"I look forward to this class every week. I always feel better after being here."
"For the two minutes of that (solo witnessed) dance I felt like I wasn't in prison."
Yesterday, after a sixteen week session of InterPlay in collaboration with Reforming Arts, women at Lee Arrendale State Prison shared an InterPlay performance with other women at the prison for the first time. The theme they choose to perform on was “Creative Self-Expression.”
As often goes at the prison, our day did not start as planned. We had planned 45 minutes of warming up with our ensemble. Instead there was coming and going, news of some women being sick or in “lock down,” and, most significantly, awareness in the group that just that day the date of execution for a woman in their midst had been set.
|A blue sky day at Lee Arrendale State Prison|
The moment called for stillness and listening. The words of Body Wisdom board president, Sheila Collins, came to mind: “We have to make art out of what happens to us.” I shared these words with the women, took a deep breath and trusted the forms of InterPlay and the time we had spent together to do the work.
There are many stories I could share with you from my time sharing InterPlay at LASP. Here is one: a woman who joined our group for the first time a few weeks ago jumped in to perform with us. She shared a bit of her personal story with us. She was married young and went from “sleeping with my sister to sleeping with my husband.” Her husband was an abuser, and she ended up in prison for injuring him in self defense. At age 70+ she told us, “I am learning how to be autonomous.” Yesterday she surprised us all when she jumped up to do a side-by-side solo dance on the theme of “passion.” She danced with an infectious freedom and joy. After the performance she said, “I didn’t think I was creative at all. InterPlay allows me to access that part of myself.”
Our work that began with playshops in 2013, expanded this year to include this performance work; soon-to-be certified InterPlay leader and Licensed Master Social Worker, Christine Gautreux, has become a teaching partner, and we are awaiting approval for a new series of workshops in the spring.
Yesterday our performance ended with performers and audience members joining together in a hand-to-hand dance in celebration of creative self-expression while one of our ensemble members played the drum. There was joy there. There was freedom there. There was something present that transcended those four walls.