I am writing you to let you know about a project that has been a life-changing experience for me over the past year. I began Dances for Solidarity in early 2015 with a question: Was it possible to use the mail to create a dance performance with people in solitary confinement? Would this be received positively? Would we receive a response?
I really didn’t know what would happen, but what I did know is that I had gathered an incredibly smart and talented group of people to help along the way. Each of these individuals were deeply committed to the transformative power that movement and art could have on people who are incarcerated. This support was coupled with a fellowship in 2015 from Culture Push, an organization that was willing to take a risk on a very abstract, open-ended dance project.
Since this project began, the results have been unbelievable. Every week our P.O. box is overflowing with long letters, poems, and illustrations. Every week a group of us sits down to put pen to paper and respond.
One of the most incredible, unexpected discoveries was the choreography we have received in response. Several of our incarcerated correspondents have created their own movements, written them down and mailed them back to us. As a choreographer, this type of response is most exciting to me, as it gives us a way to connect people in solitary with the outside world through dance. This is an intriguing next step for the project, but we have yet to find an organization willing to sponsor the efforts to bring this performance to fruition. And this is why I am writing to ask you for your support.
Dances for Solidarity seeks support to:
- Develop a performance choreographed by people in solitary. This includes space rental, payment for dancers, two residencies, and eventually, costs associated with touring the performance to the cities and towns that house the prisons where our incarcerated friends live.
- Produce an online gallery of visual artwork created by our friends in prison. The artwork will be for purchase with the profits going into the artists’ commissary and toward DFS costs.
- Continue to purchase envelopes, paper, pens and stamps for weekly letter writing
- Maintain administrative costs
We are aiming to raise $5,000 by June 1. Like all efforts of this kind, no donation is too small.
- $5 buys a box of envelopes
- $10 buys a book of stamps
- $25 pays for two hours of rehearsal space rental
- $75 pays for a year of hosting for our online gallery
- $100 pays a dancer for two rehearsals
- $5000 makes you a hero
You don’t have to take my word for the impact of this project. Here’s what Michael, my pen pal who is currently serving a 40-year sentence in solitary confinement, has to say:
– A Prisoner’s Thoughts on Dance –
Until recently I’d never considered dance as a potential answer to some of the problems of incarceration. By its very nature though dance is the antithesis of prison. The freedom of dance through a seed of choreographed movements given to us by Dances for Solidarity with its heavy emphasis of personally inspired additions to the original steps does just that.
While we prisoners are limited both in our person and nature by prison’s political and social rules, the DFS moves give us the foundation to break these bonds.
Rather, dance provides us with a personally radical means of opening ourselves to new horizons. Moreover it is a beautiful way to protest everything wrong with a system that displaces the very freedoms which it claims to hold in the highest regard for everyone. So dance, dance for yourself and in and for solidarity against everything and anyone who wishes to lock us up in a prison with or without walls.
Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to Dances for Solidarity via our fiscal sponsor, Culture Push. You can donate online by visiting http://tinyurl.com/gsaqwtx. Make sure you click the button that says “other” and select “Support Dances for Solidarity” from the drop-down menu. If snail mail is more your speed, you may send checks to Culture Push (earmarked for Dances for Solidarity) to the following address:
Culture Push Inc.
241 E. 7th St. #3C
New York NY 10009
After our campaign ends, you will receive a letter acknowledging the amount of your donation for your tax records.
Thank you in advance for your support.
Sarah Dahnke, founder of Dances for Solidarity