Our mission is to radically improve the lives of incarcerated women through the healing power of dance. We use “Cathartic Choreography” to both train the inmates and teach them a new skill. We have seen this technique help our students deal with physical and mental illness, including PTSD and complex trauma.
During our teacher trainings inmates gain confidence as they experience leadership and responsibility, often for the first time in their lives. That sense of accomplishment flourishes as our students learn to not only express themselves through dance, but to free others to do the same.
Throughout this transformative experience, we teach the nuts and bolts of choreography, timing and flow, and just as importantly we facilitate journaling and sharing exercises that nurture introspection and self-awareness that inmates often need.
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.
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.
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.
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