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Sonoma County flash mobs to demonstrate against violence

Published: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 4:54 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 8:48 a.m.

Several hundred women and men are poised to burst into dance today at seven locations around Sonoma County, part of a global demonstration against violence inflicted on women and girls around the world.

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Kris Freewoman, right, dances with Quiana Grace Frost during a rehearsal for a One Billion Rising flash mob performance, at Parkpoint Health Club in Santa Rosa, on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013. One Billion Rising events are being held worldwide on Valentine's Day to bring attention to violence against women and girls.

(Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

The event, dubbed One Billion Rising, will take place today in nearly 200 nations, organizers say. But many participants said they've already been profoundly moved by the prospect of dancing in solidarity with others across the globe, most doing the same dance steps to an anthem written for the campaign.

"What I see in the rehearsals is people get lit up," said Sebastopol organizer Quiana Grace Frost. "Women are powerfully moved by feeling that energy and being women together."

"It's pretty amazing," said fitness instructor Janice Blalock, who will lead a noontime demonstration at the Healdsburg Plaza. "We're all kind of in tears at the end of each rehearsal."

Organizers say one in three girls and women around the world will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. The movement aims to mobilize a billion people to take action against such violations, beginning with today's events.

One Billion Rising is an off-shoot of an annual Valentine's Day observation called V-Day, created by playwright Eve Ensler, author of "The Vagina Monologues." This is the 15th anniversary of V-Day, which typically includes benefit performances of the play to raise awareness and funds for programs combatting rape, female mutilation, sexual exploitation and other violence.

A half-dozen "risings" are scheduled today around Sonoma County, most featuring "flash mob" performances of a

4½-minute dance choreographed by actor/dancer Debbie Allen to the movement's theme song, "Break the Chain," though organizers say last-minute joiners can dance any steps they want.

Dancing, says Ensler and other organizers, is a means of liberating body and soul, though it's only a starting point.

Santa Rosa organizer Kathy Johnson said she views the actions as part of a continuum toward a shift in global consciousness.

"I don't think anyone is going to deceive herself into thinking we're going to dance and it's all going to change," Johnson said. "But in terms of making a statement of support, solidarity, it's one way."

The One Billion Rising movement has spread largely through social networking websites, with participants accessing videos of the campaign's choreography from the event website.

Kris Freewoman, a Parkpoint Health Club fitness instructor and African dance teacher, has led several rehearsals during the past two weeks.

The dance, she said Wednesday, "is a prayer for ourselves and for women everywhere. But it's also personal because so many have experienced violence. We're dancing for ourselves, and each other."

The largest event, with 160 already signed up, will likely start in Santa Rosa's Courthouse Square at 5 p.m. Other risings include:

Petaluma -- 11:15 a.m. beginning at The Oasis, 141 Second St.; Sonoma -- noon to 1 p.m. at La Luz Center, 17560 Greger Street; Healdsburg -- noon to 12:15 p.m., in the town plaza; Santa Rosa -- 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., at Monroe Hall, 1400 W. College Ave.; Petaluma -- 3 p.m. to

9 p.m., at the Petaluma Community Center, 320 N. McDowell Blvd., dancing and other activities with $12 admission; Sebastopol -- 6 to 6:15 p.m. in the town plaza.

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com.

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