By: Jackie McNeill
Tottering Biped Theatre, a Hamilton-based theatre company founded by Trevor Copp, has reached over 600,000 views on a TED Talk about ‘liquid lead dancing,’ a gender neutral form of partner dancing.
Several McMaster alumni are involved in the theatre company, particularly with their summer Shakespeare work held at the Royal Botanical Gardens.
The theatre is social justice-focused, devising works that have addressed issues like poverty, same sex marriage and mental health and different interpretations of Shakespeare.
However, as prominent as the theatre’s work is, it is not what Copp is arguably best known for.
In 2015, he and his colleague Jeff Fox delivered a TED Talk in Montreal on a dance concept they developed called ‘liquid lead dancing.’
Liquid lead dancing, a form of gender neutral partner dance, was born out of Copp’s discomfort with the systems and rules he was perpetuating as a ballroom dance teacher.
As explained in their TED Talk, the strictly gendered partner dancing promotes a relationship shaped by dictation, where the man leads and the woman follows.
He and Fox developed liquid lead dancing to turn this dictation into a negotiation.
“It proposes a system where lead and follow are exchanged throughout the course of the dance regardless of gender,” Copp explained.
This change of form will hopefully become normalized as a dance and help to normalize healthy relationships outside of partner dance as well.
The liquid lead dance between Copp and Fox morphed into a play about creating the first dance for a same sex wedding.
After a successful run of the play, a former student contacted Copp about presenting their dance form as a TED talk.
Copp and Fox’s TED talk was picked up by TED.com, and has over 600,00 views to date.
Despite the success of the TED talk, Copp admits that it has not been all smooth sailing promoting liquid lead dancing.
“Most people are comfortable with their given role, and, even though they aren't particularly traditional in their thinking, allow it to decide their roles as dancers. There's comfort in the familiar. I don't begrudge it at all. I just think that if you're going to recreate a culturally outdated form you should be conscious of it by making a choice to do so as opposed to sleepwalking your way through the dance form.”
Acknowledging that the work he had done with liquid lead dance is not that well-known in Hamilton, Copp is aiming to work harder at spreading the dance form in the future.
As explained in the TED Talk, liquid lead dancing is not about dance alone.
By addressing the strict roles perpetuated in partner dancing, Copp and Fox have begun to address the erasure of non-binary people and same-sex couples in dance, in addition to the exclusion of Black, Asian and other non-white bodies.
By bringing these issues that are prevalent within ballroom and partner dance to a wider audience with the TED Talk and Copp’s theatre company, the same issues that are prevalent in everyday life stand a better chance at being addressed.
Copp has performed liquid lead dance at conferences throughout Ontario, New York and Ireland and is looking forward to next presenting at a conference on consent and sexuality with Planned Parenthood in Virginia.
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By: Sasha Dhesi
“Arranged marriage.” The phrase probably causes a shudder down the spine of anyone from a culture who practices it but grew up in the West. I’ve seen countless Indian-American comedians joke that they wouldn’t even let their mothers pick their clothes, let alone their spouse, and it’s a sentiment I share. The cultural difference between my mother and I means we’re always at odds about things as trivial as how I should do my eyebrows to the more serious career decisions. But you’re speaking to a girl who has seen a dozen romantic comedies a year and can’t bring herself to make a Tinder account because it just feels too much like I’m giving up on romance. An arranged marriage just doesn’t make sense for me, but after watching my parents grow and change through their relationship, I’ve learned that an arranged marriage may have an undeserved reputation.
My parents don’t have a romantic story. There was no meet-cute, no elaborate story to satisfy my inquisitive ears growing up. No, my parents had a boring arranged marriage. My parents met a few weeks’ prior to their wedding and have been married now for about 22 years. With all that said and done, I couldn’t tell the difference between my parents’ marriage and those of my friends whose parents had “love marriages.” It became increasingly clear that what made their marriage work wasn’t some grand romantic love that carried them through every fight but rather a willingness to adapt.
Now it should be noted that many people stay in arranged marriages for the wrong reasons. In most South Asian cultures divorce is heavily stigmatized, so people often stay in unhealthy or abusive relationships out of cultural pressure. I personally know of many toxic couples that are only together to avoid the community backlash. These issues aren’t due to the arranged marriage though. I doubt anyone decides to abuse someone because they didn’t specifically choose their spouse. Arranged marriages don’t magically solve the issues that may arise, but it’s not necessarily the part of the equation that’s causing issues.
