Have you seen this video?
If you hadn’t, it’s an interview with Margie Gillis – an infamous Canadian interpretive dancer. Her foundation’s website is here. I’ve never seen her dance but I hear she’s brilliant. Regardless, I’m a terrible dancer and watching professional dancers tends to leave me cold, so I haven’t sought her work out. I’m sure she’s great, and I’m glad that she’s won so many accolades. As an artist living in this unceded Aboriginal territory, I know it’s hard to get by without a bit of a leg up. Gillis is obviously a self-made artist with a lot of business savvy and talent backing her up. I’m glad that my tax dollars go toward artists like Gillis.
Krista Erickson is the interviewer in the video. Referred to as a SUNshine girl in this profile on the Toronto Sun website, she is apparently, “rarin’ to go […] unapologetically patriotic and not afraid to call it like it is.” There are nine pictures of Erickson on the link above, and in every one of them her hair is perfect and she’s not dressed like a “seasoned journalist”. Apparently, SUNshine girls have been around for a while in the greater Toronto Area (GTA), but it bothers me that a seasoned journalist and employee of the Toronto Sun would want to be objectified by her own employers in such a public way. I can’t imagine Dan Rather signing up to be a CBS Sex Bomb or Barbara Frum as a CBC iCandy, but I digress.
During the interview, Erickson harangues Gillis about the amount of public money the Margie Gillis Foundation had received in the past. Erickson refers to herself as a ‘cultural philistine’ repeatedly throughout, and describes interpretive dance as ‘not [her] cup of tea’. Her analysis of what she perceives as a problem is fraught with inaccuracies. She attempts to get Gillis to explain why she specifically has won money in grants, and of course, Gillis simply explains that grants are given by panels of peers and that politics have nothing to do with the grants. That said, 1.2 million dollars over 13 years is not a lot of money for an artist of international regard especially once you take into account that those grants were paid out to lots of supporting artists as well via Gillis.
Erickson’s main point is that the invisible hand of the market has essentially given the community of interpretive dance the middle finger, and that Canadians shouldn’t subsidize artistic ventures that aren’t very popular (read: profitable).
I think she’s wrong, but the aspect of the interview that has stuck with me since I was first introduced to the YouTube video is this: Krista Erickson is not a cultural philistine. She’s surrounded by cultural markers and clearly participates in some kind of culture. From the hockey jersey she sports on her SUNshine girl page to her impeccably blond hair and perfect makeup, Erickson is expressing aspects of a culture. There’s a major problem with people like Erickson assuming that their culture is the zero mark; it then follows that culture is superfluous and easily rejected or altered. That kind of attitude is what leads people to make assumptions or assertions about people from different cultural backgrounds, which leads to prejudice and ignorance. After all, if culture is easily thrown away, then why would people with bottle blonde hair and fancy hockey jerseys need to accommodate anyone else? It’d be much easier to steamroll those people in to culture zero.
Now, what you see in the video isn’t really that big of a deal. It’s obviously an argument that wasn’t resolved on air, and judging by the response of the viewership, support is overwhelmingly on Gillis’ side. It just bothers the hell out of me when bright shiny faces like Erickson spew venom.