VALENTINE’S Day in Cork city will mean an extra-busy few days for shops, restaurants, and florists.
By the time 1pm rolls around, an influx of panic-buying for significant others will descend upon Paul Street, as people get the last few bits in (or all of them in some cases!) ahead of the evening’s proceedings.
The perfect time, then, for a flashmob to strike, and disrupt the routine.
Tomorrow, February 14, will see the volunteers of Cork Sexual Violence Centre, accompanied by dancers from around the city, co-ordinate and dance to raise awareness not only of their own cause locally in the wake of movements like #MeToo, but of the realities that a billion women, out of three billion worldwide, will have been raped or sexually assaulted in their lifetimes.
The flashmob, kicking off at 1.15pm tomorrow outside Cork Opera House, is part of the One Billion Rising project, that sees similar displays of solidarity and expression happen around the world on Valentine’s Day.
For Sexual Violence Centre Cork co-ordinator Mary Crilly, the creation of awareness via the arts and community outreach is as important as fundraising.
“For the people working in the centre, I think they feel an incredible buzz. Not just listened to, but that we matter. Sometimes when you’re working in a centre, especially when there are counsellors seeing people every day, you’re not aware of what else is happening out there, so it’s encouraging to see that there are young people, listening, and that they want to raise awareness.”
Mary has always been keen to get involved in ‘V-Day’, the one-day campaign for One Billion Rising. This led them to look into the city’s vibrantly-busy dance community, whereupon they were introduced to locally-based contemporary dancer and tutor Inma Pavon, whose experience and passion for people made her a perfect fit for the project, according to Crilly.
“We were really fortunate. One of the women here knew Inma, and she said ‘why don’t you contact her?’ I did, and she got back immediately She said, ‘I dance, I do dancing, I teach, I know a lot of people, I’ll organise this part’, and she made it so much easier.
“It’s wonderful when you have someone like Inma, who wanted to help, but never knew how to help, looking after things, it’s wonderful, totally.”
Making her home in Cork after a lifetime of pursuing contemporary dance around the world from her native Spain, Pavon has, in recent years, harnessed the power of community across different media and artistic disciplines, to create a compelling body of work that goes from freeform dance classes to appearances in music videos for local artists like alternative folk singer Elaine Malone.
Working on the flashmob, Pavon gets to bring her expertise in working with new people to the fray, and embark on rehearsals with people of different skill levels (and none).
“Working on the flashmob has been absolutely incredible. Just the fact that I am a dancer, and a believer that dance helps to break chains, the flashmob is, in fact, a gift given to me to help me spread this message.
“I love working with new people, that’s the beauty with dance, that you meet new people all the time... It’s a place to make people feel good through the learning process, which can be at times more difficult. My task, I believe, is to help faciliate that process, and make it easier for everyone to pick up.”
The choreography of the piece has been agreed upon by project participants around the world, focusing on breaking the stigma of silence and shame surrounding sexual assault.
Pavon’s work with various groups and new dancers in the community from her studio on Monahan Road have informed her approach to community outreach, so when it came time to muck in on the V-Day project on a local basis, she eagerly answered the call
“I want to thank the Sexual Violence Centre for making this happen, and bringing the awareness of this issue to the people of Cork. This is a very important event, and its goal of raising awareness about sexual violence around the world is really necessary, still, in people’s lives.”
The Sexual Violence Centre continues to go from strength to strength. Equally as important, however, is the health and wellbeing of the people that keep it running. Last year Mary Crilly was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer, a horrible shock that refocused her personal efforts, but also provided a profound perspective on her work, as she rounds the corner to recovery.
“I needed lots of surgery, I needed lots of chemotherapy, so it came as a huge shock. I was lucky enough that I got diagnosed and had chemo all through the summer. Last week, I had an operation to reverse the stoma, which was joining my bowel back together. It’s been a rough year, but I’m at the end of it, and I feel amazing. I feel lucky and privileged to have the people that have supported me, and that I’m at the stage, now, where I’m feeling ready to go again!”
The Sexual Violence Centre Cork flashmob, for the V-Day Project, happens at 1.15pm at Cork Opera House.
For all the latest information, and to get involved, check ‘Sexual Violence Centre Cork’ across social media.