Thursday, June 25, 2015

Going the speed of the body- InterPlay at the Atlanta Pretrial Detention Center

By Jennifer Denning

Incrementality is a powerful tool. In a world that often goes too fast for my body, it is reassuring and affirming to remember that InterPlay recognizes and values the wisdom of small steps. Yes, sometimes we need to leap, but much of our day-to-day accomplishments happen step by little step.

InterPlay at the Atlanta Pretrial Detention Center keeps me grounded in those little steps. While some of the women awaiting trial are open to full body play, many are not. We breathe. We allow. We pause. We put a hand in the air and move it (or not). We walk. We stop. We run. AND.... we sit! During one of our first sessions one of the women in our class was very hesitant to move, so we put two chairs in the circle and said, "Okay, you can sit. In this space you don't have to do anything you don't want to do." And so our song played, and we all played around with walking, stopping, running and sitting. And then....the same woman who did not want to move started singing.

There is a magic in allowing. As a teacher I often desire certain outcomes. There is a part of me that thinks the freer someone is being the better I am doing my job. But who am I to say what freedom looks like for anyone but myself? Who am I to say when it is appropriate for anyone to feel safe enough to be free? I work on my own freedom. Freedom from expectation. Freedom from equating my own self worth with what anyone does or doesn't do in my presence.

Atlanta InterPlay leader, Christine Gautreaux and I play with our shadows outside the detention center. The picture on the sidewalk includes this wing and words such as, "mother, father, cousin, wife..."

I am grateful to bring InterPlay to the women at the Atlanta Pretrial Detention Center. I know I learn as much from being with them as they learn from me. To find freedom within the confines of detention is a courageous thing.  Many of our participants are shackled during our sessions.What would my state of being be like in the same circumstances? Would I also find moments of laughter and joy? Would I trust these unknown women coming in to "play" with me?

Step by little step we are getting to know each other in different ways. We share simple stories about our favorite candy, rain and flowers; we dance for people who are on our mind; we use our voices and bang on a drum; we move the speed of our own bodies.


  1. What a wonderful offering you are giving the world and in particular these women Jennifer! We all want choices! We all crave FREEDOM!

  2. Thank you so much for doing this. I feel so badly that some of the women are shackled.

  3. Telling and witnessing stories is important work. You are correct, there is magic in allowing. And your InterPlay activities create and hold the space for allowing. Good work!

  4. Great blog Jennifer! Thank you so much for your work in this world and thank you for being such a great co-leader.

  5. Thank you all for the encouraging comments. Yes for freedom, stories, witnessing, allowing! What grace those things have created in my own life.