerly Dance Space Center). She later helped launch Columbia University’s Oral History Master’s Program (OHMA) as Program Coordinator, under MA advisor and OHMA/Columbia Center for Oral History and Research (CCOHR) Director Mary Marshall Clark. MiRi is currently on faculty at Cal State University, Channel Islands and is the Associate Choreographer of the 20th Anniversary tour RENT. MiRi’s previous scholarly work focused on the oral histories of NYC b-girls in the 1990s. Her current research areas in her doctoral studies include: hip hop studies, dance history, oral history, consumption studies, postcolonialism, trauma, feminism, African American studies, Korean history, Asian American studies. Crews: Fox Force Five, Tru Essencia Cru, Breakin’ In Style. PhD student WAC/D, UCLA; MA American Studies, Columbia; BA Journalism, BFA Dance, UMass Amherst