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Why I am dancing against violence on V-Day …and what V-Day has to do with storytelling…

Written on February 5, 2013
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V-Day logo

The ‘One Billion Rising’ movement was initiated by Eve Ensler, author of the ‘Vagina Monologues’.The scale of the movement is breathtaking and exciting: currently 187 countries have signed up to join in. Authors, politicians, filmmakers and celebrities have recorded You Tubes about why they will ‘strike, dance, rise’ on Feb 14. The one billion rising org website states:

‘V-Day is a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls. V-Day is a catalyst that promotes creative events to increase awareness, raise money, and revitalize the spirit of existing anti-violence organizations. V-Day generates broader attention for the fight to stop violence against women and girls, including rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation (FGM), and sex slavery.’

I am practicing the dance for V-Day so I can join in on our local action in Byron Bay (see FB event page.) The anthem and dance tell a story about the empowerment and solidarity of women. While the song and dance are American, there is the opportunity to create your own version and in many countries woman have done this.

For years, I have seen “Reclaim the Night’ rallies and actions which have not attracted me. I have been a feminist for as long as I can remember. This informs my choices in story: the way I retell and adapt folktales and myths as well as the way I write original stories and songs. I love tales of the feminine. This year I working on a new performance of the Inanna myth cycle, which I closely base on Kramer and  Wolkstein’s “Inanna: Queen of Heaven and Earth”. The ways women and girls are represented in stories of all kinds has a huge impact on the way we think and feel about ourselves and the feminine. This extends out into the way we act in the world. I have always chosen to tell stories of strong, empowered females.

However, I have never been personally touched by sexual violence. It was of concern to me, but not enough of a concern to turn up to a rally.

The Uprising of Woman in the Aran World logo

Logo for the ‘Uprising of Women in the Arab World’

However, lately a number of things have made me feel much more connected to the issue of sexual violence towards women and girls worldwide. I started a Facebook page as a business move, to keep connected with storytellers and people who like my work. It has it’s major drawbacks of course, the first being how much time one can spend on it :( , but it also makes everyone seem closer. I have been following the posts of the Uprising of Arab women on FB, where I have seen many, many Arab women and men hold up placards declaring their desire for women to be treated with respect and have equal rights. After reading them for weeks, I began to feel like I knew these women.  I have read articles from the ’50 million missing campaign’ about ‘femicide’: the savage and murderous treatment of women, girls and girl babies in India. I saw images of the men wearing skirts to protest the rape culture that says if a women wears a skirt she is asking to be raped! What wonderful, brave, adorable men!!

Male feminists wear skirts in India to protest rape culture

Male feminists wear skirts in India to protest rape culture

 

Most recently, here (in Australia), I had the great privilege of working with with a wonderful group of teenage girls through the The Chrysalis Girls Program . They were girls who had extra challenges to deal with in their lives. Some of them had experienced sexual violence or were at risk of doing so. I told the female initiation story of ‘Baba Yaga and Vasalissa’. We discussed the symbols and meaning and then they dove into making a doll (like the one Vasalissa has in the story) to represent their feminine intuition -see image below.

Vasalissa dolls made by teenage girls inspired by the story "Baba Yaga and Brave Vasalissa"

Vasalissa dolls made by teenage girls inspired by the story “Baba Yaga and Brave Vasalissa”

 
So for all those reasons I have been practicing the dance, even though I am quite terrible at learning steps! I want to be there in solidarity with women of all ages and from around the world. I feel I have a particular obligation, because I can do it very easily. I won’t be persecuted if I make a stand. Women in some countries will have to be extremely brave to take action, so if they get news of how strong the movement is, they may be greatly encouraged. To read more about the movement which was started by Eve Ensler, go to the V-Day.org home page here.

The easiest version I found of the ‘Break the Chain’ choreography is from the women of Sheffield.  (There are different dances and music being used around the world). It is roughly the same as the Debbie Allen one, just a fair bit simpler. They dance it once through, then once in mirror view, then teach it step by step, then do it again so you can watch from behind as you might in a crowd.

If you are good at steps here is the full version of “Break the Chain” which is very beautiful and really just a little harder. Here the choreographer, Debbie Allen explains the meaning of the moves and teaches it bit by bit .

If are totally awesome at steps and/or have practiced for a while it is great to watch the fabulous young black American women zip through it in mirror view (so when they step right, so do you). I find watching the non-mirror versions fairly confusing until I have it pretty well down….

Anyway I hope you join in, do your best and HAVE FUN! Free dancing to the music and occasionally joining in with a move you know would still be demonstrating solidarity! If you can’t be there in body, be there in spirit and spread the word!!

Find your local event at the one billion rising org website or if you are an Australian Byron shire local, see you at 7am Main Beach on Thursday, February 14. More details at the FB event page.

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