February 14, 2013, also known as V-Day, all across the globe, people of all ages, cultural and ethnic backgrounds will rise up and demand an end to violence against women. This effort, known as One Billion Rising, is encouraging people all over the world to dance together, strike, and bring attention to the statistics, from the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women that one in three women on the planet will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. Founders of the movement assert that “one billion women violated is an atrocity, however,one billion dancing is a revolution.” The goal is to have 1 billion women, and their supporters and loved ones, rise up by dancing to "shake the world, empower women and girls, and break cycles of violence."
Engaging a collective movement, like One Billion Rising, by using dance as the expressive outlet, brings attention to the healing power of moving with one another front and center. The power of people moving together and joining through dance has been witnessed over and over through the phenomenon of flash mobs broadcasted all over the media. The One Billion Rising effort, however, from a dance/movement therapist’s perspective, has an even deeper potential to influence us personally as well as our planet. What occurs as we join together to dance in synchrony, to express ourselves, and make a personal and global statement? Not only is it a cathartic release of emotions, and a joyful movement of empowerment, but an opportunity to make a statement about our own body integrity. Alice Walker, an internationally celebrated author, poet, and activist describes dancing as an opportunity to “feel ourselves at the most fundamental level.”
Together with my own dance/movement therapy and counseling graduate students at Antioch University New England, we will be making our own statement in the main foyer of our school for V-day by performing a flash mob to “Break the Chains” choreographed by Debbie Allen. Other organizations, colleges, community centers, and hospitals all over the globe will be making their own creative statement. As we prepared for this expression in our own community, what has been the most meaningful for me to witness, is my students’ renewed spirit of what it is like to be a person who stands with empowerment, has body respect and integrity, and not only uses dance as a personal expressive outlet, but also as a way to support others in becoming empowered within their own body. They have chosen to take their own core belief in the power of movement to train in the profession of dance/movement therapy so as to use this active and metaphorical process not only a way to help others to address the physical and emotional patterns of immobilization that can occur through the experience of violence but also, as a reparative tool, to help victims in building a greater sense of self.
The American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA) asserts that “attacks on women's bodies can leave women with physical scars, but most often with psychological scars that increase a sense of fear, hyperarousal, hyper-vigilance, shame, and self-blame. They can diminish one’s sense of trust and wisdom in one’s own body.” Furthermore, since violence influences environmental and bodily safety, research advances in neurobiology have emphasized the importance of including the body in treatment of any type of trauma (Levine & Frederick, 1997; Rothschild, 2000; Schore, 2003; Siegel 2012; van der Kolk, McFarlane, & Weisaeth, 1996). According to Moore (2006), ‘‘the sensations and actions that have become stuck in and after a traumatic event need to be integrated in the treatment process, so that the person can regain a sense of familiarity and efficacy in the body’’ (p. 106). This expanded knowledge has broadened the ways in which people can seek support. Through the support of a therapist, one can use dance to understand the sensations in their bodies as they relate to the traumatic memories. This is already being done all over the world through the work of dance/movement therapists. For example, in Kolkata, India, Sohini Chakraborty and dance/movement therapist Bonnie Bernstein, BC-DMT have worked with victims of sexual trafficking. Dance/movement therapist, Rena Kornblum of Madison, Wisconsin has created a curriculum to be integrated into the schools for violence prevention through movement called Disarming the Playground.
I invite the readers of this blog to join the One Billion Rising movement so the world can see the collective strength and solidarity across borders. I also invite you to experience the personal healing power of joining with others through the art of dance. On February 14, 2013, also Valentine’s Day, love your own body. Love what wisdom your body gives you. Dance to release and experience your own emotions, connect with others, and to make your own personal and global meaning. The ADTA asserts, “dance/movement therapy affords women with the experience that their body is nothing to be ashamed of and invites them to access their power, sense of agency, and wisdom.”
References Levine, P., & Frederick, A. (1997). Waking the tiger: Healing trauma. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.
Moore, C. (2006). Dance/movement therapy in the light of trauma: Research findings of a multidisciplinary project. In S. C. Koch & I. Bra¨uninger (Eds.), Advances in Dance/movement therapy: Theoretical perspectives and empirical findings (pp. 104–115). Berlin: Logos Verlag.
Rothschild, B. (2000). The body remembers: The psychophysiology of trauma and trauma treatment. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
van der Kolk, B. A., McFarlane, A. C., & Weisaeth, L. (Eds.). (1996). Traumatic stress: The effects of overwhelming experience on mind, body, and society. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
Resources Devereaux, C. (2008). Untying the knots: Dance/movement therapy with a family exposed to domestic violence. American Journal of Dance Therapy, 30(2), 58-70. doi:10.1007/s10465-008-9055-x
Gray, A. E. L. (2001). The Body Remembers: Dance/Movement Therapy with an Adult Survivor of Torture. American Journal of Dance Therapy, 23(1), 29-43.
Gray, A. E. L. (2002). The Body as Voice: Somatic Psychology and Dance/ Movement Therapy with Survivors of War and Torture. Connections, 3(2), 2-4.
Koch, S. C., & Weidinger-von der Recke, B. (2009). Traumatised refugees: An integrated dance and verbal therapy approach. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 36(5), 289-296. doi:10.1016/j.aip.2009.07.002
Kornblum, R. & Halsten, R. L. (2006). In-school dance/movement therapy for traumatized children. In S. Brooks (Ed.), Creative Arts Therapies Manual. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.
Krantz, A. M., & Pennebaker, J. W. (2007). Expressive dance, writing, trauma, and health: When words have a body. In I. Serlin, J. Sonke-Henderson, R. Brandman, J. Graham-Pole (Eds.) , Whole person healthcare Vol 3: The arts and health (pp. 201-229). Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.
MacDonald, J. (2006). Dance with demons: Dance movement therapy and complex post traumatic stress disorder. In H. Payne (ed.) Dance movement therapy: Theory, research and practice. (49-70). New York: Routledge.
Meekums, B. (2000). Creative group therapy for women survivors of child sexual abuse. Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Mills, L., & Daniluk, J. (2002). Her body speaks: The experience of dance therapy for women survivors of child sexual abuse. Journal of Counseling & Development, 80(1), 77-85.
Valentine, G. E. (2007). Dance/movement therapy with woman survivors of sexual abuse. In S. Brooks (Ed.), The Use of Creative Therapies with Sexual Abuse Survivors. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.
Christina Devereaux, Ph.D., BC-DMT, is an Assistant Professor and Director of Clinical training in Dance/Movement Therapy and Counseling at Antioch University in New England.