Thank you for the encouraging words. Believe it or not they mean a lot to us who are in Seg. At first I told myself no way am I going to do this dance, but I was hollering at my friend and it spread as a joke. So 6 of us went to rec and all did the dance. It was funny, and believe it or not made a lot of us feel good. Thank you. I wish I could express it better to know there are people who haven’t forgotten us. -Jeremy
I was standing in my kitchen one day this past winter when thoughts I was having about mass incarceration and human rights violations synergized with my desire to continue making community-based dances with people who don’t define themselves primarily as performers. I wondered, if we sent a dance, written out as a list of movements, to people being held in prisons in solitary confinement, would they respond? Would they want to dance? Or would they find it ridiculous or offensive that they’d been asked to do such a thing in such a small space? Dances for Solidarity was always a project based around questions: “Will this work?” “What will happen if …?” “Are we allowed to …?”
Since early July of this year, I have been working with a rotating group of participants. We have written invitations to about 120 people who are being held in solitary confinement in prisons in Texas and Louisiana. The invitations we send contain a 10-step written movement sequence that the incarcerated participants are invited to perform. We also let the recipients know that there is a good chance that, while they are performing these movements alone in their cells, it’s likely that someone else in another solitary cell will be doing the same dance at the same time. It’s been exciting to visit the Dances for Solidarity PO box and see letters tumbling out, many full of unsolicited illustrations, poetry, and prose. There are several incarcerated correspondents who have become choreographers, writing us detailed descriptions of movement they would add to this sequence.
Four months later, I know now that 1) this does work, 2) what happens is that most people write back enthusiastically, and 3) within the prison system, there is a lot that is not allowed.
Dances for Solidarity is still a project based around questions, but these questions are pushing forward, forcing me to dig deeper, into actions beyond just asking people to dance in prison cells. My experience with the project so far has broadened the conversation about the meaning and potential of the project. What does it mean to invite someone in solitary (or, in the official term, Administrative Segregation) to dance? What is the relationship between dance and the incarcerated body? Is it an act of empowerment to become a choreographer when behind bars? How can we broaden this project so that we can really create change in the way that the United States deals with incarceration?
Yes, I did dance for solidarity. I did so because it was a great idea, one which renews hope and wonder. It felt LIBERATING! Prison cells confine us to scripted movement i.e. walking, sitting or standing. Jumping seems to break the “mold” of being a prisoner. It’s a socially rebellious act in one’s own solitary cell. -Jose