The Babel Movement helps social justice organisations by communicating the heart of their stories through powerful dance performances
The Babel Movement is a New York based non-profit that helps social justice organisations tell complex stories of suffering that cannot be spoken or heard. Through custom made live dance performances and videography, they accelerate impact on social media and websites, as well as for crowdfunding campaigns and fundraising events.
Founder Sarah Maldonado Panayiotou says: “We humanise stories like trafficking, mental health awareness, and the refugee crisis in order to translate the pain of injustice when words cannot.”
Sarah had grown up with an articulation disorder, which made it so that no one could understand the sounds that came out of her mouth. It particularly frustrated her relationship with her Mother, who would grow angry because she couldn’t understand Sarah. Sarah would then cry, which made her mother angrier, and prompted Sarah to cry more. It was a traumatic cycle.
In the third grade, Sarah was finally able to start communicating through speech. And yet she discovered she still wasn’t able to speak in a way that made her feel heard. Dance was how Sarah felt most understood, so she persuaded her mother to put her into ballet classes, even though they were expensive.
Sarah went onto be the first in her family to go to college; majoring in Dance and minoring in arts and social change. She danced for a company in New York City before creating the Babel Movement in January 2017. And the first project that Sarah and her fellow dancers worked on was sharing their own stories.
Dance Therapy has long since utilised movement to communicate conscious and unconscious feelings through dance, but Sarah has taken this one step further and discovered that dance can go far beyond self-discovery and healing for victims. It can help invoke empathy from others who otherwise might struggle to imagine suffering; therefore bringing about deep, lasting change.
For instance through choreography, the Babel Movement was able to demonstrate how domestic trafficking is most often done by mental manipulation and could happen anywhere, and to anyone. The video became a powerful tool for Love True, an anti sex trafficking organisation based in New Jersey.
The Babel Movement looks after all aspects of the process – creative consultation around what the organisation’s audience struggles to understand, the design, a custom script, choreography, and the creation of a storyboard tailored to the organisation. Then comes pre-production review on casting, location selection, choreography and music choice.
What results is a one-of-a-kind, emotionally resonant experience that can be shared with people around the world who speak all different languages. As Sarah says, “Words change minds and movement change hearts.”
For our New York Patrons, support the Babel Movement’s next live performance on December 7th and 8th, at 7pm at the Kathryn Martin Theatre at St Jean Baptiste situation in New York’s upper East side. The project throws light on the issues of race and ethnicity in the United States. This is a topic Sarah feels very close to, being half Puerto Rican and half Cypriot. “People of mixed race who have lived in the United States all their lives know the country so well,” she says, “but it doesn’t know us in return.” See details of the performance here.
Or contact Sarah to work with the Babel Movement to share your story. She is open to working with passionate dance enthusiasts across the globe.