The main reason why my parents seem to do so well together isn’t because they’re made for each other or that they’re soulmates. Rather, they’re happy because they’re willing to listen to each other and adapt to each other. Because they had an arranged marriage, they had very little expectations about what the other would be like, and didn’t have these idealized images in their heads of what the other should be like. Instead, they went into their marriage willing to compromise.
We often go into relationships with this concept of the ‘perfect’ person, who accepts you for everything you are. But you’re never going to find that because you yourself are not perfect. It’s ultimately unfair to assume that someone should bear the weight of your flaws. This also ignores that you’re never going to find a person who doesn’t have some sort of tick that bothers you. Any sort of long-term relationship is a commitment to that person, warts and all, but we get so wrapped up in this ideal “the One” who’s going to take care of all of your faults without having any of their own. What you want isn’t a lifelong partner, rather someone who’ll let you stagnate completely. But those in arranged marriages usually don’t have this mindset. Dating usually requires a level of idealization to work, but an arranged marriage takes it out of the equation completely. Instead, you’re left with a person who you have to listen to in order to learn how to be with them.
While I don’t have some wonderful story to share about how my parents met, I do get to come home to them sharing a loveseat together while they watch the news, and listen to one lament about how they miss the other when traveling. While I am not going to have an arranged marriage, I don’t think we should bash them altogether. Whether it’s arranged or not, the only way to sustain a relationship is to willingly adapt to your partner and grow with them. For those who are comfortable with it, arranged marriages are definitely an option that can lead to an incredibly fulfilling life.
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I was warned it would happen. It starts with a post or two on Facebook, and an influx of engagement photos, and lo and behold, it feels as if everyone in their early 20s got married while I was having trouble committing to a cell phone plan. “Whatever,” responded a friend to my lamentations, “they’ll all be divorced in five years anyway.” While I’m holding out hope for their happiness, it got me wondering, would a high rate of divorce in our generation be such a bad thing?
I’m a child of divorce from a relatively long line of divorcees. My parents split when I was 16, and my maternal grandparents divorced in 1982, which was significantly more of a scandal than it would have been today. I won’t lie, living through a divorce is not easy. My parents did an excellent job of supporting my brother and me through the process, but there is no quick or painless way to separate a family. However, much like any upheaval, we recovered. It is safe to say that in the long run we came out happier. The effect of divorce is different for every family, but mine is proof that it is not always a bad thing.
In fact, assuming that death — not lawyers — is what will end your marriage is more damaging than you might think. Happily being with one person for the rest of your life requires a near flawless relationship, which — much like the perfect cellphone plan — is something we can all aspire to, but may never find. The expectation that we are all supposed to remain with the one we married also means that we implicitly support the continuation of unhealthy relationships.
Seeing marriage as immutable makes leaving unhealthy situations that much more difficult by putting pressure on someone to stay with an abusive partner. Instead of viewing rising divorce rates as the failure of modern marriage (or the notorious feminist movement encouraging women to leave the kitchen) we ought to instead see it as a rise in individual agency. Maybe people are no less happy in marriages than they have been historically; instead, they now have the ability to leave when they need to.
At this point, I should probably digress to assure you that I do not think badly of marriage just because I am advocating for an open dialogue about divorce. I myself am excited to marry, and I am often reminded of how well the arrangement can work by the wonderfully happy couples in my life, young and old. However, when discussing matrimony we often lose sight of the fact that other people’s relationships have no impact on our own. Your neighbors getting a divorce does not mean that your marriage is any less of a success, or any less special. Opening up a dialogue on the topic won’t make happy relationships fail, instead it will help put an end to unhealthy ones.
Accepting this, what would a world with more divorce look like? Firstly, we would need to go into marriage with an open mind and a prenuptial agreement. Accepting that we may have many weddings — or none at all — might make them seem less momentous. (“Great ceremony Aunt Judy, see you at the next one!”) Prenups might alleviate some tension during the separation and mitigate some of the legal costs, making the process more affordable. Divorce becoming more commonplace would foster better solidarity networks and support. This could lessen the unnecessary guilt and shame that often makes an already difficult situation that much worse. Let’s treat divorce the way we do breakups from long-term relationships — devastating, but nothing uncommon or to be ashamed of.
To those who will be married, or who are married, I wish to tell you that I have nothing but high hopes for your future and wellbeing. I would not wish a bad relationship on anyone, nor do I think divorce is always the solution, or inevitable. Instead, my wedding vows to my future partner will look something like this: “you are perfect to me right now, and I can’t wait to spend the foreseeable future with you. Let’s build a life together, and not be afraid to dismantle it if it no longer works. To us, and the happiest we can possibly be.”