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Dance Wed Feb 13 2013

A Valentine's Day Dance to End Violence Against Women


This Valentine's Day, Chicagoans going about their daily lives will be pleasantly surprised to find that Feb. 14 is much more than a cheesy holiday this year. It is a historic, global protest of violence against women. At noon, Chicagoans wearing red scarves and dancing in synchrony will overflow onto Daley Plaza for the once in a lifetime event, One Billion Rising.

A worldwide strike happening this Valentine's Day only, One Billion Rising is orchestrated by V-Day, a non-profit founded by Eve Ensler 15 years ago. V-Day is producing over 7,000 events this year that demand an end to violence against women, including hundreds of productions of The Vagina Monologues, screenings of documentaries, and workshops for men called V-Men. The name "One Billion Rising" comes from the UN estimate that one in three women will be beaten, raped or violated in her lifetime. This adds up, roughly, to one billion women. Today, those one billion victims will be represented by one billion dancers, joining hands in cities all over the world.

According to V-Day College and Community Campaigns Manager Laura Waleryszak, this event, which may look like a typical flash mob at first, will soon reveal itself to be "the largest synchronized global action in history for violence against women."

Starting at noon at Daley Plaza, Chicago will "rise," kicking off the day with "booty shaking, body loving fun" from Chicago artists Cheerobix, BeMoved, Psalm One, DJ All the Way Kay, the Fabulous Ladies of Fitness (FLOF), KOKUMO, and Book of Mormon cast member and Broadway star Patrice Compton. The work of these artists, in its own way, is already about rising. Take FLOF, for example, whose monthly dance parties are "focused on wellness and women's power," Waleryszak says. After the noon kick off, those who are rising will march, or take a free trolley, from Daley Plaza to The River East Arts Center, 435 E. Illinois St., for a free dance party from 1 to 6pm.

"I honestly think that it's the type of event that can change people's lives," Waleryszak tells me, as she sits in her Chicago apartment, surrounded by hundreds of One Billion Rising t-shirts. "One Billion Rising is meant to be a beginning, not an end," she says. "Everyone who participates can submit a pledge about how they will keep the spirit of this day alive on"

Amy Mendelson, a Chicago resident and mother of two, is looking forward to dancing at noon with one of her daughters. "I am dancing because I can't think of a better way to fight violence than through creative self-expression," Mendelson says. "My daughter was assaulted on Valentine's Day three years ago," she continues, "and I think this will be a cathartic moment for her to be surrounded by all of these strong women."

The use of dancing in this event is no accident, Waleryszak says. V-Day has a deep involvement in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where fistulas from violent rape are the norm among women, rather than the exception. V-Day supports these women and trains them to become leaders in their communities. When Eve Ensler first began working with women in the Democratic Republic of Congo, she noticed that dance was a huge part of their day and culture, even if they had suffered horrible atrocities. "It's how they turn pain to power," Waleryszak says. "Dance allows you to be so fully present in your body. There is something very powerful and reclaiming about dance, especially for people who have been physically violated. "

People all over the world who cannot join risings on February 14th are invited to dance, wherever you are, and to add your pledge on to end violence against women. Waleryszak says that crossing guards in Toronto have pledged to dance while they out on the street directing traffic, and that employees in a mall have pledged to dance while they work retail. The United Nations issued a statement that they, too, are rising. "We will host an event at UN Headquarters on 14 February at 12.30 p.m. encouraging our staff to join forces and stand up to end violence against women," said Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson.

Waleryszak is hopeful that this Valentine's Day will be a huge step in "shifting awareness -- in a loud way -- so that violence against women can never be silenced again."

Photo by Elizabeth Harper

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

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