Class hosts belly dancing troupe to combat stereotypes

May 16, 2014

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Belly dancing troupe performs during Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — Four University of Wisconsin-Platteville students belly danced outside of Markee Pioneer Student Center recently as a way to stand up and speak out against sexual assault. The dance troupe was hosted by the Human Sexuality class, taught by Dr. Marc Wruble, professor of psychology at UW-Platteville. April was nationally recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

The 2014 Sexual Assault Awareness Month campaign focused on young people and healthy sexuality. According to Wruble, the goal of the dance troupe activity was to try to put to rest stereotypes that disempower women.

The belly dancers included Anna Rinaldo, a sophomore mechanical engineering major from Rockford, Ill.; Shana Michonski, a sophomore double majoring in psychology and criminal justice from Shawano, Wis.; Mioshi Stanford, a sophomore business major from Chicago, Ill. who attended high school in Dubuque, Iowa; and Teal Williams, a sophomore graphic design major from Dubuque.

On their exposed skin, the troupe wrote empowering phrases such as “I’m still not asking for it” and “‘No’ means ‘no.’”

“By writing empowering phrases such as ‘No doesn't mean I'm playing hard to get’ on their arms, backs, and stomachs, they not only used these exposed body parts to gather a crowd and spread a good message, but to lay stereotypes and sexual assault myths to rest,” said Wruble. “The troupe members showed the strength, power, beauty and grace of the female body and that females can be dignified even with exposed stomachs, legs, and backs. They showed that exposed skin does not equate with promiscuity.”

Wruble said that by inviting men in the crowd to dance with them, the students showed that there are men who also stand up against sexual assault and that being “feminine” or dancing does not make men unable to be masculine.

“The crowd loved the performances,” said Wruble. “They were not met with any negativity, but with interest, curiosity and respect.”
 
“We got everything on the spectrum of reactions, from some slightly strange looks all the way to loud cheering and smiling and laughing,” said Rinaldo. “So many people came to support us. I was gleaming with pride.”

“The most powerful, positive parts of our performance were the acceptance, understanding and appreciation from the majority of the people who saw us perform, and from the people who personally thanked us for dancing for a good cause,” said Michonski.

“The best part of this experience was learning dances from other cultures and feeling the power of channeling all of that energy into my own culture,” said Williams.

“I thought the best part of this experience was showing women on campus that you can be yourself and not be afraid of what’s going to happen next,” said Stanford. “I wanted to show students that it is okay to be different and stand up for what you believe in.”

Half of the donations the troupe raised went to victims of sexual assault through Family Advocates, a domestic violence shelter in Platteville. The other half will be used to help buy equipment for the Belly Dance Club, which will be a fully instated club at the beginning of the fall 2014 semester.

Contact: Marc Wruble, Department of Psychology, (608) 342-1768, wruble@uwplatt.edu
Written by: Jena Garrett, College of Liberal Arts and Education, (608) 342-6191, garrettj@uwplatt.edu

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