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Survivors of abuse find freedom through dance

A New York based dance team, Gibney Dance, this week visited The Saartjie Baartman Centre to host a number of workshops and training sessions aimed at helping women at the shelter to explore common issues, address group dynamics and learn movement techniques for empowerment and healing.

A panel discussion, which included representatives from the Centre, the Sanctuary for Families, a New York based domestic violence organisation, and Gibney Dance, explored the commonalities between South African shelters and those abroad; this included discussion around similar global challenges, best practice models and differences in services offered.

Gibney Dance works to fight domestic violence on an international level, using movement as a tool to effect social change. In collaboration with US domestic violence organisations, such as the Sanctuary for Families and Safe Horizon, they host hundreds of movement workshops each year with women living in shelters all over the world. The project unites survivors of domestic violence with professional dancers. The tour to South Africa was supported by the Agnes Varis Trust and Gibney Dance’s individual contributors.

“Survivors of domestic violence often struggle to make their own life choices, as their experiences have left them with low self esteem,” Clinical Director at Sanctuary for Families, Beth Silverman-Yam said. “The workshops we host help survivors rediscover their bodies and come to terms with issues such as self-choice, self-expression, trust and sharing.”

Sanctuary for Families has worked with Gibney Dance for the past 14 years. Both organisations are committed to social action and combatting gender-based violence. Their model, which brings the human service world together with the artistic community, has reached Canada, Turkey and other parts of the US.

“The visit offered an opportunity to learn from leading international domestic violence organisations; they have invaluable insight and experience working with survivors of abuse and sex trafficking,” Director of The Saartjie Baartman Centre, Shaheema McLeod said.

Situated on the Cape Flats, an area with one of the highest crime rates in Cape Town, The Saartjie Baartman Centre offers services such as crisis response, counseling and legal advice to women and children who have become victims of abuse. Their onsite shelter houses an average of 30 women and 55 children at a time.

“There is an intrinsic link between the arts and social issues; movement can be used as a powerful tool for overcoming bad experiences,” Associate Artistic Director of Gibney Dance, Amy Miller said. “Our tried and tested programme model allows for easy implementation. It is our hope that local partnerships will form to continue the work that we are doing here in South Africa.”

“The shelter women thoroughly enjoyed the movement classes, we plan to continue incorporating more arts activities, such as the one offered by Gibney Dance, into our residential programme,” McLeod said.

In collaboration with local contemporary dance company iKapa Dance Theatre, Gibney Dance have planned a benefit performance for Friday, 23 May, 7.30pm at the Magnet Theatre in Observatory – tickets are available on Quicket and cost R200. A portion of proceeds raised will be given to the Centre. Another event on the itinerary is a free movement training workshop that will take place at The Saartjie Baartman Centre from 24 to 25 May for Cape Town based clinical directors and social workers who work in the field of domestic violence.

ENDS

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Distributed by Be-cause Integrated Communications:

Rachel Briant

rachel@be-cause.co.za

021 447 1082 / 084 639 4304

On behalf of the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children:

Director: Shaheema McLeod

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