How It Works
We Mail DVDs
We mail the interested prison a complimentary set of Dance To Be Free DVDs for the recreation department & inmates to review and experience for themselves.
If the DVDs generate interest, DTBF will schedule a live Teacher Training program for the prison.
We dance at the prison! Our Teacher Trainings are 3 days long (3-4 hours a day) and intended for ALL skill levels.
Prisons Where We've Danced
La Vista, Pueblo, CO
Dance To Be Free has completed three teacher-trainings in Pueblo's medium-security women's prison. Over 60 incarcerated women have completed our program while three of our graduates finished their sentences and are now sustaining the program in Boulder and Littleton's half-way house.
Nebraska Correctional Center for Women
Dance To Be Free has completed 5 teacher-trainings at The Nebraska Correctional Center for Women (NCCW). In May of 2018, DTBF was invited to speak at the first ever live streamed Tedx Talk (line HERE) out of a prison. We shared the stage with 7 women serving life sentences who not only inspired the audience but humanized an often stigmatized population! NCCW has been the most supportive and welcoming prison we have had the privilege of working with since 2016. Their Warden, Denise Davidson and staff are on the cutting edge of prison reform.
In 2017 we expanded into 3 women's prisons in Arkansas in their medium and maximum facilities. There is little to no programming in these rural facilities due to their remote locations. We are returning in 2018 to offer our teacher trainings along with reinforcing the work we did with our original trainees.
In 2018, DTBF expanded to 2 facilities in Hawaii, the maximum women's prison on Oahu and the jail on Maui. We were given permission to film at both facilities during 3 teacher trainings. We hope to return in 2019!
In May of 2018 DTBF expanded to Mississippi's minimum security women's prison in Flowood where we certified 22 women as dance teachers. In September of 2018 we expanded to the max facility where we certified 24 women and were given the chance to film our training!
Lowell Correctional Institution located in Ocala, Florida was our 13th prison and 8th state. Lowell is the largest women's prison in the U.S. housing 3k women. We had an incredible group of 24 eager and ready students! We are returning in January of 2019!
Central Virginia Correctional Unit #13
At the Central Virginia Correctional Unit #13, we worked with a dozen women in a minimum security/work release facility in Chesterfield, VA. We had the privilege of being filmed by Freethink based out of Washington, DC ( Video HERE ). We hope to return in 2019!
Bledsoe County Correctional Complex, Crossville, TN
DTBF will be offering its first TT at BCCX in May of 2019! The women have been dancing to our DVDs for months in advance. We are also lucky to have volunteer support from Knoxville!
It costs $6k to fund one full Teacher Training. Click the link to sponsor a prison today!
- Covers Lucy and 1-2 volunteer's travel and lodging
- Covers our Founder's salary for our 3 day Teacher Training.
- Covers Lucy and 1-2 volunteer's pay for meals - 3 meals per day for 3 days.
- This fee covers our DVD Box Set, Curriculum and a portion of our administrative costs.
Dance To Be Free is a 501(c)3.
All donations are tax deductible!
A contribution of $400 certifies one inmate to become a dance teacher as they complete their sentence. This skill can be used while they are still serving time or when they exit the prison system. Some inmates serving life sentences have the option of teaching their fellow inmates dance. Job skills after prison reduce recidivism and increase self-esteem.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Does a Prison Get Involved with Dance To Be Free?
Do you know of a women's prison that could benefit? Here's what to do:
1. Send us an email and let us know of your interest.
2. We mail (for free!) the interested prison a set of Dance To Be Free workout DVDs (11 classes, 60 minutes each) for the prison staff, recreation department to review before implementing program. If approved - to be viewed 1 or more times per week.
3. If the DVDs generate interest, Dance To Be Free will begin talks to collaborate with the prison to bring a live Teacher Training program to the prison. DTBF brings our original curriculum, music, journal prompts and DVDs for each training.
4. Inmates are certified as Dance To Be Free dance instructors which allows our graduates to sustain the program themselves. DTBF returns to each prison for numerous trainings where we certify new students while working with our original trainees (if they are still at the facility).
Why Dance In Prison?
"Dancing is seen as a reparative experience that directly contradicts the terror, helplessness and invisibility of trauma to enable survivors to reclaim ownership of their bodies and their lives." Bessel A. van der Kolk, MD
In addition to dancing being a healing experience for inmates suffering from PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), recidivism is a core criminal justice concern. The Bureau of Justice Statistics states: “Nationally, 30% of adult offenders released from state prisons are re-arrested within the first six months of their release. Within three years of their release, 67% of ex-offenders return to prison.” Employment and community engagement are critical factors determining long-term success of released inmates. We aim to reduce the high rate of recidivism by addressing the root cause of why a recently released inmate would return to prison: unaddressed PTSD.
The Power of Synchronized Dancing
This quote sums up the mission of Dance To Be Free - "We have already seen and heard from the inmates at DWCF about how their social interactions have shifted since dancing together.
