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Students dance to protest violence against women

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Kate Koenig | Visual Editor

Kate Koenig | Visual Editor

Kate Koenig | Visual Editor

By Saskia Berrios-Thomas / Staff Writer

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When Pitt students want to fight an injustice, they usually make signs, march and protest.

But Saturday, they danced.

To raise awareness of the worldwide violence against women, Pitt’s chapter of Amnesty International, an activist organization working to end discrimination, hosted its fourth annual One Billion Rising event 8 p.m. Saturday in the William Pitt Union. Zisha, a Southeast Asian fusion dance team at Pitt, performed a regional dance routine first, followed by a performance from the student-led African Music and Dance Club.

Pitt’s One Billion Rising event is part of an international movement to raise awareness about violence and assault against women. The movement, which began in 2012, cites the United Nations statistic that one in three women will be beaten or raped in her lifetime, totaling more than 1 billion women among the current human population of 7 billion.

Corinne Le Lan, president of Pitt’s chapter of Amnesty International, said the event focused on rising and dancing to get people to pay attention to the large number of women violence affects.

“Instead of protesting, we dance,” Le Lan, a senior majoring in political science, said, “to show we can stand up and express ourselves in defiance of the injustices suffered by women.”

Zisha performed in its  fusion style, dancing to a montage of six different songs of various ethnicities, including Indian, American and Chinese songs.

Sri Karanam, the dance captain of Zisha and a senior majoring in biology, said the group has performed at One Billion Rising for the past four years and they are committed to speaking up to show that violence against women is a common problem.

“We love what the event stands for,” Karanam said. “We want to bring awareness through dance.”

African Music and Dance Club took the stage next, performing three different dances. “Fume Fume,” a song from Ghana, was upbeat, while “Ekizino,” a Ugandan song used to keep warm in the high mountains by stomping and running, was more intense and fierce.

The African Music and Dance Club invited the audience to participate in the last song, “Gota.” Billy Bohner, the president of the African Music and Dance Club and a senior majoring in psychology and sociology, organized students in pairs and asked that the group stand in a circle for the courtship dance.

Bohner clapped and chanted as he danced with the group of about 25 students — about half of them members of the audience who had never danced to African music before. He walked students through each step of the dance, showing them the foot patterns, when to clap, when to stomp and when to turn to their partner. The group danced together for most steps, with each pair of randomly assigned partners getting a solo at the end.

Hannah Marshall, a sophomore majoring in psychology and anthropology and a member of Pitt’s chapter of Amnesty International, said the audience participation allowed students to express themselves and show that they care about violence against women.

“This was a really good, inclusive way to talk about such a serious topic,” Marshall said. “We’re having a dialogue about violence against women.”

Eleanora Kaloyeropoulou, the former president of Campus Women’s Organization, which works to empower female Pitt students through discussion and advocacy events, said One Billion Rising is an important part of the women’s rights movement.

“I think it’s an essential piece in ending violence against women,” Kaloyeropoulou, a senior majoring in history, said, “because it is about giving women that agency, that space to not just grieve, but to celebrate.”

Le Lan and Kaloyeropoulou have a common goal of fighting for human rights, specifically for women. The two women agree that One Billion Rising is a way to stand up and dance in spite of the injustices women face.

Despite the good vibes and smooth moves, Le Lan said keeping the women who are suffering in mind was still central.

“We choose to rise up and dance in spite of these injustices.” Le Lan said.

Insiyah Campwala, a sophomore majoring in biology, said the performances moved her and that she was glad she could participate in the “Gota” dance. Despite being nervous before the dance, Campwala said Bohner made it fun to learn an unfamiliar dance.

“We brought people together that normally wouldn’t have come together,” Campwala said. “And in that, we formed solidarity on this serious topic through this dancing.”

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Students dance to protest violence against women