Ansley “Jukeboxx” Jones, a hip hop artist from the United States had been vigorously training school girls in Patna for the past month on the use of hip hop dance and music for an ‘all girls safe world’. She was on a two week tour initially to train high school students on the use of street dance, to create awareness, raise issues and campaign.Back to the U.S now Ansley hopes to return soon to the city to carry forward the training of the young girls in Bihar infamous for a strong patriarchal society.
Ansley proposes to train girls in Brazilian Martial arts “Capoeira” to safeguard their life and womanhood. “This will be an extension of the hip hop madness that the girls learnt during the workshops in their summer camps at St. Karen’s School in Patna”, says Ansley enthusiastically. “But now there has to be more vigorous training for safety and power”.
During the workshop Ansley taught, sprinted, rolled, cartwheeled and performed difficult Gymnastic exercises for an hour before spending the rest of the day participating in full-contact grappling with boys and girls to break them free with hip hop.She wastough in her instructions and expectedthe participants to have self-control and discipline. There was no striking, kicking, hair-pulling, eye-poking or roughhousing allowed but still she wanted the girls and boys to break free with the dance and express themselves completely. “The idea was not to create just campaigns for gender sensitivity but also to let the boys and girls learn equally to self- express themselves”, she says.”If a student felt concerned of being injured, a simple tap on the sparring partner’s body alerted the person to ease up and then they begin again together dancing without any inhibitions as seasoned hip hop dancers”.
“The dance form is called freestyle as because there were no restrictions despite very strict discipline in the form”, Ansley says “because I wanted to be independent and secure my entire life that is why I went dancing since the age of eight. An incident in the past made me more sensitive towards issues and as a person”.
In a Patna hotel where she stayed, another incident made her change her plans for India. She was stalked one night by the security guard who tried to push through her room. It was then that she realized that ‘it was difficult being a woman here as it was just patriarchal thoughts that provided scope for those incidents”. “I was strong and could fight back but this confidence has to come to all women living here”, “I found this strange that boys in school talked more about women rights than the young girls who were too shy to ask for equal rights”. It is only after the incident that she realized that women neededto have lessons on self expression and acceptability to be more outspoken in a patriarchal society in India”.
Ansley herself is no stranger to violence against woman. A rape survivor as a teenager in her own home by someone she knew, she is now a healer and educator through dance. Talking about herself she adds “My story of sexual violence is that I am a four time rape survivor and as women in America, as a Black woman more specifically in America I am constantly harrassed and groped and seen historically as sexually promiscuous. This is how slave masters treated enslaved African women and used this as an excuse to systematically rape. This attitude towards African American women has not changed, an attitude that is still perpetuated by mainstream media about African-American women here. I still fight this as well as other injustices everyday”.
She says “Statistics show that one in five girls across the world have been sexually assaulted by someone they know by the time they reach high school. Far from the media-perpetuated myth of armed strangers attacking helpless girls, the most common sexual assault is perpetrated by someone the girl knows” ” it happened to me and I know many girls out there live believing that it was all their fault”.
Women have to stop thinking in the victim’s status and start identifying the external factors leading to the criminal intimidation. She has to take extra effort for self -expression and not just limit herself to be shy and timid waiting for someone else to voice their cause. “That lowers self-esteem and self -respect. The dance forms that we are trying to promote are for self- expression not just for women but for all youth across the world” she explained confidently.
Recalling the violence she went through in her life, she says “I lived for years with the pain, the grief of not being able to save myself. I would cry, disconnect from myself, not go to my mother’s place, neversit in a couch because it happened there”. “It was just like being in a state of OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and I was not normal. I felt terribly worthless and intimidated. That was testing time until two years back when I started therapy through break dancing and felt it was the battle of emotions. I needed to save myself”.
Now Ansley Joye Jones popularly known as “Jukeboxx” is a dancer, choreographer, teacher, and feministwith a purpose fromAugusta Georgia. Ansley has earned her Bachelors in Visual and Performing Arts from Savannah State University, and her Masters in Dance Studies from Florida State University. Pursuing her thesis in various dances, she researches on “Patriarchal gestural languages in dance forms’ a topic that makes her examine ‘male dominated moves in dances’ that have intimidated women dancers all across the world’. She adds, “during the course of interviews I talked to famous dancers across the world and I found them accepting that certain male dominated gestures in dances have intimidated women dancers restricting them to self-express”, “women have not availed the freedom of expression and hence these restrictions lead to sexual violence against them in the outside world”.
But then now she plans to come back to India later this year to train the girls in Bihar on the Brazilian Art form. One of the participants of the workshop, a class eight student of St. Karen’s High School Priya Singh says, “the trainings had been very big influence in my life. It is not just about learning dance. It is about exploring self-love and acceptability. As a trained Kathak dancer I am going to integrate the lessons in my performances”.
“We are ready to host her again. Her training sessions were eye-openers particularly because of the power and the energy that she exuberated. Dance forms have always been considered a healer in India but Ansley’s lessons of free expressions break through all barriers and girls have found an extraordinary energy and confidence”, admits Sandip Ray of the RabindraParishad who took the initiative to host the artist.