Looking to make Valentine's Day special? Forget sugary confections or sickeningly sweet, toothache-inducing Hallmark cards and try dancing with a billion people.
One Billion Rising (OBR) Chicago--part of a global movement to end violence against women and girls--kicks off at noon Thursday with a flash mob and rally at Daley Plaza, with hundreds of Chicagoans expected to participate.
"202 countries and territories are participating--nearly every country on the planet," said OBR Chicago producer Kristen Kaza.
One in every three women around the world--or one billion mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, partners and friends--will be raped or beaten at some point in her lifetime, according to the latest United Nations statistics. V-Day, a global activist movement lead by Eve Ensler ("The Vagina Monologues"), launched the One Billion Rising event.
"The tie that binds all of the One Billion Rising events together is dance," Kaza said. "Dance allows people to turn pain into power. It empowers participants by celebrating our bodies and taking ownership of our bodies and our own space. Through dance we break expectations of what we are supposed to wear, or what we are supposed to look like, or how we are supposed to move."
OBR Chicago has been hosting weekly dance rehearsals in preparation for the Valentine's Day flash mob. Participants also can view a video by award-winning choreographer Debbie Allen to learn the moves on their own.
Illinois Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon is scheduled to attend the rally and flash mob at Daley Plaza, and cast members of the "Book of Mormon," as part of the Broadway Serves non-profit organization, will perform.
"We've also been talking to Lady Gaga," Kaza said. "She's in Chicago this week for her tour, and she's been a great advocate for women, for LGBT people, and a great advocate for our cause. At the very least, she might give us a shout-out at one of her concerts. And it's not out of the realm of possibilities that she'll make an appearance at the rally. Our fingers are crossed."
A free, all-ages Daytime Dance party at River East Art Center (1-6 pm, 435 E. Illinois St.) follows the rally and flash mob performance and will include dance workshops and performances by Cheerobix, Fabulous Ladies of Fitness, Natya Academy, BeMoved, DJ All the Way Kay, as well as a "Power of the Mic" panel including rapper Psalm One.
"Men can jump in as well, absolutely," said Kaza without missing a beat, when asked if men have a role at One Billion Rising. "What makes this campaign really special is that we've been mindful to be as inclusive as possible--all ages, all genders, all abilities. When we dance, we show joy. We want this day to be about joy."
Tony Peregrin is a RedEye special contributor.
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