See what it looks like when you teach women in prison to dance.

How dancing helped these inmates to find freedom in prison.

Women at the South Middlesex Correctional Center don’t have much freedom to move.

But twice a week, a small group gathers in the cafeteria at the prison prison outside Boston. And they dance.


All photos in this story by Heidi Shin, used with permission.

22-year old dancer Christine says the dancing is a chance “to express yourself, and to feel normal” in a place where you don’t have many choices.

Dancers stretch before a challenging routine.

The women are part of a program called Moving Steps, where professional dancers help inmates choreograph their own routines — hip-hop, ballet, and modern dance.

A few times a year, they also stage performances in the prison cafeteria.

Former inmates dancing freestyle during a Friday night rehearsal in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Scarves, which the women wanted to use for their performances, were banned in the prison because they were seen as a risk during the holidays, when depression and thoughts of suicide were more likely to rise among the inmates.

Makeup had been banned, too, so the women got creative during performances, turning bedsheets into makeshift scarves and using glitter from the ornaments on the Christmas trees as eye shadow.

The dance group serves as a kind of support group for the women both on the “inside” and once they’ve transitioned to the outside world.

Coming together to work through their choreography is like a support group, the women say.

It's a way of overcoming past traumas, too — many have been survivors of violence and abuse in the past.

Some have children in the outside world. Others have family members who they haven’t spoken with in some time. For them, the performances can also mark a family reunion of sorts.

On the day of the performance, visitors push their IDs through a bulletproof window and wait to be ushered inside.

Other inmates file in to watch, too. “I think [my grandma] was crying,” Christine says. “She thought it was awesome. She was really proud of me. Because she’s seen me how I was before, before all the issues started.”

Adrianne Tabet acts not just as the program's director, but also as den mother.

Adrianne Tabet, the group’s program director, watches a studio rehearsal in Cambridge.

Last year, when Tabet faced hip surgery, the women rallied to send her handmade cards. After the performance, she visits with one group and then the next, praising the accomplishments of the women to the family members who've come to watch.

The program isn’t just a new start for the inmates, either.

One former instructor was a recently retired dancer from Jose Mateo's ballet company, a professional dance troupe in Boston.

Instructor Mary Teuscher is a professional dancer who volunteers with Moving Steps.

Given the physical strain of dancing, ballet dancers often retire young. So volunteering while studying to become a dance therapist is a way of launching a new career for some instructors as well.

The program doesn't end when women are released from prison.

In fact, Tabet says their dance group is most critical as women re-enter the world. They continue to gather on Friday nights at a dance studio in Cambridge.

Dance practice in Cambridge.

A dancer shows off a few moves.

One member of the group prepares for an upcoming performance in Harvard Square.

As they transition to “life on the outside” the dance group gives some sense of stability.

In addition to dancing, most of the women in the group are now working jobs in food service — one of the few industries likely to give people with criminal records a second chance. Christine says she’s chosen to keep dancing after leaving prison because “it’s something to look forward to, commit to, and to stay on the right path.”

Next up, Tabet hopes to launch a dance program for kids of incarcerated mothers to help them cope with the stresses of being separated from their parents.

More

California has a housing crisis. Rent is so astronomical, one San Francisco company is offering bunk bedsfor $1,200 a month; Google even pledged$1 billion to help tackle the issue in the Bay Area. But the person who might fix it for good? Kanye West.

The music mogul first announced his plan to build low-income housing on Twitter late last year.

"We're starting a Yeezy architecture arm called Yeezy home. We're looking for architects and industrial designers who want to make the world better," West tweeted.

Keep Reading Show less
Cities

At Trump's 'Social Media Summit' on Thursday, he bizarrely claimed Arnold Schwarzenegger had 'died' and he had witnessed said death. Wait, what?!


He didn't mean it literally - thank God. You can't be too sure! After all, he seemed to think that Frederick Douglass was still alive in February. More recently, he described a world in which the 1770s included airports. His laissez-faire approach to chronology is confusing, to say the least.

