In our age of screens and cynicism, the value of physically showing up is under appreciated. Eye contact conveys empathy and acknowledges common goals so much more deeply than a Facebook share. Humans were made to search out connection, but sometimes we forget that having hundreds of people connected to our fingertips is not the same thing as holding a hand. Showing up is hard, and it takes practice; we have become unaccustomed to the risk inherent in real-time human interactions. We have no editing capability, no delete button, no anonymity, no Photoshop. We have only our soft flesh and strong wills, and it is terrifying and glorious to be actively present, and therefore deeply vulnerable.
It takes bravery to live un-ironically. Admitting that we care enough about the tragedies around us to do something about them is hard, for we risk failure, we risk disappointment, we risk rejection, we risk feeling silly. But risking nothing is uninteresting. When we commit ourselves to authentically being present, when everyone invests their time, their bodies, their courage, all of a sudden… a little bit of magic happens.
Morosity, cynicism, and self-isolation are contagious — but they ain’t got nothin’ on joy, openness, and a good dance beat. The cell phones permanently attached to the palms and pockets of those around us start to be forgotten. Smiles spring unbidden to the faces of strangers. Curiosity breaks through the daily hum-drum, and individual initiative steps into the place of collective apathy. We transcend our divisive descriptors — male, female, brown, white, black, native, foreigner, “normal” in all its nonexistent-yet-plentiful ways, and everybody else — when we are truly present together. And I know of nothing more capable of pulling us collectively and forcefully into the present than dance.
This Valentine’s Day, in the second iteration of One Billion Rising here in Toulouse, we continue to raise awareness about the unacceptable level of violence that occurs against women, locally and globally. We refuse to let those horrors continue, and will no longer sit silently by while they happen all around us. This is why we dance.
We are dancing for our mothers and grandmothers, to honor the burdens they have carried and to thank them for the lessons they have taught us.
We are dancing for our friends and our sisters and our deepest loves, because their strength reflects and amplifies our own.
We are dancing for our men, our fathers and grandfathers and loves-of-our-lives, for our brothers and for our friends, because they deserve a world where women are permitted to meet them as equals, to challenge them and inspire them and push them further than they ever imagined.
We are dancing for our sons, because they should have the tools to express their deepest wishes and they deserve to be loved as all of their whole selves, with their emotions and vulnerabilities celebrated as strengths.
And we are dancing for our daughters, because it is us who create the world that they will grow up in. In our new world, girls will be cradled in confidence and beauty and love, they will be brilliant and they will be strong, they will know how to meet hardship with creative ambition, how to beat back fear with determination, how to open their hearts to love and their minds to inquiry and their souls to wonder.
This is why we dance.
But we also are dancing for the sake of dancing, to mirror content with form. We cannot succeed in reducing violence against women without empathy, without a recognition of the humanity in each of us, without celebrating the precious nature of each human spirit, shining and beautiful in its imperfections. We cannot reach into the hearts of our audience and incite courage without risking something ourselves; we cannot fight hate without love; we cannot fight destruction without building community; we cannot fight violence without sharing joy. This is why we dance. So dance with us. Share our joy, smile back at us, take courage, look into our eyes, call for justice, and above all, dance. Dance with us for love. Dance with us for peace. Dance with us for family, for respect, for safety, for daring, for laughter, for beauty. Because we will continue dancing, until our voices are multiplied, one billion times over.