When I arrived at La Vista Correctional Facility in June of 2018 I was hearing all sorts of reports on the status of our program down there.

One woman called DTBF, “Dance To Be Gay” due to the fact that some women came to our DVD classes to simply see their girlfriends. We heard about all sorts of drama happening in our absence!

In 2017, Mary arrived at La Vista an already trained Zumba instructor. She took my training with a huge amount of enthusiasm and started weaving in her own choreography to the DTBF classes. That did not go well. So, she went off on her own and created Dance Cardio and a sort of war between DTBF/Dance To Be Gay and Dance Cardio ensued.

I was overwhelmed. I had no idea what to do.

On one hand hundreds of women are dancing each week and that is all that matters. On the other, Mary’s offering is closer to aerobics and doesn’t totally match our mission. As a nonprofit we need to keep our program consistent so we can research the impact and benefits.

Our new consultant and former Warden, Denise Davidson was alarmed at the lack of staff involvement and how this all fell on my shoulders. I quickly realized I need help!

I essentially begged Denise to join me!

I’m bringing the big guns people! Denise will observe, jump in and help us shape the direction we will take in Pueblo and other states because, this will happen again.

Part of our mission is to pass the teaching baton onto and have the prisoners hold the program, yet I have been developing that in my head without the awareness of prison culture. I’m brining in this beautiful offering without a full understanding of the aftermath. What happens in the yard, with group dynamics, with the staff regarding certain women leading…when and how?

Denise can shine a light on the hierarchies that the staff need to maintain. It seems as if Mary is running the roost. No wonder I have been overwhelmed. Denise will bring her wealth of institutional knowledge and take no bull attitude as the perfect compliment to the joy and and creativity that I bring!

As we hit our 4 year mark, I am noticing that some prisons are simply more invested and some are not. Some states like CO and WA are progressive and saturated with so much programming that they don’t really have the time to manage one more program. Some states like MS and NE are beyond grateful and supportive.

I’m learning and continually amazed at the challenges we face while dancing in prison!