Keep Reading Show less
Democracy

You think you know someone pretty well when you spend years with them, but, as we've seen time and again, that's not always the case. And though many relationships don't get to a point where the producers of "Who the (Bleep) Did I Marry?" start calling every day just to chat, the reality is that sometimes partners will reveal shocking things even after you thought you'd been all shocked out.

That's the case for one woman whose Reddit thread has recently gone viral. The 25-year-old, who's been with her boyfriend for five years, took to a forum for relationship advice to ask if it was normal that her seemingly cool and loving boyfriend recently revealed women shouldn't have a fundamental right. (And no, it's not abortion — although there are a lot of "otherwise best ever boyfriends" out there who want to deny women the rights to bodily autonomy, too.)

Keep Reading Show less
Recommended


Women around the world are constantly bombarded by traditional and outdated societal expectations when it comes to how they live their lives: meet a man, get married, buy a home, have kids.

Many of these pressures often come from within their own families and friend circles, which can be a source of tension and disconnect in their lives.

Global skincare brand SK-II created a new campaign exploring these expectations from the perspective of four women in four different countries whose timelines vary dramatically from what their mothers, grandmothers, or close friends envision for them.

SK-II had Katie Couric meet with these women and their loved ones to discuss the evolving and controversial topic of marriage pressure and societal expectations.

SK-II

"What happens when dreams clash with expectations? We're all supposed to hit certain milestones: a degree, marriage, a family," Couric said before diving into conversation with the "young women who are defining their own lives while navigating the expectations of the ones who love them most."

Maluca, a musician in New York, explains that she comes from an immigrant family, which comes with the expectation that she should live the "American Dream."

"You come here, go to school, you get married, buy a house, have kids," she said.

Her mother, who herself achieved the "American Dream" with hard work and dedication when she came to the United States, wants to see her daughter living a stable life.

"I'd love for her to be married and I'd love her to have a big wedding," she said.

Chun Xia, an award-winning Chinese actress who's outspoken about empowering other young women in China, said people question her marital status regularly.

"I'm always asked, 'Don't you want to get married? Don't you want to start a family and have kids like you should at your age?' But the truth is I really don't want to at this point. I am not ready yet," she said.

In South Korea, Nara, a queer-identifying artist, believes her generation should have a choice in everything they do, but her mother has a different plan in mind.

SK-II

"I just thought she would have a job and meet a man to get married in her early 30s," Nara's mom said.

But Nara hopes she can one day marry her girlfriend, even though it's currently illegal in her country.

Her mother, however, still envisions a different life for her daughter. "Deep in my heart, I hope she will change her mind one day," she said.

Maina, a 27-year-old Japanese woman, explains that in her home country, those who aren't married by the time they're 25 to 30, are often referred to as "unsold goods."

Her mom is worried about her daughter not being able to find a boyfriend because she isn't "conventional."

"I really want her to find the right man and get married, to be seen as marriage material," she said.

After interviewing the women and their families, Couric helped them explore a visual representation of their timelines, which showcased the paths each woman sees her life going in contrast with what her relatives envision.

SK-II

"For each young woman, two timelines were created. One represents the expectations. The other, their aspirations," Couric explained. "There's often a disconnect between dreams and expectations. But could seeing the difference lead to greater understanding?"

The women all explored their timelines, which included milestones like having "cute babies," going back to school, not being limited by age, and pursuing dreams.

By seeing their differences side-by-side, the women and their families were able to partake in more open dialogue regarding the expectations they each held.

One of the women's mom's realized her daughter was lucky to be born during a time when she has the freedom to make non-traditional choices.

SK-II

"It looks like she was born in the right time to be free and confident in what she wants to do," she said.

"There's a new generation of women writing their own rules, saying, 'we want to do things our way,' and that can be hard," Couric explained.

The video ends with the tagline: "Forge your own path and choose the life you want; Draw your own timeline."

SK-II
True
SK-II