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20 Min



Prof. Dr. Leonard A. Cruz


Corinna Kern

Storytelling Our Implicit Biases Through the Arts: An Intervention in Building Community

An interactive workshop proposal

Having experienced many workshops with diverse bodies in attendance, I have found that early on in getting to know one another and that I, myself being a Person of Color, as well as LGBTQIA+ that building trust with others is not an easy task. I believe that breaking the uneasiness when learning about others is by perhaps creatively sharing stories of our implicit biases. The definition of implicit bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner (Greenwald & Banaji, 1995).

We all have implicit biases and I believe that by sharing stories of implicit biases through the Arts, allows for many participants to explicitly find creative and artistic approaches to tackle stereotyping and prejudice that lies within oneself and others. The intervention workshop I developed in this context allows diverse participants and leaders interested in creatively and actively finding ways to work with and minimize implicit bias within diverse groups, organizations, and communities. When incorporating themes that focus on social identities, equity, and the Arts we are practicing social justice Arts. Social justice Arts allows people to develop agency to interrupt and alter oppressive systemic patterns or individual behaviors (Hanley, 2011).

My name is Prof. Dr. Leonard Arvisu Cruz. Since September 2023, I’m the first Filipino American Professor to Co-Chair the Theater and Dance in Society Department at the University of Applied Arts and Science in Society in Ottersberg, Germany. My PhD in Social Justice in the Performing and Creative Arts constantly challenges me to find new ways and approaches where the Arts can solve many problems and solutions in the world. I was born in Pampanga, the Philippines, raised in the United States and received in 1993 my first dance contract in Germany as a guest with the Wuppertal Tanztheater and member of the Folkwang Tanzstudio both headed at the time by Pina Bausch. It was at this time, that I was exposed in working with diverse dancers from different backgrounds, ethnicities, sexualities, ages, and abilities. The transparency and inclusion of diversity within German Tanztheater led by their Dance Icons (Pina Bausch, Susanne Linke, Rheinhild Hoffman, just to name a few) are what makes this approach to dance, internationally renowned.

It is my hope that by sharing this outline of an interactive workshop on Storytelling Our Implicit Biases Through the Arts will build better inclusive communities of trust, understanding and empowerment.

The use of Storytelling our Implicit Biases by incorporating arts-based approaches for qualitative inquiry and deep introspection came about from many first encounter group meetings where participants were not sure how to begin in getting to know one another and were often not comfortable around each other. Since this article is for the ITI Journal, I also took in consideration the first module of the ITI Academy as an experience where perhaps we (facilitators and fellows) could have shared our implicit biases in creative ways through authentic storytelling and lived experiences. Although implicit biases are sometimes hard to express with others that we are not familiar with, arts-based approaches justify for using creative modalities of inquiry especially on difficult themes like implicit biases that are relevant in community/group building.

The intent of this interactive workshop is to cultivate the authenticity amongst the presenter/leader so that participants in the group can they themselves become more authentic as well as mindfully learn about oneself and others. With the theme of implicit biases in the forefront, the presenter shares their stories of implicit biases by making them explicit while incorporating the Arts to help enhance one’s authentic stories. This is also done to prepare the workshop participants as to what is to come. Once this happens it allows group participants to critically reflect and share through the Arts by learning about themselves, their un/earned privileges, in relation to other people whose lived realities might differ. This is an important part of learning in qualitative research because conducting qualitative inquiry requires developing rapport with participants, understanding their stories of their lived realities, and then co-constructing a narrative with the participants about the ways in which they make meaning of their lived realities (Bhattacharya, 2013; Denzin & Lincoln, 2002).

One cannot tell anyone else’s stories of implicit biases in any level of depth if one has not explored deeply within oneself and have learned about the others. I believe that the Arts allows creative possibilities in understanding one’s own, as well as other’s stories of implicit biases. And in understanding one’s own stories deeply, one can then extend the same depth of inquiry to the participants’ stories, understand self in relation to Other, and cultivate a sense of compassion, empathy, and understand interrelatedness of being (Barbezat & Bush, 2014; Gunn- laugson, Sarath, Scott, & Bai, 2014; Palmer & Zajonc, 2010).

In Society today, we must build dynamic global communities where inclusion and artistic research in excellence are interdependent. It is necessary that our teaching, pedagogy, research, and emerging leadership creates and promotes globally relevant productions of new knowledge to prepare all individuals for a diverse, complex, and ever-changing world.