"In our recent study, we found that synchronizing with others while dancing raised pain tolerance. It also encouraged people to feel closer to others." Bronwyn Tarr
Why Women In Prison?
Click below to learn about the increase in women being incarcerated:
What does Complex Trauma and PTSD have to do with it?
"Complex trauma describes both children’s exposure to multiple traumatic events—often of an invasive, interpersonal nature—and the wide-ranging, long-term effects of this exposure. These events are severe and pervasive, such as abuse or profound neglect. They usually occur early in life and can disrupt many aspects of the child’s development and the formation of a sense of self. Since these events often occur with a caregiver, they interfere with the child’s ability to form a secure attachment. Many aspects of a child’s healthy physical and mental development rely on this primary source of safety and stability." (nctsn.org)
In order to heal trauma that lives in the body, Dr. Bruce Perry, a trauma specialist says we need “patterned, repetitive, rhythmic somatosensory activity, literally, bodily sensing exercises. Developmental trauma happens in the body, where pre-conscious ‘implicit memory” was laid down in the primitive brain stem (survival brain) and viscera. Long before we had a thinking frontal cortex or ‘explicit memory’ function. The list of repetitive, rhythmic regulations used for trauma by Dr. Perry, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, and Dr. Pat Ogden and others is remarkable. It includes singing, dancing, drumming, and most musical activities.”
Perry’s research confirms the results we are experiencing inside of our 13 prisons; whether we are dancing in maximum or medium security facilities our students are hungry for our alternative approach. For the most part they have been exposed to cognitive therapy which has its limitations due to the physical nature of trauma.
Rates and Cost of Recidivism
Nationally, 97% of the offenders in jail today will be released and then return to the communities from which they came. Statistics show that 30% of adult offenders released from state prisons are re-arrested within the first six months of their release. Even worse, within three years of their release from prison this increases to 67%, or two out of three, ex-offenders returning to prison." Project Hope Re-entry Initiative
The US spends $80 Billion a year on incarceration. The cost of recidivism outweighs the cost of programming!
Reentry - What happens to women who are released from prison?
Reentry is a complex issue. Here are some resources for recently released prisoners in Boulder County, CO:
Bridge House: A day shelter, resource center, case management, employment program, short-term housing program for men and women. 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 1603 Walnut St., Boulder; 8:30 to 11 a.m. Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays at Boulder Shelter for the Homeless, 4869 Broadway, Boulder; 303-442-8300; boulderbridgehou
FOCUS Reentry: Pairs mentors with Boulder County Jail inmates before release to assist in transition finding housing, employment, transportation, family reunification and communication. 720-304-6446; focusreentry.org
OUR Center's Starting Place: Provides daily hot meals, groceries, clothing, local transportation, ID assistance, prescription assistance, laundry, showers, self-sufficiency classes, referrals to night shelters and more. 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays at 220 Collyer St., Longmont; 303-772-5529; ourcenter.org.
The Reentry Initiative: Provides assistance with pre- and post-release, 72-hour transitioning, housing referrals, job readiness, mentoring, food assistance, IDs, mental health, relapse prevention, government benefits, education, transportation and legal assistance. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the OUR Center, 220 Collyer St., Longmont; 303-772-5529 Ext. 233.
REMERG: An online resource updated daily with detailed information of re-entryorganizations, community agencies, faith-based organizations and more. remerg.com.
Boulder County Jail Education and Transition Program: Helping inmates reenter the community safely and as productive members of their communities and families. Contact Community Justice Services Division Manager Monica Rotner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jail Based Behavioral Services: Provides case management for screening, assessment and treatment for substance use disorders, and co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders for those in need while in jail and in the community upon release. Contact Case Manager Laura Spicer at email@example.com.
Partnership for Active Community Engagement (PACE): An outpatient program with Boulder County Probation Department for persons on probation who struggle with mental illness, substance abuse and criminal behavior. Contact Chief Probation Officer Greg Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2-1-1 Colorado: Dial 2-1-1 for resources to all health and human services, from housing to legal assistance, across the state.
Thanks to the Boulder Daily Camera for compiling this list. To read the full Daily Camera article about reentry click here.
Is my donation tax deductible?
Yes! Please use our Tax ID #: 47-4034630
Where is my money going?
When you donate to Dance To Be Free your money goes toward operational expenses, travel/room & board, and the director's salary. It costs about $400 per inmate to certify as a dance teacher, and $6k per out of state prison to cover teacher training expenses.
As of November 2017 we have taught 200 inmates how to hold space, connect, inspire, choreograph and lead a DTBF class. The goal is to have the inmates sustain the program, offering each other classes during the week when DTBF is not present. If they are going to be released in the near future, they will leave prison with a tangible skill to bring back to their community.
Meet Our Initial Inmates:
Michelle: Michelle has been at every DTBF class since we started on July 1st, 2015. She is our biggest fan! She has helped sustain the DVD program and spread the word to her cell mates. Michelle hopes to teach when she is released. She brings a playful, warmth to each class with DTBF.
