The Hancock Center Rises for Safe Bodies and Safe Relationships

By Karen Meulendyke,
WWN Public Policy Committee.

The Hancock Center is Wisconsin Women’s Network’s newest member organization. The Center is a Madison-based non-profit that began in 1983 by one of the founding members of the American Dance/Movement Therapy Association, Deborah Thomas. As quoted from their website, the Hancock center “provides dance/ movement therapy services and health and wellness education on-site and in the community.” The Center serves women and men, adults and children in individual therapy as well as groups. Therapists at Hancock host an array of different programming, from violence prevention with children in schools to movement/meditation workshops to family-based dance/movement therapy. In addition to a menu of diverse programming, the Hancock Center is a model organization for workplace flexibility. The Center’s employment model is one that emphasizes relationships as the centerpiece in women’s lives. For their mostly-female staff, this mode of operation is supportive in their ever evolving family and work lives.

Earlier this month I sat down at the Hancock Center with dance/movement therapist, Ann Wingate, and had a wonderful conversation regarding the Center and its many efforts. She taught me that dance therapy works to transform the way we think about our bodies, and society’s beliefs about our bodies and movement. Dance/movement therapy is a process that can be used to teach children and adults how to feel safe in our bodies and our relationships. A specific effort where this mantra is especially clear is in the Center’s work against sexual assault. Beginning in the late 80s, Hancock understood what the healing power of dance/movement therapy can do for survivors of sexual assault. Women’s therapy groups began and were led for years by therapist Grace Valentine. Today, Ann co-leads an organized effort to raise awareness about sexual assault and work with survivors of sexual assault through flash mob dances with Dianne Brakarsh of Moving from Within, in the Madison area. Yes, that’s right, flash mob dances!

The global effort Ann and Dianne joined and brought to Madison is called One Billion Rising. One Billion Rising is a campaign that calls people to action and speaks up against sexual violence. The campaign is an accessible outlet for people to be with others, allow for personal expression and raise awareness of the issue that over one billion women and girls in today’s population of 7 billion will experience gender violence in their lifetime. Ann and her colleagues present their work at summits, conferences and in workshops to work with people who have experienced sexual assault as well as advocates for ending violence by using dance and movement as self-expression and healing.

One Billion Rising uses the song, Break the Chain by Tena Clark, and a choreographed group dance as vehicles to lead the healing and raise awareness. Through workshops and summits, the group dance is taught and then preformed in a public place with signs and information for onlookers. This peaceful demonstration has been witnessed at the State Capital, Hilldale mall, and where I had the pleasure of witnessing it last Valentine’s Day, outside the city of Madison’s municipal building. Prior to this year’s globally organized Valentine’s Day flash mob dance, organizers of the One Billion Rising campaign challenged participants to think about why they were rising. The Hancock Center’s response to why they were rising, for safe bodies and safe relationships, a key component that is taught in their work every day.

You can learn more about the Hancock Center and available programming through their website at www.hancockcenter.net. Join the One Billion Rising campaign, through the One Billion Rising Revolution website at www.onebillionrising.org.

The Hancock Center is Wisconsin Women’s Network’s newest member organization. The Center is a Madison-based non-profit that began in 1983 by one of the founding members of the American Dance/Movement Therapy Association, Deborah Thomas. As quoted from their website, the Hancock center “provides dance/ movement therapy services and health and wellness education on-site and in the community.” The Center serves women and men, adults and children in individual therapy as well as groups. Therapists at Hancock host an array of different programming, from violence prevention with children in schools to movement/meditation workshops to family-based dance/movement therapy. In addition to a menu of diverse programming, the Hancock Center is a model organization for workplace flexibility. The Center’s employment model is one that emphasizes relationships as the centerpiece in women’s lives. For their mostly-female staff, this mode of operation is supportive in their ever evolving family and work lives.

Earlier this month I sat down at the Hancock Center with dance/movement therapist, Ann Wingate, and had a wonderful conversation regarding the Center and its many efforts. She taught me that dance therapy works to transform the way we think about our bodies, and society’s beliefs about our bodies and movement. Dance/movement therapy is a process that can be used to teach children and adults how to feel safe in our bodies and our relationships. A specific effort where this mantra is especially clear is in the Center’s work against sexual assault. Beginning in the late 80s, Hancock understood what the healing power of dance/movement therapy can do for survivors of sexual assault. Women’s therapy groups began and were led for years by therapist Grace Valentine. Today, Ann co-leads an organized effort to raise awareness about sexual assault and work with survivors of sexual assault through flash mob dances with Dianne Brakarsh of Moving from Within, in the Madison area. Yes, that’s right, flash mob dances!

The global effort Ann and Dianne joined and brought to Madison is called One Billion Rising. One Billion Rising is a campaign that calls people to action and speaks up against sexual violence. The campaign is an accessible outlet for people to be with others, allow for personal expression and raise awareness of the issue that over one billion women and girls in today’s population of 7 billion will experience gender violence in their lifetime. Ann and her colleagues present their work at summits, conferences and in workshops to work with people who have experienced sexual assault as well as advocates for ending violence by using dance and movement as self-expression and healing.

One Billion Rising uses the song, Break the Chain by Tena Clark, and a choreographed group dance as vehicles to lead the healing and raise awareness. Through workshops and summits, the group dance is taught and then preformed in a public place with signs and information for onlookers. This peaceful demonstration has been witnessed at the State Capital, Hilldale mall, and where I had the pleasure of witnessing it last Valentine’s Day, outside the city of Madison’s municipal building. Prior to this year’s globally organized Valentine’s Day flash mob dance, organizers of the One Billion Rising campaign challenged participants to think about why they were rising. The Hancock Center’s response to why they were rising, for safe bodies and safe relationships, a key component that is taught in their work every day.

You can learn more about the Hancock Center and available programming through their website at www.hancockcenter.net. Join the One Billion Rising campaign, through the One Billion Rising Revolution website at www.onebillionrising.org.

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