Thread: women’s voices through Dance

Thread: women’s voices through Dance

Thread is the collaborative choreographic effort of Amanda Byars, Amanda Exley Lower, Bridget Roosa, and Laurel Zahrobsky.   These four choreographers, dancers, and teachers joined forces to present a series of four performances that lift up the voices of women expressed through dance in Atlanta, GA and Chattanooga, TN.  Each artist offers her own unique movement research through solo, duet, and group dances. As all four artists are also educators, these performances offered powerful outside of the classroom experiences for their students and the communities at large.  This project aimed to reach a broad audience in both cities of all ages and backgrounds and most importantly affirm the importance and value of women artists. The performances took place at the Performing Arts Studio on the campus of Emory University in Atlanta, GA and at the Barking Legs Theater in Chattanooga, TN.

I chose to present Lester Horton’s The Beloved as my artistic contribution to this concert.  This was the only historical work on the program and the significance of the female voice in this work encourages the need for awareness of domestic violence.  Through the research necessary to dance this role I found some staggering statistics from the National Domestic Hotline. 

  • On average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States-more than 12 million women and men over the course of a year
  • More than 1 in 3 women and more than 1 in 4 men in the United states have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. 
  • Most female victims of intimate partner violence were previously victimized by the same offender, including 77% of females ages 18 to 24, 76% of females ages 25-34, and 81% of females ages 35-49.

These horrific statistics fueled my performance as my character kept returning to the man who was handling her in a violent and aggressive manner until finally he went too far, strangling her to death.  

A serendipitous encounter: On the final evening of the Atlanta performance I decided to take an uber to the theater.  My driver was a lovely woman who was telling me of her hard work during her time in Atlanta in which she had to rebuild her life to act as a role model to her two young children.  She continued to share that in the evenings she worked in a shelter with women who are currently victims of domestic violence.  She chose this because she herself is a survivor, one of the lucky ones who got away.  She had no idea I was a dancer about to dance the role of a victim of domestic violence.  When I told her she pulled the car over and began to detail all of the physical and emotional abuse she had lived to tell about.  She shared a lot and we were both very emotional, but dance became reality when she told me she was often choked just to the point of becoming unconscious.  This is how my character dies at the end of the work.  Thankfully her fate was different from most.  I told her I would dedicate that evenings performance to her and invited her as my guest.  She was hesitant, but did come back a few hours later to see the performance.  We never got to talk as she had to make a work shift at the shelter, but this encounter solidified my belief in staging from Labanotation score.  I can only hope that this performance served as a cathartic experience for her as well as opening up the dialogue about a topic that is still relevant today.

Please click on the title below to be directed to a page with more information and media about The Beloved.