As the article from the Daily Camera is approaching being published, we were asked to verify the crimes some of the inmates committed who were interviewed after dance class on November 15th.

Since July 1st, I have been dancing at DWCF with zero knowledge of how or why our students ended up in prison. I had told myself that the majority of these women were imprisoned for non violent drug offenses. The statistics I had read led me to believe that %1 of women in prison were there for murder; I hadn’t realized these were stats for federal prisons, not maximum security state prisons, like DWCF.

After the Daily Camera came to interview, photograph and film my class, they wanted to do some “fact checking” on a few of the inmates they interviewed. They copied myself and the board on an email revealing the crimes of three women who attend my class weekly.

I was shocked by the crimes they committed.

I felt worried that these women were going to feel betrayed after months of dancing with us in this safe, welcoming environment. I was horrified over what I was reading. I felt scared, confused and gut punched from the reality of why some of these women are serving life sentences. Women, that have been smiling during every class, thanking us profusely, high-fiving each other after each song -normal, ordinary women.

I have no idea what led up to their crime – were they abused? Were they acting out of self-defense? Was their behavior the result of trauma, poverty and/or mental illness? How would I behave the next time I danced with them? Would my fear show up in my face? How can I see these women beyond their behavior and past?

These are huge questions to sit with as Dance 2B Free grows. We are approaching our teacher training program this Winter where we will be working with these specific women who were highlighted in the article. This is where the rubber hits the road!

Can we dance in the face of fear?

Can we dance in the face of not knowing what happened to these women?

Can we dance in the face of a 40 year sentence?

These inmates have shown me that they indeed can dance with little or no hope for a future outside of prison. If they can smile, encourage each other and thank me after each class while those of us on the outside celebrate Thanksgiving – then I can dance with my fear.