Different companies from the St. Louis arts community are coming together to put on the “Dance the Vote” campaign. The campaign is looking to make a difference during this election season in both the Missouri Primary and the Presidential Election by getting people registered to vote, a citizenship right That Uppity Theatre Company Artistic Director Joan Lipkin believes is taken for granted.

“We are trying to make a significant gesture here,” Lipkin says. “Universal suffrage, letting everyone vote, did not happen automatically with the ratification of the Constitution. 200 years ago, you had to be white, male and wealthy to vote.”

Many people made sacrifices for the right to vote, according to Lipkin. Alice Paul was a Quaker who was imprisoned in 1917 for her efforts in campaigning for the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibits discrimination in voting rights. The amendment was passed about three years later.

“It’s not something that has come easily,” Lipkin says.

The reason “Dance the Vote” is being done at this particular time is because there is a lot of emphasis being placed on the Presidential election, but she feels the Missouri Primary election is as important, which she says typically has a low turn-out.

“This is arguably the most important election of my lifetime,” Lipkin says. “As artists who care about the future of our country, we’ve come together to offer our talent and passion to actively participate and promoting voting and voter registration.”

The campaign has commissioned local choreographers and dancers from Ashleyliane Dance Company, Beyond Measure Dance Theater, Karlovsky & Company Dance, the AfroKuumba Dancers and Innervision Dance Theatre. Lipkin co-chairs the campaign along with Ashley Tate, Artistic Director of Ashleyliane Dance Company.

The choreography of the several small pieces being performed are based on different themes of the voting experience, such as the experience of African Americans and women fighting for their right to vote, voting rights, voter suppression and voting in other countries among other themes. Performances will be held within a three-hour time slot and each piece will be performed multiple times.

The performances will perform solely on the aspect of getting registered to vote, with Lipkin saying that they are trying hard to be non-partisan.

Beyond Measure Dance Theater - Dance the Vote Photo“We need to be non-partisan in order to use public space in certain ways,” Lipkin says. “We can provide information at the event for how people can read about the candidates.”

Voter registration deadlines will be July 2 for the Primary Election, which will be held August 2, and
October 15 for the General Election, which will be held November 8.

The performances will be held at landmarks in the St. Louis area. The kick-off performance will take place Saturday, July 2 from 2-5 p.m. at Vintage Vinyl located in the Delmar Loop. This performance will hold nonpartisan voter registration opportunities to interested voters. Future performances will be announced to the public and will include First Friday’s at Grand Center.

Alderwoman Lyda Krewson will open the event where she will speak about the importance of voting. Other spoken word artists who will be participating include African-American veteran Chris Ware, disability rights activist Kate Rodriguez Bannister, playwright Mariah Richardson and college professor Pam Garvey among others.

“What better way to celebrate the 4th of July than to kind of invest in their citizenship and the arts?” Lipkin says. V

by Bill Loellke