Moving it to heal the pain

Moving it to heal the pain

Moving it to heal the pain

Ansley “Jukebox” Jones shows how dance can be a psychological healer, confidence booster as well as a tool in self-defence, writes Saadia Azim. 

Ansley “Jukebox” Jones, 28, a dancer, choreographer, teacher and staunch feminist from Florida, USA, is no stranger to violence. A rape survivor, violated in her own home, she lived with the pain, trauma and shame of the incident throughout her adolescence.

“For years, I was unable to overcome the grief of not having been able to save myself. I would cry, disconnect from myself, not go to my mother’s place and never sit on a couch because that was where it had happened. It was just like being in a state of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). I used to feel terribly worthless and intimidated,” she recalls. 

Dance saved Ansley from turning into a complete emotional and psychological wreck. “When I started break dancing, I battled through many strong emotions. I understood that I needed to save myself.” For Ansley, dance became the perfect medium of self expression and it had a healing effect.

She got a Bachelor’s degree in Visual and Performing Arts, a Master’s in Dance Studies and today she is researching ‘patriarchal gestural languages in various dance forms, under which she is taking a closer look at male-dominated dance moves that have intimidated women artistes across the globe. 

“During the course of conducting interviews for my research, I talked to many well-known dancers and they admitted that certain male-dominated gestures in dance have resulted in women holding back. In general, too, it’s not easy for women to express themselves freely and this makes them vulnerable to violence,” she says.

Ever since Ansley took to dancing, she has learnt to deal with her insecurities. And it’s these healing moves that she is passing on to young women in need of lessons in self love and confidence-building. Recently, Ansley was in Patna, for a month, to train school children to use hip-hop and other street dance forms to raise awareness on sexual violence and safety for women. 

At the camp in St Karen’s School, she worked with a mixed group of girls and boys and taught them freestyle moves. “The girls in Bihar were not quite ready to speak up against violence, unlike the boys. Initially, I found it quite strange that the boys in the school were willing to freely discuss about women’s issues, whereas the girls were hesitant to demand equal rights.
 
But then that gave me something to work on. I realised that girls here needed to learn how to assert themselves and develop a greater sense of self worth. 

I designed the workshop activities accordingly. I decided on freestyle dancing because there are no restrictions. It enables the artiste to think independently,” she states. 

“Statistics show that one in five girls across the world have been sexually assaulted by someone they know by the time they reach high school. It happened to me and I know there must be many girls out there who are living with the false guilt that what happened to them was somehow their fault. My dark past has made me more sensitive towards social issues and problems women have to encounter.
This is my way of reaching out to them,” elaborates Ansley. Her stay in the city was going just fine, till one day Ansley got to experience, first-hand, what it is like to be a woman in a conservative, patriarchal society. 
She narrates, “In the hotel I was staying at, one night a security guard followed me to my room and tried to get in by force. I am strong so I was able to fight back. He had thought that simply being a man was enough for him to misbehave with me. That’s when I understood what it must be like for local women who may not have the confidence to retaliate.” 
Ansley firmly believes that all women need to shed the feeling of being victims. “They have to stop allowing themselves to feel intimidated and take charge of their own safety and wellbeing,” she insists.

Going by the positive response she has received, Ansley has decided to come back to Patna in a few months to take her work forward and train the girls in Jiu Jitsu, the Brazilian martial arts form.

“This will be an extension of the hip-hop madness that they experienced during the summer workshop. While that may have built their confidence, Jiu Jitsu will be a little more vigorous and power-packed, which will help them safeguard against dangers like the one I encountered,” she signs off.

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