Darya Chernova (2017)

"Telaboratoria" - Body Laboratory

Telaboratoria, which means Body Laboratory in Russian, is a nine-month therapeutic and empowering dance and theater program for the LGBTQ community of St. Petersburg, Russia. The vision of Telaboratoria is based on the success of a four-hour pilot dance workshop that Dasha facilitated for the St. Petersburg transgender community in the spring of 2016 while doing Independent Study Abroad as a UC Berkeley student.

When marginalized groups participate in a practice of dance and theater, it has a tremendous effect on multiple aspects of their lives, such as getting health benefits from a physical activity, accessing one’s creativity and developing a sense of a collective identity. The Russian LGBTQ community is in dire need of such a creative movement program to survive in the hostile environment of institutionalized homophobia and transphobia. Having worked with LGBTQ individuals in the hostile Russian environment before, Dasha is partnering up with Coming Out, St. Petersburg-based LGBTQ nonprofit, to ensure safety of the project and the participants. Telaboratoria will invite collaborators such as LGBTQ musicians, dance teachers and a psychologist to offer participants a variety of tools for self-expression, self-care and creativity. Telaboratoria is not solely a one-time program but rather a vision of how to bring a continuous positive change into the lives of LGBTQ people in Russia and change the society from within. 

Biography

Dasha Chernova was born in a post-Soviet industrial town in Russia and raised by a working class single mom. She moved to the US as a young adult escaping the hardships of Russia and lived undocumented for the first five years. The challenges of her life have taught her to deeply empathize with those who were marginalized and oppressed. She learned the value of a community, grassroots organizing and arts as means of coping with a harsh reality.

As an activist Dasha worked with low-income seniors, LGBTQ communities and immigrants. As a dance artist, Dasha explored the topics of gender violence and sexuality, environmental pollution and white privilege through her performance. As a dance teacher, she organized creative movement practice in diverse communities in the US, El Salvador and Russia. She entered UC Berkeley as a transfer student with a strong desire to receive analytical and theoretical skills that would further help her as a community leader and organizer. As UC Berkeley student, she focused on pedagogy of dance as Performance Studies in Dance minor, and LGBTQ subjectivity in Russia as Interdisciplinary Studies in Field major.