SARAH DAHNKE

CHOREOGRAPHER 




Sarah Dahnke’s Dances for Solidarity initiative blew us away.  


Dances for Solidarity began as a letter writing campaign between artists and activists in New York and incarcerated people in Texas and Louisiana. Each letter started with the same 10-step Dance for Solidarity as a means to initiate a conversation around movement. The project has been in correspondence with more than 200 people incarcerated in solitary confinement through its chapters in New York and Denver. 


This project has many layers, and the motivations and journey behind its evolution are vast. The American Prison system has been the focus of much criticism, justifiably. With inequality and racism at the heart of this flawed system, Sarah found a way to reach out and include our most vulnerable, isolated and a lot of the time, forsaken fellow citizens.  


ROOM for Sarah introduces us to the projects original score and some of its ripple effects, as well as conversations around Sarah's own dance practice and how it has grown and evolved. Dance is an intelligence and bridge builder, Sarah used it to build community in a place where it seemed impossible.  We invite you to take a closer look at this extraordinary converting of an art form into an intimate inclusive exchange. 


BIOGRAPHY



Sarah Dahnke is the director and founder of Dances for Solidarity. She is a Brooklyn-based choreographer, multimedia artist, and arts educator. She creates performance experiences that often feature non-performers, highlighting and celebrating the nuances of natural, untrained human movement. She works with public school students to facilitate the creation of their own choreography and video projects, makes giant group dances to teach to the general public, and films instructional videos to disseminate dance sequences widely. 


Through Dances for Solidarity, Dahnke has been a guest lecturer/teacher at Tulane University, Princeton University, UCLA and New York University, a presenter at conferences such as Create Justice, Prison Outside, and NCA - Policing, Prisons & New Public Voices. She was an awardee of a residency/commission from A Studio in the Woods in New Orleans and is working to maintain an ongoing presence of DFS in the New Orleans area.


1


Close your eyes. Imagine the room is filled with light mist, and as you move, the mist collects onto your body, filling it with new, fresh energy. Open your eyes.

2


Now tense every muscle in your body. Hold the tension and count to 10. Now let all of the tension release as you count to 10 again. Inhale. Exhale.

3


Hold an imaginary ball in your hand. Let the ball travel from your hand to your head, around your body and down to your feet. Try it slow, then try it very fast

4


Walk in the biggest circle possible, lifting your arms over your head and lowering them.

5


Stop in the middle of that circle.

6


Press both of your hands together strongly. Quickly release.

7


Take your right hand to your left shoulder.

8


Twist your body back and forth.

9


Begin wildly shaking all parts of your body. Stop and freeze.

10


Feel your body grow lighter and lighter, as if you are a cloud.  Inhale. Exhale.

ORIGINAL SCORE


The Dance for Solidarity



This 10-step dance was created in collaboration with several dance artists who helped initialize Dances for Solidarity in early 2015. This dance is part of the first invitation potential incarcerated collaborators receive when asked to participate in this project. This dance can be interpreted and performed by anyone in solidarity with those behind bars.

Examples of letters from participants in DFS. 

Christina's Poem


Do you know what is Solitary Confinement?
You are left with your thoughts every day.
It is dark and empty, no place of enjoyment.
Hoping the time will come that you see a brighter day The images of the day you finally get to go home. The faces of your friends and family

The warm feelings of never again being alone
Scared of getting back in tune with society
Not knowing what time or day it is, feeling lost and out of place Same routine every day and you become lazy
No one to talk to kuz you only see your face
For some it can drive them crazy
You can come out really insane
Wishing you did things differently in life
Reading books and working out to stimulate your brain
Now all you have is pain and strife
So let’s speak to our youth kuz it starts with them
We are all statistics in this world we live in
Let’s open our eyes and prevent our kids from going into the system Kuz being in jail/prison is not an accomplishment so
Where and when will we begin

Christina Colon is a DFS collaborator in New York City. She has been performing with DFS since 2019 and is also a poet. The poem she wrote was part of Dancing Through Darkness, which debuted in August 2019.

The drawing was created by M Collier, who is a DFS collaborator incarcerated in Texas. M goes by both Michael and Michelle and uses he/she and sometimes they pronouns. M received our original invitation to DFS and sent this drawing along with their response. They had created this pen drawing a few days before our invitation was received, and because it features the word Solidarity so prominently, M wanted us to have it. This illustration has also been showcased in exhibitions alongside DFS performances.

You Are Dancing in My Mind was tagged at the bottom of one of the letters received early in the DFS process. It became DFS ephemera from those early stages.

Dancing Through Darkness. Choreographic score

by Dushaan T Gillum, incarcerated in Texas.