Photography courtesy of Heather Taylor.
Started in 2018 in Columbus, Ohio by dance scholar and immigrant Lucille Toth, On Board(hers) is a contemporary dance project based on the experiences of female immigrants. The group uses movement and emotion to confront the impact of immigration on women.
On Board(hers) is a space where vocal accents, multilingualism, and cultural pluralities are valued. On Board(Hers) creates a sense of community in defiance of those who target social difference as a threat and cast immigration as something to be feared.
Representing different ages, ethnicities, sexual orientations, socio-economic statuses, levels of education and dance backgrounds, On Board(hers) explores how global mobility is gendered, and reveals stories of women who are at the mercy of contemporary immigration policies, while underlining the fortitude of women’s work, humor, and solidarity.
During the workshops, the participants are asked to explore their voice through writing, speaking (both in their native tongue and in the host country’s language), and create gestures representing their own experiences as immigrants. Regardless of their level of dance training, the participants of On Board(hers) perform their movements themselves.
Repetition is key in On Board(hers), as the journey of an immigrant is a request to repeat (name, origin, status) in order to renew one’s status and identity (for example, when applying for a residence visa or driver’s license, or pledging allegiance to the country, etc.). Do we repeat because we are forced to? Do we repeat to challenge? Do we repeat to preserve and remember? If you repeat the same information enough times do you become reduced to that information? How does this repetition affect your own identity? By repeating movements, the participants transform their memories into something empowering and positive.