By James Pouliot
---- — NEWBURYPORT -- Nearly one hundred Newburyport-area residents gathered at the Tannery Marketplace Saturday afternoon for a group dance in protest of violence against women and children.
Dancers of all ages, primarily women, were greeted in the Tannery parking lot with a short address by Suzanne Dubus, CEO of Newburyport’s Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center, which serves victims of domestic violence.
Forming up in the middle of the lot, they danced to an original tune by Tena Clark and Tim Heinz called “Break the Chain,” according to Fitness Instructor Tracey Kimball. Kimball helped to organize the event and trained many of the dancers, beginning in early January.
Participants pantomimed breaking imaginary objects over their knees in time with the snappy pop song, following choreography by actor/dancer Debbie Allen, who is best known for her role in the 1980s film Fame, Kimball said.
Planned as a “flash mob,” or sudden, public gathering, the dance was just one of hundreds happening globally on Friday and Saturday to as part of the “One Billion Rising” anti-abuse movement, said Dubus. About 40 people, many of whom were accompanying dancers, watched the show.
“I thought it was magnificent,” said Julia Steer, who had just watched her friend Regina Moormann in the mob. “Such a wonderful, fun thing to bring your spirits up about this whole subject, it just makes your heart sing.”
Moormann was both physically and emotionally exhausted after her performance.
“Although I’ve not experienced it in my own personal life, I know people who’ve gone through the crisis of abuse,” she said. “So it’s an emotional feeling, especially at the end, when you realize how many people are involved.”
“One Billion Rising” is an annual, international event created in 2012 by playwright Eve Ensler, known for her The Vagina Monologues. The “Billion” refers to the UN statistic that 1 in 3 women, or roughly a billion, will be beaten, raped or otherwise abused in their lifetime, and to the movement’s claim that last year’s event featured one billion participants in 207 countries.
This year’s flash mob is the second of what is anticipated to be an annual event in Newburyport, said Dubus. It was organized by many of the same activists from last year’s event, including Kimball, Dubus and Dubus’ sister-in-law, Fontaine Dubus, artistic director of Newburyport’s The Dance Place.
“Fontaine approached me and asked if I wanted to support her efforts in being a part of One Billion Rising here in Newburyport,” Kimball said of last year’s event. “We both wanted to do something and both wanted to be a part of bringing awareness to this organization.”
According to Kimball, she and Fontaine Dubus rushed last year to create a Newburyport flash mob when they heard about the movement just two months before its February 14th debut.
“People who can’t even go get water safely, women who can’t even leave their houses, that’s what motivated me,” Fontaine Dubus said. “And in the United States, too, the violence against women on campuses...it’s everywhere, it’s a daily struggle.”
Kimball estimated that she and Fontaine Dubus had taught the dance to between 150 and 200 people, but many did not appear in Saturday’s snowy weather. Suzanne Dubus estimated that about 400 people had attended the dance last year. She noted that bad weather and the unfortunate timing of school vacations played a role in this year’s smaller turnout.
“As much as I would love to have throngs of people watching, I think it’s equally powerful to have the people participating, so I’m happy with that,” she said.
Kimball shared in the enthusiasm for the dancers after the event.
“If you come out in the snow to do this, you’re totally into it. You totally made the commitment and it means something to you,” she said.
Suzanne Dubus encouraged those interested in joining future One Billion Rising events to find information at the Crisis Center’s website, jeannegeigercrisiscenter.org, or through The Dance Place at danceplacenbpt.com. Videos of this year’s events around the world will be available soon at onebillionrising.org.