We had the good fortune of connecting with Tess Hanson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Tess, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
When I was in high school, I could sit down on a Saturday afternoon and plow through my schoolwork for 6 consecutive hours. Now, as an adult on the other side of academia, I do not like to work for multiple hours, even for things I’m skilled in and care deeply about. Working for extended hours depletes me mentally, emotionally, and physically; ultimately, I am less able to be my full self. And that idea — being conscious of how I am existing in the world, in the spaces I occupy — is what grounds me in rest, in finding balance. I cannot show up to my colleagues, my community, my loved ones, and to the problems I want to fix when I am overworked. Finding balance, for me, has required large scale reorganizations of my life and also small changes. A big reorienting towards balance has been dedicating a day each week to rest, such as Sunday. I do not work on Sunday and try my hardest to not make concrete plans for Sundays, which does sometimes mean saying “no” to social activities. A small change was turning off email notifications on my mobile device to stop myself from frantically answering emails in every spare moment.
What should our readers know about your business?
I co-founded Dance for All Bodies, a nonprofit that organizes accessible, virtual dance classes for people of all abilities. Though all are welcome in our classes, we center disabled people’s needs and desires in our classes. In a dance world that is ableist, elitist, unfriendly to queer and gender-nonconforming folks, and fatphobic, this decision to use accessibility as a starting point for inclusion and bodily comfort, is no small thing. Except for our Co-Executive Directors, we are entirely run by a team of committed volunteers.
Building Dance for All Bodies has taken a lot of work and honestly, what I am most proud of is that we are still here today. And on top of that, my co-founder and I successfully transitioned leadership of the organization to two astoundingly capable and fantastic disabled women, who have shepherded the organization into a new stage of growth. Nothing about building Dance for All Bodies has been easy, but it has been worthwhile and we have certainly been lucky. Something auspicious in the universe connected my co-founder and I to some incredible people, who have offered time, guidance, opportunity, and support when we needed it. The biggest lesson I’ve learned (and am still learning) from Dance for All Bodies is to pace myself when it comes to the workload. Sometimes, small, strategic steps are better than reckless leaps forward.
At Dance for All Bodies, we believe that if you have a body, you can be a dancer! Come and surprise yourself 🙂
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I see my home as the East Bay in California — a place I was not raised in, but came of age in.
First, I would ask if my friend has capacity to pay (in any denomination) a Shuumi Land Tax in support of Sogorea Te Land Trust’s rematriation work. Sogorea Te is an urban Indigenous women-led land trust based in the San Francisco Bay Area that facilitates the return of Indigenous land to Indigenous people. Part of responsible recreation is learning, acknowledging, and respecting the indigenous history of the land.
A week in the East Bay would not be complete without:
– Ethiopian food from Ethiopia Restaurant at the corner ofTelegraph and Ashby Avenue
– A bike ride or stroll on the Ohlone Greenway or the San Francisco Bay Trail
– An afternoon perusing all the local bookstores in Berkeley and Oakland: Moe’s, Pegasus, Half-Priced Books, and more!
– Fabulous vegan Singaporean fusion food at Lion Dance Cafe near Lake Merritt in Oakland, California
– Swing dancing at The Breakaway on Tuesday evenings! Or dancing at 9:20 in San Francisco on Thursday evenings
– Give a very special tour of the UC Berkeley campus via golf cart and then listen to the 6pm Campanile concert on campus
– Peruse Flowerland, a lovely nursery in Albany
– Visiting the Ed Roberts Campus to learn about the Disability Rights Movement, which originated in Berkeley, California
– A concert at the Greek Theater; amazing views of Berkeley and SF at night!
– Take an AC Transit bus up to Redwood Regional Park and walk along the Redwoods in the hills above Oakland
– See a film at the Grand Lake Theatre in Oakland
– Funk Night at the Starry Plough on Thursday night
– Sunset at the Albany Bulb
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I shout out all the folks who’ve seen me in periods of doubt, frustration, and self-loathing and have held me in the storm and coaxed me back to steady ground. There’s been so many people in my life who’ve filled this role, without being asked to do so: my grandmother, my housemates, my parents, my close friends, my partner, and teachers of all sorts. I am product of so much love, care, and nourishment from so many sources — it’s impossible to identify just one entity to shout my gratitude from the rooftops for!
First image (me in a pose mid air) credits: Kim Ambrocio