2. Staff bios
3. Facts & Stats
5. Past press coverage links
6. Contact person for more info and/or to schedule interviews.
Included downloads for Dropbox file:
Headshot of Lucy Wallace
Candid shots from work in prisons videos
Our mission is to radically improve the lives of incarcerated women through the healing power of dance. Through our Trauma Informed Dance Teacher Trainings, we use “Cathartic Choreography” combined with leadership skills – to empower our graduates to conduct peer to peer programming within the prison. Throughout this transformative experience, we teach the nuts and bolts of choreography, pro social skills and group dynamics.
Just as importantly, we facilitate therapeutic journaling that nurtures introspection and self-awareness that incarcerated women often need.
We have seen this technique help our students deal with physical and mental illness, including PTSD and complex trauma. Our trainings are impacting the lives of our students by changing the prison culture from punitive to restorative.
In 2015, DTBF started their weekly classes at Denver Women’s Correctional Facility and eventually implemented their teacher-trainings in January of 2016. They are now in 16 prisons and 9 states (CO, AR, SD, NC, MS, HI, NE, VA, FL and TN).
Dr. Bruce Perry, a trauma specialist says we need “patterned, repetitive, rhythmic somatosensory activity, literally, bodily sensing exercises. Developmental trauma happens in the body, where pre-conscious ‘implicit memory’ was laid down in the primitive brain stem (survival brain) and viscera, long before we had a thinking frontal cortex or ‘explicit memory’ function.”
The list of repetitive, rhythmic regulations used for trauma by Dr. Perry, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, Dr. Pat Ogden and others is remarkable. It includes singing, dancing, drumming, and most musical activities. Perry’s research confirms the results we are experiencing, whether we are dancing in maximum or medium facilities; dance heals – racial boundaries soften and those that were enemies come together in the dance.
We have certified over 400 inmates as dance teachers who can hold space, connect, inspire, choreograph and lead a DTBF class. Our graduates then sustain the program, offering each other classes during the week when DTBF is not present. If they are going to be released in the near future, they will leave prison with a tangible skill to bring back to their community, which in turn impacts the alarmingly high rates of recidivism.
Lucy Wallace, MA
Lucy bought Alchemy of Movement (AOM) in January 2010, a dance studio in Boulder, CO, after receiving her master’s degree in Psychology. Her psychology background led to the birth of Dance To Be Free due to the therapeutic and cathartic quality of her teaching style.
In March of 2015, Lucy founded Dance To Be Free along with her Board of Directors. Dance To Be Free’s mission is to share the healing power of dance with women in prison nationwide. The cathartic choreography and passionate music leads to physical, spiritual and emotional healing without the burden of talk therapy. After weaving in play, meditative breathing, humor and empowering writing prompts, the trainees report feeling “A weight has lifted off my chest,” “I can have fun sober” “I feel Free in my mind although I’m in prison.”
Facts & Stats
Recidivism is a core criminal justice concern. The Bureau of Justice Statistics states: “Nationally, 30% of adult offenders released from state prisons are re-arrested within the first six months of their release. Within three years of their release, 67% of ex-offenders return to prison.”
Employment and community engagement are critical factors determining long-term success of released inmates. We aim to reduce the high rate of recidivism by addressing the root cause of why a recently released inmate would return to prison: unaddressed PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).
“57.2% of females report abuse before admission to state prisons versus 16.1% of males.” -Bureau of Justice statistics, US Dept. of Justice
“Dancing is seen as a reparative experience that directly contradicts the terror, helplessness and invisibility of trauma to enable survivors to reclaim ownership of their bodies and their lives.” -Bessel A. van der Kolk, MD
This quote sums up the mission of Dance To Be Free – “We have already seen and heard from the inmates at DWCF about how their social interactions have shifted since dancing together. As Bronwyn Tarr stated: “In our recent study, we found that synchronizing with others while dancing raised pain tolerance. It also encouraged people to feel closer to others.”
