Kelly Klein, PhD
Dance scholar and performance artist
I am a pleasure activist, performance artist, yoga instructor, choreographer, and dance scholar currently based in Columbus. As a mover, I believe in the profound power of our sensitized bodies to help us navigate the ethical, material, and energetic complexities of our world. My work as a dance and performance studies scholar focuses on the potential for dance and movement as activism, revealing how certain performances and practices invite us to experience ourselves and our worlds as interconnected, mutually responsible, vulnerable, and full of possibility as well as harness our own potential to create the worlds we want to inhabit.
Q & A
What makes more livable futures for you?
Reverence. Revelry. Revolution. A commitment to maximize pleasure for all beings—and the revision of systems that provide pleasure to some while producing immense suffering for others. Creation of and support for systems and metrics of value other based on ecological soundness, pleasure, human potential—rather than financial gain or profit. Deep realization and ongoing recognition of our interconnectedness with one another, with nonhuman beings, with the elements. Radical inclusion. Radical self-expression. Consent culture. Conscious, consensual practices of power exchange. Sex and body positivity. Sensuality. Movements for black lives, for trans lives, for queer lives. Organic vegetables and the honoring of the many critters that make them possible. Simplicity. Artistry. Excessive play. Experiments in ways of being, in ways of being together. Communities redefining what it means to be kin, to be family, to be response-able for one another. Cities, towns, and spaces designed to be walked through, to bring pleasure, to connect people in a shared experience. The forging of new modes of relating beyond possession and ownership. Shorter work-weeks and the end of workaholism. Abundance.
What are you reading, viewing, listening to right now?
I recently devoured adrienne maree brown’s Pleasure Activism with tears of hope and a profound sense of being seen by a text. I’ve been using the term “pleasure activist” to describe myself for years, inspired in part by Audre Lorde’s explorations of the erotic, and it has been incredibly inspiring to read brown’s stirring articulation of and advocacy for the concept at this pivotal moment. I’ve also been bouncing around between collections of short stories, including Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements edited by adrienne maree brown and Wilidah Imarisha, Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories by Kelly Barnhill, and How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin, as well as the fictional theatrical podcast The Truth. These stories allow me to enter fantastical and poetic worlds that fire up my imagination and help me see the possibilities that dwell just under the surface of the world around me. When I need a reminder of the possibilities of rebellious and subversive art and culture, I turn to That’s Revolting: Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore. I also consume a TON of blogs, podcasts, books, articles, etc. about sexuality and nonmonogamy—Naomi Wolf’s Vagina: A Cultural History, Emily Nagoski’s Come As You Are, and Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha have all greatly impacted my experience of my body, sexuality, and relationship structures. Rihanna, Janelle Monae, and Fiona Apple have been frequently keeping me company, as well.
What practices are sustaining you?
I could not get by without my (almost) daily yoga and meditation practice. They keep my bodymind grounded and clear and help me attune to my shifting needs. Writing a few pages every few days allows me to make sense of my internal world, see problems more clearly, and clear out excess clutter. Like sweeping away the cobwebs while also honoring the lives they have sustained. One of my favorite new practices is prioritizing pleasure—dedicating a little bit of each day to whatever feels good in the moment. I create nourishing meals for myself, take myself out for a fancy cocktail, languish in the bath. Through these practices, I am developing a kind, loving relationship to self that cultivates my empathic abilities, heightens my joy, and connects me more deeply to my human and nonhuman communities.