THE LOOP — If you’re expecting a quiet lunch break at Daley Plaza around noon Thursday, think again: Things are going to get rowdy.
That’s when hundreds of Chicago women will break out in dance for a “flash mob-style” performance to celebrate the 15th anniversary of V-Day, an advocacy group founded on Valentine’s Day 1998 by activist Eve Ensler.
V-Day’s purpose is “to end violence against women and girls using art as a tool for social change,” said Laura Waleryszak, the group’s college and community campaigns manager and the only staff member based in Chicago.
She said Ensler dreamed up the global, communal dance, titled “One Billion Rising,” after spending time in the Congo and witnessing firsthand the epidemic of violence against women in that country.
“The Congo was where she was seeing the most consistent and horrific examples of what she ended up terming ‘femicide,’ essentially, rape as a weapon of war,” Waleryszak said. “The thing that was striking about these women and this culture is that these were women who had literally survived some of the worst atrocities, and yet dance was a part of their culture, and it was a way they turned pain into power, a way to feel ownership of their bodies.
“It was part of their routine of healing,” she said.
At noon Thursday, when “Break the Chain,” a song written and produced by Tena Clark especially for the occasion, starts playing in Daley Plaza, Chicago’s dancers hope to be joined by more than a billion participants across the globe following the same steps.
The Loop rally is one of dozens of dance-centric events planned throughout Chicago for “One Billion Rising,” named after the statistic that 1 billion women, roughly 1 in 3, will be beaten or raped within their lifetime.
“We wanted to do it in Daley Plaza so there was visibility and anyone could jump in and join,” said Kristen Kaza, one of the rally’s Chicago organizers. “Anyone is welcome to watch, or to jump in and dance.”
After the dance, the downtown rally will include a reading from award-winning poet, author and activist C.C. Carter, and a performance by Broadway star Patrice Covington, currently a “Book of Mormon” cast member.
After the rally, all are welcome to join a march to River East Art Center at 435 E. Illinois St., where “One Billion Rising” will host an all-day indoor festival, featuring dance workshops and performances by Cheerobix, Fabulous Ladies of Fitness, BeMoved and DJ All The Way Kay.
The initiative has grown organically in Chicago beyond the V-Day sponsored events. A flamenco flash mob is planned for Union Station from 5-5:30 p.m., Underground Wonder Bar is hosting a “Vagina Monologues” reading, and colleges throughout the Chicago area are participating.
Waleryszak said that while the goal of getting 1 billion participants is ambitious, she’s been overwhelmed by the response, in Chicago and worldwide.
“In Manila, Philippines, they’re blocking off 15 blocks for their event,” she said. “The Bangladesh page has like 9,000 ‘likes’ on Facebook. The scope is just really amazing. To see people so eager and fortified by this issue, it does feel like people are waking up maybe in a way that they haven’t quite before.”
Interested in getting in on the action? Learn the choreography from a video tutorial produced by V-Day, starring Brooklyn High School’s senior dance class. Waleryszak said all are welcome to participate at the rally and the after-event, which runs until 6 p.m.