Article in Fortune Magazine, “This Is Why Women Are the Fastest-Growing Prison Population” https://fortune.com/2015/12/10/prison-reform-women/
“6 in 10 women are in federal prison for nonviolent drug crimes. For every woman who has committed murder, there are 99 drug offenders.” – Amos Irwin Chief of Staf at the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation
“PTSD increases risk of criminal recidivism among justice-involved person with mental disorders.” –Criminal Justice and Behavior 2014
“As the former Warden at DWCF, seeing this program bring tears of joy. Thank you Lucy!” Dona Zavislan
“DTBF is more than dance. It’s a movement of the mind, body and soul. It helps the participants to Release the old and grab the new. it caused us to THINK about things in a whole new spectrum.
It definitely pushes teamwork!!!!! Some people NEVER finish or accomplish anything in life. DTBF causes a group of strangers/friends/roommates to come together and bring a BAG. Bring a gift. No one persons gift is the same. (Doyouloveit!!) Women from everywhere banding together and creating SomethingBeautiful). Go West Memphis!” Janice Gray, Volunteer Dir at EEC, West Memphis, AR
“I’ve gone from 8 meds down to 1 since DTBF.” Mary, LVCF
“I don’t feel like I’m in prison for an hour on a Sunday, and I love that. I love the normalcy of that…you don’t feel so alone.” C. Hardy, DWCF
Past Press Coverage
by CNN, 9/4/19
“Dance changes everything. It helps me…become a better version of myself.” CNN went inside La Vista Correctional Facility in Pueblo, Colorado, to talk to prisoners participating in the “Dance To Be Free” program that aims to confront trauma. For inmates, it’s a way to heal. For administrators, it’s part of a plan to reduce recidivism
Lucy Wallace joins Lee Harris on an episode of Impact the World. It is a show designed to inspire creatives, entrepreneurs, and change makers. Click on the image to listen to the episode. Lee and Lucy share an honest, heartfelt conversation about her journey, how to be a disruptive force for good and white privilege. She speaks to why she feels an even deeper calling to bring her work to the South and despite the steep learning curve of heading up a non-profit organization, her answer is always, “Why wouldn’t I do it?” Her wit, big heart, and advocacy for this traumatized population will leave you inspired and reminded that when we become activated by our passion and purpose, there is no reason NOT to do it!
by Madeline Schrock, Dance Magazine, 4/5/19
“I put on Lorde for a warm-up song,” says Lucy Wallace, recalling a dance class she was giving to a new group of students. “As soon as I started moving—literally just stepped to the right and moved my arm—this woman behind me said, ‘Oh! This is spiritual.’ “
But she wasn’t the typical dance student, nor was this a typical studio. This woman is serving a life sentence at Denver Women’s Correctional Facility.
by Freethink 11/28/18
Dance to Be Free is a program helping female prisoners overcome trauma with dance. While the inmates at the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Corrections are physically incarcerated, the freedom that comes through dance helps them open up, enjoy themselves, and regain self-confidence.
By Ari Honarvar, Broadly, 3/30/2018
High percentages of incarcerated women suffer from untreated PTSD. One quickly expanding program is successfully using dance to help them move forward.
By Emily Szink, KMTV, 2/18/2018
A program at the Nebraska Correctional Center for Women in York is taught by inmates for inmates. It is all about using dance as a form of therapy.
The brains behind the idea of therapy through dance is Lucy Wallace from Colorado. In 2015, Wallace started Dance to be Free for inmates at a Denver Women’s Prison.
By Winnie Wright , KTHV, 7/27/2017
“Behind bars isn’t a place you expect to see many smiles. It’s a sedentary life style with a clock on your back, counting down the hours until time served.
To pass the time and work through some of their pain and anger, the women of Wrightsville have turned to dance. Now they smile.”
By JoAnne Young, Lincoln Journal Star, 7/26/2016
“They found their freedom in prison-issue grey T-shirts and shorts, white socks and tennis shoes.
They learned to move in unison, mentally dance themselves outside the locked gates, liberate their better selves.”
Boulder dance program offers women in prison a taste of ‘freedom’
By Aimee Heckel, Boulder Daily Camera, 11/29/2015.
“This is what max security looks like.
Through a metal detector into a locked holding area, into an outdoor holding area lined with barbed wire hoops.”
DTBF was invited to Nebraska’s Correctional Center for Women (NCCW) to speak on stage at the first EVER live streamed Tedx Talk in prison. Dance To Be Free Founder Lucy Wallace shared the stage with 7 women serving life sentences.