My Playground By Michelle M.
You can see me any morning in the park at my playground…
Where it’s full of love, full of color, my playground…
I walk toward the mirror of sand. I touch it and become possessed by the vibe of warmth I feel under my feet…in my playground.
I look up and the sky becomes a ceiling of reflection. I feel myself filling with love…in my playground. The wind begins and the music starts, my body sways as if on clouds…in my playground. My self-possession begins to flare and the music takes over. I slip into this luminous skin of love dance… Not knowing how to feel or if I understand, I feel this life of music flow through me… In my playground. I dance like swimming through water, my body is flowing, so transparent. Then the wind shifts in the beat picks up and my dance becomes stronger, in my playground. It’s that, I’m coming home dance, my heart is beating faster and faster and I feel this fire rise up in me, my smile is sensual I feel sexy, I know I’m sexy…in my playground…
I dance spice, I dance with bite, I dance with passion…
I remain possessed by this dance of fire and I feel my hands they are a flame… My eyes flicker with emotion… In my playground. The wind stops and a calm comes over me, I open my eyes to a place full of color, love and life. I leave knowing that in the morning you will see me in my playground.
Chrystie: Chrystie has been a lovely ambassador of DTBF spreading the word to fellow inmates about how much she is getting out of the classes. Chrystie is serving a 40 year sentence at DWCF so we hope she will be able to teach within the prison for years to come.
Dance, Sound and Beat – By Chrystie H.
The expressive movement of dance, sound, and beat that was once so free, pure, young… Is now bound and buried under tears and fears… Bound and buried it can no longer be young and innocently free.
As time goes on a beat grows strong… Do you hear the beat down deep?
It rises again and again… Straining to be free until it breaks through the rough rock and muck, the chains that bound the dance, the sound, the beat fall, fall, fall loosely to the ground.
The light bursts forth from the movement of the dance, the sound, the beat.
The air ripples with the vibrant colors of excitement and jubilee…
There is no stopping the dance, the sound, the beat. You can see the freedom of the raw new beat, feel the dance from deep within your spirit to your feet, let the sound of the music take you on your new journey.
No more, no more-pain and misery… No more, no more being buried in shame and guilt… Free! Free! Free! Free to be, to move, to dance, sing, to be me. The heart explodes vividly through the ever present freedom of this new beat… Do you hear that every time the heart beats it’s like the thump of a kick drum to this new melody?…It reverberates the sound through the body and every part of me is free, free, free!! It’s not the same free and purely innocent movement of the dance, the sound, the beat that it used to be…
No, this has more melody and vibrancy… This is an older, stronger beat, yet wilder, fiercer and gentler still with the melody.
Finally the movement of dance, sound and beat meet…
The expression of vulnerable love, tender compassion, and sweetness of peace that surrounds the ever-going movement of dance, sound and beat.
Set it free, set it free and be one with the dance, the sound and the beat.
Each is different and unique like people on the street, in the studio, anywhere and everywhere they choose to be.
To be truly free is to express the movement of the dance, the sound, and the beat that is within me and you…
Care to join me in this redemptive freedom of expressive movement in the dance, the sound, and the beat?
Luz Cisneros: Cisneros brings a sassy, graceful flair to each class. She is serving a life sentence and will help in the continuation of classes as well.
By Luz C.
I live in music.
is this where you live I live here in music I live in 301-B
Music cut the deepest emotions within me like soft coast waves in ripples every muscle ankles buoyant guide toes
This place where music always
ask for me I discovered a lot
of other people who talk without mouths who listen to what I say
by watching my jewelry dance
There’s something about water music being invited to bring yourself to and forget what we were told remembering only to be what we are in ourselves there is the world and in this place where music stays
You can let yourself in our out lowering your walls down.
I am now brilliantly hydrated
both real and smart my insides bubble with compassion and intelligence
As I walk the sidewalks with a new swagger Knowing the world is mine.
Allow yourself to the steaming flow
feel the water pulse erupt from within you so come with me to this place
called Dance 2B Free and
be bathed in the ocean’s breath
and let the soft glory of your laughter spread.
Sarah: Sarah has been faithfully attending DTBF’s classes for months. She is excited about the teacher training program and brings a sweet presence to each class. She wants to teach when she is released from DWCF.
By Sarah B.
My soul stirs as I walk through the doors, the music begins to play and I sway, moving to the rhythm in a new way,
I no longer feel the need to be so sharp, those feelings melt away as I get lost, finding the true meaning of freedom, in spins, leaps and swirls,
the beat matches the pulse of my heart, flowing with the verses and choruses of a song, this is exactly where I belong,
passion, pain, happiness and sadness belong here, expressed with each flick of the wrist and kicking foot, the freedom to be beautiful, sexy and renewed, the fire once barely lit blazes anew,
as I dance these songs with you.
Dance To Be Free is a 501(c)3.
All donations are tax deductible!
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