When I read the details the Daily Camera reporter wanted to share about the crimes committed by some of the regular D2BF dancers at DWCF, I was shocked too. The information was raw. The crimes they committed were violent. The choices they made years ago were choices far off my moral compass of options for living a life. Everything about who I thought the women we’d been dancing with were was turned upside down.
My stomach hurt. My mind whirled. And then I started falling down a rabbit hole of questions.
I thought: Why is this information troubling? Does knowing about the crimes these women committed matter? Do I dance with them conditionally, with a tacit expectation that they need to deserve to dance?
My life has been supremely privileged, protected, sheltered. When I thought about their crimes I asked myself: Do I dance with women in prison because they are very different from me? Or because I think they are only slightly different from me? Do I dance with them because they’ve been damaged or hurt or victimized or naïve? Because I think these women need me? Because I pity them? Or hope to change them?
I wondered: Does it matter if I dance alongside someone who behaved in a shockingly gruesome manner and as a result, will spend the rest of her life behind bars?
Do I need to protect them? Myself?
Then I thought: Do I need to know anything about these women who come to the gym on Sunday afternoons all wearing the same orange shirt and gray sweatpants, the same regulation athletic shoes, all together coming through the gym doors in a straight line, accompanied by officers dressed in blue with holsters and guns? Is it necessary that I align myself with these women in any way? And if I did learn something more about them other than what I see, so what?
Here’s where I’ve landed with this rambling of questions: It doesn’t matter who these women were before they came to the gym to dance. It doesn’t matter how they dance once they are there. I don’t need to know if the day’s class changed their lives dramatically. Or if dance has helped them to trust, or have hope, or gain remorse. I don’t need to hear that they are grateful or transformed. Nor do I need to know what they do once class is over. For me, the only ‘outcome’ for D2BF in women’s prison is 50 minutes of dance.
So far, D2BF isn’t about the past or future lives of the women in prison. Rather, it’s about sharing an experience of dance for a short period time with women who are, for whatever reason, severely restricted for a very long period of time. The women on either side of me dancing to Madonna’s “Let it Be” may be different from me in all ways. We may also be similar in some ways. But it doesn’t matter. In present time we share dance. Briefly.