Dance Is a Visceral, Powerful Voice

We read with disappointment the open letter from Marcie Rendon — "The
Cost of Silence
" — and several other online posts she has written
attacking our work with her on our recent production, Border Crossing.
In some of these communications she has gone to the unfortunate, and
offensive, extreme of describing our process as "racist." As the artistic directors of Off-Leash Area, we feel a responsibility to
address some of the concerns Marcie has raised.

We are a dance and movement theater company, and we work in a very
open, collaborative way with all of the artists who work with us — the
performers, the composer, designers, rehearsal directors, and a writer
if we engage one. Some of our shows have text, some have very little,
some have none. Marcie has worked with us twice before; she knows how
we work. As Artistic Directors, it is our job to bring all of these
elements together in the way we believe has the highest artistic merit.

Evidently stung by some of the editorial and artistic decisions that
are an unavoidable part of any creative process, and that are also well
within our contractual agreement, Marcie has chosen a regrettably
public venue in which to air her grievances, some of which we find
untruthful. Rather than exhaustively catalog our collective grievances
here, however, we would like to address a few of the charges we feel
are unwarranted.

1. Marcie commented that we removed the only Native American character
in the show, and so removed a significant part of her voice as a Native
American. What Marcie did not clarify is that the performer we hired
for this part fell down his stairs and fractured his ribs four weeks
before the show opened. Marcie helped us try to find a replacement, but
we were unable to do so, and with just weeks left in rehearsals, we
felt we had no choice but to remove this part.

2. Marcie stated that Off-Leash Area did not make any attempt to
publicize this show to the Latino community. On the contrary: Rosita
Balch, a Colombian human rights activist who worked with us in the
development of the show, contacted many Latino and human rights
organizations, personally emailing them, talking to them, and
distributing postcards. One of the Latino cast members translated our
press release into Spanish. Our marketing director sent press
information to his entire list of press contacts, which included
minority publications. A Latino cast member who works deeply in the
Latino community as a performing artist contacted the Latino press and
organizations he knows. We sent emails from the artistic directors to
minority press contacts and Latino organizations. We made every effort
we knew how to.

3. Marcie wrote that we took away the voice of the migrants by not
having them speak. Since we first began creating this show a year ago,
we decided to represent the migrants through the language of dance.
This statement is included in grant narratives written last summer — of
which Marcie was given copies. We are, after all, a dance and
movement theater company; much of our most effective work is wordless.
We believe the voice we gave to the migrants through dance is a
visceral, powerful voice.

4. Marcie stated that we did not engage the community of color in the
production. Our artistic and development team included a Colombian, a
Mexican American, an Argentine, a Puerto Rican, an Algerian American,
an African American, and two Jews. For our auditions we sent notices to
Latino organizations and Latino performers to spread the word that we
were especially looking for Latino performers. At the same time
contradicting herself, Marcie has registered her disappointment that
members of our multicultural cast were invited to comment upon all
aspects of the work, including the script. Strangely, this amounts to
claiming that the voices of minorities were suppressed by input from
too many diverse voices, a charge we can’t make enough sense of to

We are sorry that our creative process on Border Crossing did not
satisfy Marcie’s wishes, but it was nothing if not inclusive, and one
would be hard pressed to read anything resembling racism into it. It
may be that her dissatisfaction stems from a lack of clarity in our
initial informal working agreement with her, and we resolve to better
define the nature of our collaborations in the future. We ask only
that our partners deal in truth, and not in allegation.


Paul Herwig, on behalf of the artistic directors of Off-Leash Area, Minneapolis






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.