(above: A dancer performs in time with the Collin College Dance Ensemble, expressing emotion through movement. See more pictures from the event at http://www.collin.edu/webgalleries/DanceForDignity/)

Twenty-two dancers dressed in white darted to and fro across the Spring Creek Campus atrium. Joined in movement and in common purpose, the dancers let their bodies convey the alternating feelings of fear, strength, powerlessness and triumph as speakers read inspirational poetry in time with the dances.

Collin College’s Dignity Initiative organized the Dance for Dignity as part of an ongoing outreach and education effort to stop violence against, and the oppression of, women.

“Art and music engage us on many levels,” Dignity Initiative Chair Sherry Rhodes said. “While we wanted to share information and create action at this event, we also wanted to tell the story of abuse, despair, and, more importantly, hope. Artistic expression is an excellent medium to convey these messages.”

Students from the Collin Dance Ensemble, choreographed by professor Tiffanee Arnold, performed in groups of eight to 22 throughout the event, accompanied at times by vocalists under professor Kathy Morgan’s direction. A student art exhibit, a film about The Dignity Initiative and informational tables throughout the atrium all brought the event back to its central message of ending violence.

A Collin College Student visits a booth at the Dance for Dignity event, Feb. 19.

Students had the opportunity to learn more about university and local groups working to stop violence against women.

About 675 students interacted with college and local civic groups who were distributing information at the event. The students had the chance to learn and, in some cases, the opportunity to volunteer.

Christina Light, a volunteer at The Turning Point Rape Crisis Center of Collin County said she was encouraged by the number of students who expressed an interest in getting involved with their organization.

“We always want to bring people in who are interested in helping others,” Light said. “I have had a bunch of people who want to volunteer, so they are going to be calling us or filling out applications.”

That is not surprising to The Dignity Initiative’s Rhodes, who said knowledge is the key to inspiring action.

“Our community and Collin organizations report that student volunteerism increases as a result of the student’s increased awareness,” she said. “Also, we want to help students seek services they may need, either from the college or the community. Students, who were previously unaware of these services, can now get the help that they need.”

Collin students, faculty and staff will have several more opportunities to learn about these services and how to help stop violence against women at events planned throughout the spring.

A self-defense symposium is planned for 6 p.m., Friday, March 20 at the Spring Creek Campus Conference Center.

“Women Unshackled: Stories of Resilience, Resistance, and Renewal,” a Reader’s Theatre, is scheduled for 7 p.m., March 26 at the SCC Conference Center. This event will focus on real-life stories of women who have survived domestic abuse.

The group plans a screening and discussion of “Miss Representation,” a study of women’s under-representation in positions of power in America, at 6 p.m., Tuesday April 21 at the Central Park Campus and Preston Ridge Campus conference centers, and again at 6 p.m., Wednesday, April 22, at the SCC Conference Center.