Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
From responses of audience members, a domestic violence expert, and a Dance professor, it is apparent that the performance of Silent Cries was a catalyst of change. While not all viewers were raised to a new level of consciousness, a number of participants reported raised awareness and/or intentions to take action in support of domestic violence survivors. An overwhelming majority of those polled reported some form of emotional response to the dance. This is evidence that even with a well-educated audience, dance has the power to make a connection and move hearts. The domestic violence expert as well as general audience members commented that the emotions, frustration and tension, difficult to describe in words, were powerfully depicted in Silent Cries. When asked what triggered the emotions, ten responses cited either the movement or the dancers themselves. Dance has the power to bring the audience into the performance, making them emotionally involved in the action. This power has great potential for leading change as it can present as issue in a different light, challenging audience members to see it from a different perspective. By making a personal connection with the audience, it can move people to consider the issue from a personal closeness, as opposed to a detached distance.
The creation and implementation of Silent Cries involved the interaction of a leader and followers for the purpose of creating change. This captures the central issue of both James Macgregor Burns' and John Rost's definitions of leadership. Rums argues that "the leadership process must be defined, in short, as carrying through from the decision-making stages to the point of concrete changes in peoples lives, attitudes, behaviors, institutions"(p.414). He further explains that the crucial aspect of leadership lies not in its resulting changes, but in the intentions for change (p.415). Rost agrees with Burns, saying that "leadership is an influence relationship among leaders and followers who intend real changes that reflect their mutual purposes''(p.102). The decision-making and creative process involved in producing Silent Cries was leadership in its intention to connect, to educate and to empower.
In addition to exercising leadership in the form of intended change, the collaborative creation process was transformational. The dancers, the choreographer, and the actors were actively involved and as a result were educated about domestic violence and the surrounding issues. "Transforming leadership ultimately becomes moral in that it raises the level of human conduct and ethical aspiration of both leader and led, and thus it has a transforming effect on both" (Burns, I 978, p.20). The dance and its creative components were a source of education and further contemplation for all individuals involved. Additionally, I came to a new understanding of domestic violence in creating a way to communicate its emotions and complexities through movement. The dancers also experienced transformation in being challenged to express the feelings of a situation they had never been in. Their level of awareness, empathy, and knowledge of the subject were raised considerably.
Leading change through dance also sets an example of leadership for other dancers and choreographers. It makes a statement that dance can be used as such a medium, encouraging other artists to use their talents in similar ways.
McCanse, Meredith, "Dance as an instrument for social change leadership" (1998). Honors Theses. 1195.