Dance Program News

STAND:  Dancers Stand Together to Combat Domestic Violence 

Person holds rose with petals fallen
Photo by Kimber-Leigh Burkhart

BRISTOL, R.I. -  Associate Professor, Cathy Nicoli of RWU’s Dance / Performance Program was recently invited to present her domestic violence awareness initiative -  STAND - to other national dance programs during the recent Beyond the Proscenium: Access conference (hosted by UMass and Five College Dance).  The conference gathered experts in the field of dance, as well as undergraduate researchers, to collectively explore issues of Accessibility and Access within dance education, performance models, scholarly research, and community relationships. 

Professor Nicoli’s STAND is a performance art piece honoring victims of domestic violence.  Participants take up to one hour to move successively from a fallen position, to STAND-ing on their own two feet – symbolizing the extensive time it often takes victims of domestic violence to heal, recover, and rebuild.  

STAND has evolved into an annual vigil at RWU; every October (Domestic Violence Awareness Month) scores of dance students gather to practice STAND.  Professor Nicoli credits RWU’s Title IX Coordinator and Associate Dean, Dr. Jennifer Stanley, for her peer mentorship:  “Without Jen’s support of my out-of-the-box idea, I don’t think STAND would have been taken seriously, noticed, or respected for what it can be:  a community builder, educational catalyst, and potential healing practice for many.”

Professor Nicoli states:  “In general, I aim to model ways for my students to connect their dance training and embodiment practices to social justice initiatives and partnerships.  In the case of STAND, as a professor who spends most of her time with college-aged women, I wanted my students to learn more about domestic violence, and how to prevent it.  College-aged women are the most at risk group, per capita, for intimate partner violence.  Data says, 1 in 4 girls will be a victim of sexual assault during their college years.  My heart sinks when I think of this data in context to my students, but challenges like this motivate me to keep finding ways to connect movement studies to initiatives off the stage as well as on.”

Professor Nicoli’s STAND is also a personal practice:  Her mom’s mom was a victim of intimate partner homicide soon before Nicoli was born.  She states: “My grandmother had separated from my grandfather, looking to reinvent her life after her childbearing years - she wanted to be independent.  Unfortunately, she ended up in an abusive relationship with a man who had a history of violence, but kept slipping through the cracks of the criminal justice and reform system.  My grandmother didn’t have a lot of resources, so no one really paid much attention, and I am pretty sure by the stories I have heard that she felt a duty to be strong enough to deal with ‘what she got herself into.’  I never met her, but I have experienced and witnessed the ways one blunt trauma can reverberate and mutate into other strains of trauma for generations.  STAND is a way for me to bear witness to my mom, who lost her mom way too early - because too many people looked away, or were critical toward my grandmother’s choices, rather than those of her abuser.”

Professor Nicoli’s goal now is to organize a coalition of dance programs who STAND for domestic violence prevention efforts on their campuses and throughout their communities, be it every October for Domestic Violence Awareness Month or beyond.

STAND Promo Reel by Alyssa Glantz (Oct. 2020)


Dance Program News