UT student creates dance about violence against women

Logan Herrington

When more than 270 girls were kidnapped from a school in Chibok, Nigeria, earlier this year, dance senior Tawny Garcia was shocked to see how quickly the story left the media spotlight. 

This story, as well as other stories of violence against women, became the inspiration for Garcia’s dance production, “Gone,” which will debut Friday as part of the Department of Theatre and Dance’s annual “Fall for Dance” program. 

“Initially, I had heard the story on social media,” Garcia said. “It was one of those stories that had a couple days notice, and then everyone was on to the next thing. I had a baby in January; I think that gave me a different outlook on it because, for the first time, I was seeing this as a mother rather than just as something that happened over there.”

Garcia said she found inspiration for her choreography from images her professor showed in a history course that covers the Holocaust. 

“I felt like the isolation and the mistreatment was all very similar as far as the motion behind it,” Garcia said. “I knew I needed to somehow recreate the emotion that I felt when I saw these images in my piece.”

One movement Garcia based off these images involves the dancers clustering together while one tries to reach out through them. Garcia said this reminded her of images of people trapped under rubble, trying to escape.

The dancers’ costumes were picked with these themes in mind as well. Rebecca Bagley, a dance senior who is one of the dancers representing the Nigerian girls, said she will wear two costumes during the performance. She will begin dressed in a blue top and gray skirt — similar to that of a schoolgirl in Chibok — but will change into a nude-colored dress to represent being taken and stripped of her identity. 

Bagley said she enjoyed seeing how the production evolved.

“It was cool to be included in the process because, sometimes, a choreographer can come in and give you a movement, and you don’t know where it is coming from,” Bagley said. “We were very informed about everything, so that definitely influences how we perform it because we are so invested in where this piece came from and what it is inspired by.”

Garcia said she learned a lot about violence against women during the creation of her dance.

“I think [these stories] are in the news,” Garcia said. “But I think we don’t really know how to take it in and change it because the violence is almost too much to expect — that people could do that. But we need to accept it for what it is and make it a larger story.”