Using Dance to Inspire Action for Victims of Human Trafficking
Posted on October 05, 2012, by Louisa Mardirossian, Half the Sky Movement
Two years ago, dancer Loralee Scott-Conforti was completely oblivious to issues regarding human trafficking until she came across an article by Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times. It detailed the journey of a woman in Cambodia who was sold into sex slavery and later escaped. She was even able to rescue both of her children from the brothel. Loralee was moved. She began researching the topic heavily and read Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. She knew that she had to take action.
“I was reminded of a woman named Harriet Beecher Stowe who, when Lincoln met her, he remarked, ‘So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.’ If one woman could write a book that influenced a nation to end slavery, then I had to do what I could do: dance,” Loralee said.
Dancers striking a pose during Invisible Souls: A Reqeuim for the Victims of Human Trafficking.
She accepted the invitation to the Saving Grace Dance Ensemble in Milford, New Hampshire, last April as an opportunity to raise awareness. With a piece of music and an idea to choreograph a piece on human trafficking, she got to work with her professional dance company (Accendo Dance Company) and with her student dance company (The Arts Movement) to develop Invisible Souls: A Requiem for the Victims of Human Trafficking. The response was greater than Loralee could have imagined. After the show, audience members and theater employees alike approached her in tears and asked how they could help victims of human trafficking.
Loralee is currently in the process of organizing a full-length production of her dance that will debut on January 11, 2013 — National Human Trafficking day — and go on to tour from June to August. She has teamed up with the Houston-based Ad Deum Dance Company, and hopes that after their collaboration of dance, music, media and drama for the premiere, they can split up and tour the East and West coasts simultaneously. She is also working with with a number of professionals inspired by her work, including a Cirque du Soleil choreographer, an esteemed Carnegie Hall composer, and a psychologist to achieve the highest level of production quality and storytelling.
Dancers behind bars on stage during Invisible Souls.
Loralee also plans to reach out to young girls in the communities in which she tours. She will hold auditions and train the dancers in a day’s time so that they may participate in one piece. “Dance can be a vehicle… It’s important that I give young people the opportunity to use art to speak out and speak up,” Loralee says.
Whether or not dancers will be chosen does not rely on their ability to showcase technical skills in dance but rather on their ability “to effectively communicate a message using their hearts and their heads,” Loralee explains. She tries to instill the same compassion in the dancers in her own company. She educates them as much as their age will permit, in order to ensure that the message of the piece comes across.
Dancers performing Invisible Souls.
Loralee hopes to inspire audience members to take action, and to connect them with anti-trafficking organizations. She says that one of the most important messages to take away from the production is: "Take action. Don’t underestimate the significance of what you can do.”
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