California Institution for Women

HDD teaching artists, in partnership with Just Detention International, led a 12 week dance rehabilitation series at the California Institution for Women, a women’s state prison located in Chino. The goal of the project was to help imprisoned women connect to a creative, self-affirming space of inner freedom in support of cultivating mental and physical vulnerability. You can read about the experiences of teaching artists Himerria Wortham and Lenin Fernandez HERE.

Workshops began in February 2019 and continued once a week throughout the year. The residency challenged both participants and audience members to evaluate how the arts can inform the conversation around mental health and sexual and physical abuse amongst incarcerated women. HDD teaching artists offered a judgement free, safe space where inmates could explore the foundational aspects of oneself and share those depths with others. The curriculum was designed to explore issues of self-esteem and stimulate personal responsibility, by reducing or eliminating the negative impact of traumatic, overwhelming events through dance
expression.

Throughout the workshop, teaching artists prompted inmates with scenarios that allowed them to verbally share traumatic events and explore how they can evaluate and manage emotional reactions, culminating with their own expressive choreography. This residency concluded with a public exhibition at Track 16 gallery,  One Leg at a Time which provided an opportunity for the public to walk in the footsteps of these incarcerated women by listening to their stories and watching their final performance, witnessing a performance by HDD’s teaching artists, and participating in a panel discussion with experts in the field of criminal justice reform. This journey allowed all walks of life to be encapsulated in a world bridging the gaps between the free and the incarcerated, fostering greater understanding, empathy and respect.

Ventura Youth Correctional Facility

In our ongoing residency with the Ventura Youth Correctional Facility (VYCF), we work weekly with a group of youth ranging in ages 15 to 24. Our focus is the exploration of creativity through dance in order to foster confidence and self-expression. Utilizing a number of movement and journaling exercises, we strive to empower our youth at VYCF to discover their inner world and take charge of it through the act of embodiment. The question, “What moves you?” is at the center of these exercises. From week to week we see our enthusiastic dancers challenge themselves with success to create dance language that relates to their personal experiences as well as learn to collaborate with each other on group concepts.