The field of social justice Arts approaches and practices was brought to light by Augusto Boal who has informed my work both as a scholar and artist. For example, from Boal’s Games for Actors and Non-Actors, he states that Image Theatre is a series of exercises and games designed to uncover essential truths about societies and cultures without resort, in the first instance, to spoken language – though this may be added in the various ‘dynamisations’ of the images (Boal, 1992). It is my hope that with this interactive workshop outline that the reader can interactively work with others whether as a teacher, artist, leader, and or activist.

Storytelling Our Implicit Biases Through the Arts - Outline of an Interactive Workshop

Workshop Goals:

  • Develop an authentic participant learning community that is open to self-reflection, growth, and change.

  • Create an inclusive environment where participants can explore their positionalities and biases through storytelling, creativity, and the Arts.

  • Build better understanding of social and personal identities in participants’ ability to creatively develop, share, discuss, and make changes to their biases in becoming more inclusive and conscious of differences.


Learning Objectives:

By the end of the interactive workshop, participants will be able to:

  • Explain and continually reflect on one’s implicit biases and use Storytelling and the Arts in learning about oneself and others while becoming more inclusive.

  • Apply Storytelling and the Arts in battling implicit biases, stereotypes and microaggressions in the group, community, classroom, organization, and in life.

  • Provide and integrate participants feedback into one’s learning and practice in becoming more inclusive and equitable.

  • Develop inclusive strategies that incorporate Storytelling and the Arts for a more inclusive society.

  • Establish and sustain a thriving inclusive global community that supports, fosters, and engages in social justice Arts and intellectual curiosity of diverse individuals in building better understanding and powerful communities.


Guidelines in Building a Mindful, Creative, and Critical Community:

To begin the workshop, I believe by taking a mindfulness approach in taking three deep breaths to center the body and mind is a great preparation for participants to be present, relaxed and calm. After this, it is important to set guidelines so that the workshop process for all participants is equitable and inclusive so that every individual can authentically participate. These themes came to fruition from my many years of working on inclusive pedagogy workshops in higher education and are not limited to but can be added to by suggestions of the workshop participants:

*Use “I” statements

*Take ownership and engage in a collaborative process

*Assume good intent, and acknowledge impact

*Practice self-awareness

*Explore moments of discomfort

*Take care and have responsibility for oneself and needs


Introduction to Social Identities:

In this next part of the workshop the introduction of social identities is important as a basis in better understanding who we are and the diversity that exists amongst the workshop participants. Social identities are often shaped by common history, shared experiences, legal and historical decisions, and day-to-day interactions. Some examples are and are not limited to:




*Sexual orientation







*Sex assignment

*Disability status


Have workshop participants answer alongside each social identity.

It is important to note that for some participants this could be uncomfortable or not easy to answer with one word. This uneasiness is why I choose storytelling, and the incorporation of the Arts so that participants can have a creative approach in sharing one’s multiple identities. Also, it is important to accept if some participants refuse to answer or share any or one of their identities. This refusal could perhaps be a topic, that could lead to discussion and shed light on how implicit bias might come to play when sharing any or one of these social identities.

Personal Identities:

Now introduce personal identities to the participants. Personal identities are individual traits that make up who you are, such as hobbies, interests, experiences, and personal choices. Some examples are and are not limited to:

*Career and Profession

*Educational Level


*Cultural Values

*Relationship Status

*Sporting Skills and Interest



Now, have all participants in the workshop/community fill out the personal identity examples so that they get an even better understanding of who they are. Personal identities are usually used in social media and dating websites so that others get to know if there are similar interests in common or differences that might interest others in wanting to gain more insight into who this person is. Usually, personal identity examples are easier to fill out because it is the individual that chooses to pave their own path.

After the filling out the social and personal identities exemplar, split the group of participants into pairs and preferably with couples who do not know one another. Have the couples decide on which 3 social identities and 3 personal identities they would like to focus on in this interactive workshop. This is where creativity and the Arts (music, theater, dance, visual arts, and digital arts) come into action. After the couples have decided on their 3 social identities and 3 personal identities they would like to focus on, have sketch paper and variety of drawing materials handed out for the workshop participants to use in the next step. Now allow all the participants to explore and incorporate any and or all the Arts to explain, convey, or help tell their identity stories. Give around 10 to 15 minutes for this part of the workshop.

