ACT III Survivor Empowerment project

The ACT III Survivor Empowerment project was a collaboration between Maura Garcia Dance and the Metropolitan Organization Countering Sexual Assault (MOCSA).  Maura Garcia began choreographing ACT III after learning about the use of organized rape camps as a weapon of war during Balkan Peninsula conflicts in the latter part of 20th century. The horrible, and all too common, association of rape and war led her to think about attitudes towards rape survivors and war heroes. One group is honored while the other is shamed. The stigma attached to rape survivors amplifies the horror of the act, leaving many without any respite from abuse. ACT III considers female survivors of rape and asks; What if all women were trained and prepared as warriors? What if survivors of rape were lauded as war heroes?

Garcia proposed setting ACT III on a group of rape survivors from the community and MOCSA agreed to inform their clients and invite interested survivors.  Over the course of several months the group gathered for dance workshops and to learn the choreography.  Garcia thought that a supportive environment like the  University of Missouri's "Take Back the Night" anti-sexual violence rally would be an ideal place to present the piece.  The project culminated with the group of survivors performing before a supportive crowd.

“Every Thursday night, a group of women, all survivors of sexual assault, get together not to talk about their experiences, but to dance about them. The women participate in a movement class considered “cutting edge” therapy for adult survivors of sexual assault. It was created by Mixed Blood Woman Contemporary Dance Theater, founded by dancer/choreographer Maura Michelle Garcia to communicate to audiences “with clarity, invention and passion.” ... 

“As a therapist, I can tell you it’s on the cutting edge of treatment, the idea of getting people involved in movement,” says Rene McCreary, director of clinical services at MOCSA. “Talk therapy is great, effective, but we also know there are other things, such as yoga and movement that can be important to treating sexual assault victims. Research is now showing how the use body movement increases the efficacy of treatment and enhances the healing process, particularly for those who have been diagnosed with complex PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).” 

This opportunity has allowed women from all walks of life to express themselves through dance, often times for the first time. Many of these women find the experience physically challenging while being very emotionally supportive and freeing. Garcia’s work has created an opportunity to utilize the group’s energy to support the healing of these courageous women.” 
Rene McCreary, MS, LPC 
Director of Clinical Services 

"During the rally, students made posters, listened to speakers and watched contemporary dance company Mixed Blood Woman perform a symbolic dance...Maura Michelle Garcia, Mixed Blood Woman artistic director, said she choreographed the dance as a demonstration freeing women from the stigma of rape. She performed the dance with four other sexual assault survivors, saying the dance can have a healing affect. "We’re coming out of the closet as survivors, as heroines and warriors," Garcia said. "I wanted an army of people to testify." 
Linda Friedel, The Wednesday Sun

by Jewel Mathieson 
We have come to be danced 
not the pretty dance
not the pretty pretty, pick me, pick me dance
but the claw our way back into the belly
of the sacred, sensual animal dance
the unhinged, unplugged, cat is out of its box dance
the holding the precious moment in the palms
of our hands and feet dance 
We have come to be danced
not the jiffy booby, shake your booty for him dance
but the wring the sadness from our skin dance
the blow the chip off our shoulder dance
the slap the apology from our posture dance 
We have come to be danced
not the monkey see, monkey do dance
one, two dance like you
one two three, dance like me dance
but the grave robber, tomb stalker
tearing scabs & scars open dance
the rub the rhythm raw against our souls dance 
WE have come to be danced
not the nice invisible, self conscious shuffle
but the matted hair flying, voodoo mama
shaman shakin’ ancient bones dance
the strip us from our casings, return our wings
sharpen our claws & tongues dance
the shed dead cells and slip into
the luminous skin of love dance 
We have come to be danced
not the hold our breath and wallow in the shallow end of the floor dance
but the meeting of the trinity: the body, breath & beat dance
the shout hallelujah from the top of our thighs dance
the mother may I?
yes you may take 10 giant leaps dance
the Olly Olly Oxen Free Free Free dance
the everyone can come to our heaven dance 
We have come to be danced
where the kingdom’s collide
in the cathedral of flesh
to burn back into the light
to unravel, to play, to fly, to pray
to root in skin sanctuary
We have come to be danced