The DREAM A DREAM PROJECT 2017
Funded by New York State Council on the Arts and New York City Department of Cultural Affairs
THE DREAM A DREAM PROJECT
MOVEMENT WORKSHOP FOR INCARCERATED MEN AND WOMEN
Winner of 2015 Gibney Dance -Social Action Award
This program is supported in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council, and funding has been made possible by the Puffin Foundation Ltd and New York State Council on the Arts.
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Vangeline Theater has been active in the community and conducted weekly dance programs for incarcerated men and women at corrected facilities throughout New York State, such as Edgecombe Correctional Facility in New York City and Bedford Hill Correctional Facility for Women upstate. Their program, The Dream a Dream Project, has been featured on CNN's “Great Big Story". Therapeutic benefit of Butoh dance has been recognized and inmates who completed Vangeline's dance program have expressed how it greatly helped them cope with their incarceration.
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100% of proceeds benefit the Vangeline Theater's program teaching Butoh dance to inmates at correctional facilities across New York State. Your donation helps an incarcerated man or woman move, sweat, connect, and be empowered through butoh dance.
The "DREAM A DREAM PROJECT: Dance workshop for incarcerated men and women" is a program which reaches to members of the incarcerated population at correctional facilities in New York.
The "DREAM A DREAM PROJECT" is unique of its kind in New York City and brings specific tools to a population, which has rarely been exposed to dance. Dubbed a "Triumph" by JapanCulturenyc, this dance program has successfully reached incarcerated men and women at correctional Facilities in New York for the past 10 years.
Dance teacher Vangeline conducts the program in a weekly 1.5-hour class at Edgecombe correctional facility, and Bedford Hill Correctional Facility in New York. The training incorporates physical warm ups, guided imagery, group exercises, improvisation, dance and Butoh training. This class provides a healthy physical and emotional outlet to participants. When it is possible, the inmates perform at the end of the program in front of a mixed audience of inmates and civilians. The performances are an essential part of the program, and provide the inmates with a chance to offer something personal in front of strangers.
The majority of the inmates who participate in this program have no prior dance background and have never performed prior to this program. Students who complete this program express how it has tremendously helped them cope with their incarceration. Offenders at Edgecombe Correctional are typically at the end of their incarceration. As a result, this program has a direct positive impact on men who are about to be released into society.
"One participant, M, commented on how exhausting it was for him to constantly be "masculine" and "on his guard" throughout his incarceration. M told us that he was able to let go of the burden of his masculinity and find within himself a more spiritual approach to life. Another participant, R, spoke of being unable to form close bonds with anyone during his incarceration; at the end of class he reported being able to give his fellow students eye contact, being able to establish trust and camaraderie with them. R also mentioned that he came to class most days feeling "negative and hopeless", and that he was able to "let go of his negativity" and feel positive and hopeful by the end of each class. Another student, J, read us a letter he wrote at the end of program" explaining how this class helped him "courageously face countless emotions and challenges and overcome many barriers".
Overall, participants report a new openness towards others, a new ability to bond with each other, an increase in strength and flexibility, and a new positive outlook on life. Overall, from the teacher and the administration's perspective, participating students develop discipline, concentration, team spirit, self-respect, strength, endurance and flexibility. The class clearly helps them free themselves of negative emotions and face their imminent departure from prison with hope, courage and dignity.
On the other hand, female students at Bedford Hill typically serve longer sentences; our weekly dance classes at Bedford Hill provide these incarcerated women tools to face long term imprisonment constructively and learn new skills. Data collected during this 10-year program clearly show that consistent dance classes may lessen some of the negative psychological effects of incarceration experienced by inmates.
In previous years working with women at Bayview Correctional Facility, participants have expressed how the program has tremendously helped them cope with their incarceration, become more open to others, more able to offer support to others. Their general sense of hope for life and well being increased. They also had made great strides physically and emotionally, and their confidence and self-esteem had greatly increased.
After being asked how the program impacted them at the end of the year,
• K answered: “It helped me be who I am “,
• L said: “ It made me feel free. Something is reborn in me, I am transforming into the person I want to be”,
• M B said she felt “ released” and that she “felt different”,
• M spoke of her “positive self image” and “peace of mind”.
• E said that she felt “reassured of my purpose”.
DREAM A DREAM PROJECT ON CNN's GREAT BIG STORY
Typically, the incarcerated population has rarely had the chance to be exposed to the longtime benefits of dance. Many participating students join dance classes after their release and continue their dance training beyond their incarceration.
This program, which allows inmates to experience Butoh dance, and expose them to the lifelong benefits of dance, was recently featured on CNN's Great Big Story.
We are thrilled to be able to continue the program in 2016 at at Edgecombe Correctional Facility, as well as Bedford Hill Correctional Facility, supported, in part, by the New York Department of Cultural Affairs, and New York State Council on the Arts.
Tanya Mitchell Voyd
Deputy superintendent for Programs
Queensboro Correctional Facility
"Dear Ms. Vangeline,
Once again I'd like to express the deepest form of gratitude to you for your dedication, commitment and passion.
In a short period of time your dance class has had a noticeable impact in the lives of a diverse group of people in challenging circumstances . Yes, your style of teaching not only fosters creative freedom of expression, but also enables the inmates the opportunity to make a personal connection to dance as exhibited in the recent captivating dance performance held at Queensboro Correctional Facility on July 3, 2013.
Lastly, it would be an honor as well as a definite benefit for the inmates that you continue to aid them in the area of personal development through the incredible art of dance that will stay with them throughout their lives."
Ranardo-Domeico Grays, choreographer, civilian who witnessed final performance by inmates:
"I learned today 7/3/13 from a former law offender that "...you are the owner of your life" said to me and many other audience members after his performance at Queensboro Correctional Facility.
There is value in sharing with others in this life when we leave judgement and expectation out of the equation. This was a performance of a life time, unique, rare and fully charged with passion, commitment and grace.
Vangeline moves through space ahead of her time and passes on information to others fully committed and selfless as a teacher and performer. She brought her skill and knowledge of the Butoh art of dance to this facility and through her ability to relate to her students (incarcerated men) she was able to guide these dancers to an astounding level of execution and professional presentation of Butoh dance which clearly positively changed their lives and many involved.
I will always cherish my experience of this performance of the men who performed butoh at Queensboro Correctional Facility directed by Vangeline."
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Many thanks to Dep Ken Caleo, Dep Taylor Stewart at Bayview Correctional Facility, Dep Mitchell-Voyd at Queensboro Correctional Facility, Superintendent Mitchell-Voyd at Edgecombe Correctional Facility for their support.
Photography by Lori E Seid and Krsiten Larsen.