If people are given permission to create original expression through movement," local choreographer/dancer Dawn Joella Jackson told me, "they come up with things that are so unique to them, because it's their own fiber, their own tissue. When you allow someone to use expression in that pure sense, it's hard to lie through [it]." A dance instructor and educator at Rosemont Residential Treatment Center and School, Jackson helps teenage female victims of sexual abuse express themselves in "that pure sense" every day. She used their stories to guide her latest work, Ward of Court: County of Origin, a reference to the official term for a child whose custody has been given to the state.
How did you get into your line of work?
I started in my teens doing outreach to kids who were homeless and prostitutes, and doing safer sex training with them. Then I started working in treatment facilities, and now I run Rosemont.
When did you realize this subject would make for a good dance piece?
My collaborator, [the media artist] Rose Bond's father grew up in an orphanage and she is going to stage a show in the actual building he grew up in. We thought that [Ward of Court] could maybe be a precursor to that show and focus on the kids we've worked with here in the states.
How does the subject manifest itself physically in Ward of Court?
Some of [Ward] has been lifted directly from [the movement work by my students], and other parts of the piece are an emotional response to their situation. I work with teenage girls, 100 percent of them who have been sexually abused. There is a lot of violent movement; it fluctuates between containment and wild abandon, which is what I feel with a lot of the kids I work with.
Do your students know about this show?
I work in a secure treatment facility, so very few of them will be able to come see it, but we're doing a performance in the center for them, and it will be very interesting to see what they think. JUSTIN W. SANDERS