Once every participant is finished with their artistic identity pieces; have the couples sit on chairs face to face with arm distance apart in front of them and have one of the couples start to share what they think their partner’s 3 social and 3 personal identities might be (this is where perhaps implicit biases might occur). After this sharing, the partner that did not speak but heard their partner guess their social and personal identities has 5 to 8 minutes to share their Storytelling through the Arts exploration of the 6 identities of who they are. Once this is done, switch and have the partner that just shared their artistic identities performance work guess their partner’s 3 social and 3 personal identities and after this, have the partner that was listening share their Storytelling through the Arts identities performance within 5 to 8 minutes. Give the couples 1 to 2 minutes to critically reflect and share their thoughts of what they experienced and conclude this part of the workshop.

After all couples have shared their storytelling through the Arts performance of social and personal identities. Have one couple find another couple to now turn into a quartet (group of four participants). By this time, participants should have built a better understanding of who they are and have learned about another person’s identity. They also should feel more comfortable, as well as, prepared in working in a larger group to creatively answer three questions that explicitly tackles one’s biases while incorporating all the Arts. This part of the workshop needs at least 15 minutes for everyone to explore the Arts in answering the three questions. Another 15 minutes is for a creative collaborative artistic exchange to happen where if someone in the group needs the other group members to help convey their story with any of the Art forms.


The three questions to ask:

  • What privileges, stereotypes, biases do you believe have?

  • What problems/concerns can this have in your group, community, workplace?

  • What positive action/s can you take to alleviate the bias/es?


As the presenter of the interactive workshop, it is important to guide the participants to be creative and emphasize the incorporation of all the Arts. Asking questions that might enhance or better convey their answers to these questions might be of help. Some example questions are:


*How might you draw this stereotype, privilege, or bias?

*What images and or words might you draw that could help convey this stereotype, privilege, or bias?

*How might you write a sketch for others in your group to act out a scene that answers the concern/problem of this privilege, stereotype, bias within the group?

*How might you not speak but use dance, movement, gestures, and or pantomime to answer one or all three questions?

*What sounds, noises, music (a song with or without lyrics), body percussion, or creating a rap might help convey your answers?

*How might technology be a source and or also a resource to help in creatively answering one or all three questions?

*How can technology be used as an archival source for the creative process and or product?


After the 30 minutes have passed and the quartets have worked on creatively answering the three questions as individuals and or collaborators ask the quartets if anyone informally wants to share what was collaboratively worked on or if they do not want to perform. Give the group members the possibility to also talk about the creative process and or reflections of what they learned. Give each group around 5 to 7 minutes in this sharing. Once each group has shared what they worked or collaborated on it is important to culminate with a conclusion of why it is important to address respect one’s identity/ies, understand implicit biases and finding ways to positively change in becoming more inclusive and understanding.



Inclusion is the active, intentional, and ongoing engagement with diverse people in ways that increases awareness and creates a culture of belonging for people of all identities, especially those who have been historically marginalized.

It is important to have all individuals from diverse backgrounds to have access in telling their stories through the Arts and that through this creative process ensures equitable and inclusive entry points for all participants to be heard, seen, and be recognized. Once this happens it allows participants to have a sense of belonging and the ability to assess and hold the group/community responsible for making progress in equity, diversity, and inclusion. The entry point to equity is when taking different/diverse people’s needs into consideration, alongside understanding the histories of oppression and disenfranchisement, and then to distribute resources (leadership roles, structural change, financial assistance, as a few examples) that create opportunities accordingly.



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Prof. Dr. Leonard A. Cruz (Ph.D. in Urban Education mit Schwerpunkt auf den darstellenden und kreativen Künsten) wurde in Pampanga, Philippinen, geboren und wuchs in San Antonio, Texas, auf. Er begann mit seinen vier Brüdern und zwei Schwestern zu tanzen, lernte philippinische und hawaiianische Volkstänze und wurde als erster philippinischer Amerikaner zum Presidential Scholar in the Arts ernannt. Er hat für Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane und Co., für Sally Silvers, Robert Wilson, das Folkwang Tanzstudio, Kei Takei's Moving Earth und Susanne Linke getanzt und war darüber hinaus Gast beim Wuppertaler Tanztheater. Leonard lebt sowohl in den USA als auch in Deutschland und ist derzeit Lehrbeauftragter an der Hochschule der Künste (HBK) in Essen und am ITP/IMA Department der New York University. Ab September 2023 wird Prof. Dr. Cruz den Lehrstuhl für Theater und Tanz in der Gesellschaft an der HKS-Ottersberg übernehmen. Cruz ist spezialisiert auf Kunst im Kontext sozialer Gerechtigkeit, dekolonisierende Kunsterziehung und kontemplative Praktiken und glaubt an lebenslanges Performen und Lernen.