Spotlight: Hands are for Holding Expands Nationally - Gibney
Week of July 1, 2020
Making space for

Spotlight: Hands are for Holding Expands Nationally

Group Shot with Ormao Dance Company


Hands are for Holding, Gibney’s school-based assembly program that uses dance to address bullying, equity, and choice, has expanded to Colorado Springs, Colorado!

Ormao Dance Company will launch an in-school dance assembly program that is based on Hands are for Holding this fall. A team from Gibney traveled to Colorado Springs this July to share the program methodology with their dancers and TESSA, the area’s primary agency dedicated to the issues of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Ormao Dance Company has brought professional contemporary dance, youth education, and community outreach to Colorado Springs since 1990, and Gibney is thrilled to embark upon this partnership with them!

Janet Johnson, Executive & Artistic Director and founder of Ormao Dance Company, shares her reflections on Hands are for Holding and this new partnership below.

Dancers lead a crowd in Hands are For Holding gestures

One year ago, in June of 2018, I expressed my interest in bringing more social action into my choreography and had the privilege of receiving a scholarship to attend Gibney’s Institute for Community Action Training.

During ICAT, Gibney shared Hands are for Holding as an example of how they incorporate social action into their work. I was immediately engaged, fully connected to this issue, and began laying the foundation for Ormao Dance Company to bring the program to El Paso County.

Statistics for El Paso County are daunting. “Colorado Springs’ sexual assault rate is double the national average, and research tells us that only 30% of incidents are reported.” In addition, “1 in 4 adolescents experiences verbal, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse from a dating partner each year.” These statistics are impossible to ignore and added to our sense of urgency to begin a preventative program.

Ormao Dance Company immediately created a strong partnership with TESSA (El Paso County’s lead organization providing support for victims of domestic violence) to provide school assembly facilitators. Over the next 12 months, we deepened our relationship with Gibney’s Director of Community Action, Yasemin Ozumerzifon to develop a plan for training Ormao Dance Company’s dancers and TESSA’s facilitators.

All the while we have been extending our reach into all the El Paso County school districts to develop awareness and support for Gibney’s HAFH program in our community. Immediate funding sources were identified and secured. When we realized we were 1/3 towards our goal of fundraising to cover the 2019-20 School Year’s budget, the Ormao Board approved the Gibney residency for July 9-12, 2019.

There were so many moving parts to make this residency a reality. In advance, we were provided a concise 5-page Gibney HAFH Impact Statement to share with the Ormao Board, potential funders, local educators, civic leaders, and Ormao dancers. This information about the methodology, goals, current data collection, growth and success in NYC has opened many doors for us.

Gibney also provided an 18-page HAFH Training Manual in advance so Ormao Dance Company and TESSA could adequately prepare for the residency. The content is visually clear and provides specific scripts for us to edit for our community and practice.


During the residency, Yasemin worked with the Company dancers and TESSA facilitators to practice the language necessary to be successful in the schools. Her method is clear, measured, and consistently encouraging and positive. Gibney dancers, Amy, Nigel, Leal, and Zui were present and focused with the Ormao dancers. They worked 1:1 to transfer the movement material and emotional intention of all gestures and movements. In 3 short days, Ormao dancers were asked to practice their first school assembly program for the Gibney dancers. Gibney dancers offered dance and script notes that were directly related to the intention and foundation of the work.

Our goals for 2019-20 include 4 school assemblies in Fall 2019 and 12 school assemblies in Spring 2020. We will use the Fall assemblies to gather feedback and invite potential funders and civic leaders to continue developing support and awareness for this program. Ormao Dance Company and TESSA will continue to check-in with Gibney for feedback and support to ensure success!

— Janet Johnson
Artistic & Executive Director, Ormao Dance Company

Support Hands are for Holding by making a contribution to Gibney today.