How To Make a Benefit: Christen Sewell Weimer on Using Movement to Heal and Raise Money

Christen Sewell Weimer is not only one of { Dd }’s earliest contributors, introducing our readers to such delights in the ATL as Tanz Farm, she is also an incredibly generous and inspiring choreographer, professor, friend, and human. When I first moved down to this southern capital, I was moved by her 2015 benefit, Heartspace, which featured visual and live art and made me aware of the problem of sex trafficking in this city. This summer, she was back at it, with both returning and new collaborators, and I was able to catch up with her via email about her process and passion. I hope reading this encourages you to give what you can to this cause, or perhaps, take on another issue more particular to your place. It is all too easy to become overwhelmed or disillusioned when faced with the big problems of the world. So the following words by Weimer, which are poetry by way of action, are in effect a guide for how to create an evening of art in direct service of others.  –Candice Thompson

Photo Credit: Kelly Marie Truitt.

“In 2007, I learned that Atlanta is one of the top cities for sex trafficking, and that most of the women who are brought into sex trafficking are young girls. I felt like I wanted to do something to help. I began to research various organizations in Atlanta that provide healing services and therapy for victims, and I discovered Wellspring Living. I also discovered The White Umbrella, a book written by Wellspring’s founder, Mary Frances Bowley. I read the book, and in 2013, I signed up for volunteer training. I spent several Saturdays at one of Wellspring’s rehabilitation homes, spending time with the girls. My time with the girls inspired me to find a way to use movement — the language that comes most naturally to me — as a means of connecting with the girls.

While serving on faculty in the Dance department at Kennesaw State University in 2013, I took a group of KSU Dance majors to the Wellspring home, and together, we moved through a movement workshop with the girls. Inspired by our time with them, we created (the KSU Dance majors and I) a choreographic work dedicated to the Wellspring girls. The KSU Dance majors then put on a private performance of the work at the Wellspring rehabilitation home, specifically for the girls.

In 2015, I co-directed the collaborative art event, Heartspace, along with Atlanta choreographer and dancer Leah Boresow, as a benefit show for Wellspring. Ajna is the second benefit event that I have directed with the intent of raising money for Wellspring. Presented in early June, the evening included my own movement installation (Ajna), set to an original score by Atlanta composer Peter Flamming and featuring dancers Anicka Austin, Stephanie Michelle Johnson, Myles Jones, Lathan Roberts; a light installation by Charlie Watts; a solo performance by Stephanie Michelle Johnson; the spoken word of Tanya Povolny; a new choreographic work by Leah Boresow (Seenery); a new choreographic work by Sarah Wildman (Willow); and a musical set by Gracie Joo of Suntundra Moon.

Photo Credit: Kelly Marie Truitt.

Ajna, or third-eye chakra, is the sixth chakra in the body according to Hindu tradition. The chakras, or energy centers in the body, often shut down when a person endures trauma. Someone who has experienced repeated sexual trauma at a young age has learned how to disassociate from his or her body in order to survive—shutting down the energy centers in the body. Heartspace and Ajna, as choreographic works, are inspired by the opening of the heart chakra, or Anahata, and the third-eye chakra, or Ajna. I plan to create five more choreographic works dedicated to the opening of the remaining chakras, exploring through movement the specific kinds of healing that occur when each energy center opens.

Both Heartspace and Ajna explored the concept of taking ownership of one’s physical self after having been disassociated for an extended period of time due to abuse or trauma. The energy centers in the body open naturally when a person who has endured trauma begins to heal and develop a positive relationship with his or her physical self. ”

Photo Credit: Kelly Marie Truitt.

While the benefit evening has come and gone, you can still make a difference. Click Here to make a donation to Wellspring Living and help young women who have bene victims of sex trafficking. 

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