February 6, 2013 | Culture and Media, Violence Against Women

Can a Dance End Violence?

Join Eve Ensler's One Billion Rising—and find out.

"If I can’t dance I don’t want to be part of your revolution." Turn-of-the century firebrand Emma Goldman once said that, and if you agree, then Eve Ensler has started a revolution for you.

Ensler, author of the iconic play The Vagina Monologues, is the genius behind February 14th’s One Billion Rising, a campaign to channel women’s collective energy into combatting the violence that affects 1 billion women worldwide. The event also marks the 15th anniversary of V-day, Ensler’s anti-violence movement. Under the motto "Strike. Rise. Dance!" the campaign asks women to pause in their usual activities and physically demonstrate their dedication to the cause.

From Seoul to Toulouse, from Namibia to Uruguay, people in 194 countries are organizing group dances, arranging musical concerts and performing excerpts from The Vagina Monologues. Women will be doing the Macarena en masse in New York City’s Union Square, marching out of work to join "Norwich Rising" in England, taking part in a flash mob in Bangkok, and dancing along with "Dar Rising!" in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania.

Hollywood stars like Jane Fonda and Robert Redford are also getting behind the project. Self-styled "actrivist" Rosario Dawson explained her support: "I am rising because I am a woman. I am rising because I am a human. I am rising because it’s about time."

Eve Ensler has always thought big. Her Vagina Monologues premiered in 1996 in a tiny off-Broadway theater and soon became a global phenomenon—it’s been published in 48 languages and has travelled to 140 countries. In 1998, after hearing countless tales of sexual violence from women attending her play, she created V-day; it too has become a worldwide success.

The V-day movement tackles violence against women in all its forms, including rape, incest, female genital mutilation and sexual slavery, and encourages many different types of activism, especially the use of art and performance, to spread the message. In 2010 V-day spawned more than 5,400 events around the world and in 2011, in partnership with Foundation Panzi and UNICEF, opened the City of Joy a community for women who have survived violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"When you rape, beat, maim, mutilate, burn, bury, and terrorize women, you destroy the essential life energy on the planet," writes Ensler in The Vagina
. To keep the life energy going, find a One Billion Rising activity near you; go to onebillionrising.org