Street Dance Activism (TDM 181B): Radical Revolution in a Pandemic with Chanelle Helm


Friday, October 2, 2020, 12:00pm

Chanelle Helm stares back at the camera while holding her fist in the air. Below is info about Chanelle Helm and the event.

Street Dance Activism: Embodying Liberation Through Somatic Practices and Rituals of Breath (TDM 181B) welcomes Chanelle Helm on Friday, October 2. Chanelle Helm is a Community and Political Organizer, one of the core lead organizers of Black Lives Matter Louisville, and co-founder of Reparations Roundtable. 

This Radical Dialogue and working session has been made open to the public as a part of a larger "#Unbecoming. #Unlearning. #Unrivalry." series curated by Dr. Shamell Bell, partnering Ivy League university students from her classes at Dartmouth and Harvard with grassroots organizers, and artists focusing on social impact, in order to strategize and implement tangible solutions.

Register here.


Chanelle uses her organizing skills to embolden her community to fight back against repression. She has collectively raised over a 5,000,000 for various efforts including the Louisville Community Bail Fund, buying abandoned houses to gift to Black and Brown MaGes, eviction prevention, abortions, environmental emergencies, organizing and resistance training. Chanelle is the single mother of 2 young children. She spends her time time raising her kids in a multi-generational household and fighting for Black Liberation.


Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare." – Audre Lord

In this participatory hybrid course, we explore the creation and implementation of Street Dance Activism as a Co-choreographic somatic[1] healing modality, and form of spiritual transcendence, through participating in the Global Dance Meditation for Black Liberation and deeply engaging with The Ritual of Breath is the Rite to Resist[2]. Street Dance Activism’s 28 Day Global Dance Meditation features embodied meditation & movement sessions led by Black, Indigenous, People of Color + Queer guides from multiple wisdom traditions and healing practices. We are honored to have Street Dance Activism community organizers and guides as featured guest speakers throughout the course. It takes 28 days to change a habit, so imagine if we took 28 days to focus on our liberation. Liberation not only as a single entity, but as a global, collective consciousness. Black liberation is your liberation, and your liberation is Black liberation. 

This interdisciplinary course uses somatic practices to engage with the historical context and legacy of public rituals of extreme violence against Black people as both sites of anti-Black state, and non-state sanctioned disciplinary projects, as well as time-spaces of radical resistance. At the center of these forms of violence are the control of breath as life force, and as a sign of freedom. Critically engaging the libretto of The Ritual of Breath is the Rite to Resist, this course examines the murder of Eric Garner in 2014 in a police-executed choke hold as a key event that both harkens back to a long history of lynchings and shootings and also to a history of how Black communities have organized around and resisted these forms of violence. We discuss the past, present, and future all occurring in the now as we examine the murder of George Floyd in May 2020 as an officer pressed his knee against Floyd's neck for nearly eight minutes as Floyd repeatedly lamented that he could not breathe. His death sparked a global uprising against racial injustice and police brutality. 

We explore theories of ritual and performance to understand how artists and communities come together as collectives to contextualize and re-present impossible terrors. Artists and grassroots organizers use aesthetics and collective action to transform the horror of being subject to violence at any moment into rituals of breath and potential social transformation. This course then teaches students theories of ritual and performance as ways that communities have historically engaged and confronted histories of anti-Black violence in order to conceive of new future possibilities to embody liberation in the face of disciplinary actions meant to contain and choke Black people. It is my intent for us to become guides to bring social activists into the classroom and the pedagogy out into the streets.

[1] In the 1970s philosopher and teacher Thomas Hanna used the term “somatics” to refer to what he described as, “The study of the self from the perspective of one’s lived experience, encompassing the dimensions of body, psyche, and spirit.”

[2] As the Social Impact director of The Ritual of Breath is the Rite to Resist, a collaborative project across a set of institutions featuring visual artist Enrico Riley (Dartmouth), librettist Vievee Francis (Dartmouth), and composer Jonathan Berger (Stanford), I developed a portion of this course with the explicit intent of bringing these institutions in conversation together, bringing social activists into the classroom, and the pedagogy into the streets. Initial course development assisted by Dr. Jesse Shipley (Dartmouth), Dr. Ayo Coly (Dartmouth) and Samantha Lazar (Dartmouth).