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Undanced Dances Through Prison Walls During a Pandemic

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December 2020, English, 6 x 9 in (envelope), 5.25 x 8.125 in (book), 36 pages + insert, b&w, risograph, softcover with envelope
Design: Sming Sming Books

Edited by Suchi Branfman

Choreographers: Brandon Alexander, Yusef Lamont Pierce, Richie Martinez, Landon Reynolds, Carlos Rivas, Terry Sakamoto Jr., Angel Valen, Clinton

With letter by Raymond Springs III

The United States has the largest prison population in the world. As of the publication of this book, Covid-19 positive cases amongst incarcerated people nationally are 192,423 resulting in 1,305 deaths. The California state prison system has experienced 17,459 cases and 82 deaths. The pandemic has ravaged prisons, shining the light on mass incarceration at its worst.

In 2016, choreographer and educator Suchi Branfman began a five-year choreographic residency inside the California Rehabilitation Center, a medium security state men’s prison in Norco, California. The project, dubbed “Dancing Through Prison Walls,” developed into a critical dialogue about freedom, confinement, and how we survive restriction, limitations, and denial of liberty through the act of dancing. The project abruptly ended in March 2020, when the California state prison system shut down programming and visitation due to Covid-19. The work was rapidly revised, and the incarcerated dancers—Brandon, Yusef, Richie, Landon, Carlos, Terry, Raymond, Angel, and Clinton—began sending out written choreographies from their bunks to the outside world.

Undanced Dances Through Prison Walls During a Pandemic is the resulting deeply imagined work, written between March and May of 2020.

Proceeds from this book go to the choreographers and to support the work of Critical Resistance and California Coalition for Women Prisoners.

Suchi Branfman, choreographer, curator, performer, educator, activist, has worked nationally and internationally, from the war zones of Managua to Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre, and from Kampala’s Luzira Prison to New York’s City Center Theatre, as a member of Wallflower Order and Crowsfeet Dance Collectives, and, with Augusto Boal, Liz Lerman, Vic Marks, Gus Solomons Jr., Harry Streep and Dan Wagoner. Branfman is currently in the midst of a five-year choreographic residency at California Rehabilitation Center, a medium security state men’s prison in Norco (CA), serves on faculty at Scripps College, and is a community gardener, prison abolition activist, and co-director of Catalpa Residency Desert Hot Springs. Her supporters have included the National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, California Arts Council, and the Los Angeles and Santa Monica Cultural Affairs Divisions. Contact: dancingthroughprisonwalls@gmail.com