BY MARTA HEPLER DRAHOS
TRAVERSE CITY — Strike. Dance. Rise!
It's a message that will reverberate around the world Thursday as people in an estimated 200 countries stage One Billion Rising events to protest violence against women.
In Traverse City, activists will stage the official One Billion Rising dance in a flash mob event at the Grand Traverse Mall. The dance was choreographed by acclaimed dancer and choreographer Debbie Allen ("So You Think You Can Dance," "Fame") and posted on YouTube and other websites. It reflects dance styles of various world cultures and is performed to an original One Billion Rising theme song called "Break the Chain."
"I'm just a concerned citizen fighting for justice," said Roslyn Lambert, 19, who took part in Jan. 30 and Feb. 7 practices for the local event. "I'm a rape survivor, so this is a big deal."
Lambert, a freelance photographer from Traverse City is among an estimated 150 to 180 area residents who signed up on Facebook to participate in the event, said co-organizer Jessica Doerr. The event is organized by Northwestern Michigan College's Student Life office and Third Level Crisis Intervention Center.
One Billion Rising is the latest call to action by V-Day, a global organization dedicated to ending violence against women and girls. It is being organized on Valentine's Day in response to United Nations statistics that suggest 1 billion women — one of every three women in the world — will be raped or beaten in her lifetime.
"It's a movement that affects us all — women and the men who love them," said Doerr, a Grand Valley State University social work grad student and a counselor with NMC's Student Life services. "If we as a cultural society say it's not OK to abuse women, that does make a difference."
Anna Hannan learned about the local flash mob event after following a One Billion Rising link sent by a friend. She learned the dance through YouTube before coming to the second rehearsal at NMC's Oleson Center.
"I love to dance. I thought it was a good cause, and it's powerful," said Hannan, 60, a retired teacher from Rapid City. "I'm really pleased there are so many people here and that there are men."
Leland Wynkoop was recruited by good friend and co-worker Hannah Flaugher after the Oryana Natural Foods Market employees took a hip hop class together at a local dance studio.
"I didn't know what it was about. I had no backstory," said Wynkoop, 21, of Traverse City, one of about a dozen men who showed up for the rehearsal, which included a campaign video depicting worldwide abuse of women. "It was so emotional watching that video and seeing those girls crying and then standing up (literally and figuratively). I actually felt my heart stuttering."
Thursday's flash mob will gather at 5:30 p.m. between Taco Bell and Sbarro in the Grand Traverse Mall Food Court. To participate, visit onebillionrising.org for a dance tutorial, wear red (or pink) and black, and be ready to dance.
Events also are scheduled for Petoskey and Cadillac.