Coming to terms with some of the social and political issues brought about by the recent election has been a struggle. My female friends and I have felt the despair surrounding questions of reproductive rights and sexual assault to the point of openly crying over our lunches … in a crowded restaurant. As we searched for ways to cope, I saw some of my friends find comfort in gathering with other women and sharing their struggles. This observation led me to wonder whether there are certain tools that we could use to support each other through this time. After looking into it, I discovered that beyond the more conventional approaches of support groups and social reform, many of the women I know are turning to their own creativity to help each other heal.
Jules Bakshi, a dancer, choreographer and wellness coach, has a lot of experience doing this type of work. Coming to dance from an early introduction to gymnastics, Bakshi created her own dance company while also performing and touring with others. Her work always embodies a collaborative spirit while keeping in mind how each person’s body feels most at ease or most powerful. “I’ve been a professional dancer and choreographer for over 10 years, and it’s only in the last few years that I have found release and acceptance for my body and how it wants to move,” she says. “It’s been incredibly empowering to learn how to care for my body and also to let myself move the way I naturally want to, rather than [through the ways] I learned or inherited.”
Focused on helping other women become equally empowered, she teaches body positive dance workshops she calls Hot Bitch. “Most women love to dance (or would love to dance) but they feel uncoordinated, unsexy, uncool,” she explains. In order to combat this, Bakshi developed her classes as a type of safe space where women can feel free to let go of their inhibitions. “The only thing that matters in my class is that you feel at home in your body and you give yourself permission to take pleasure in movement,” she says. And while learning to be more creative is important, Bakshi emphasizes that the true value of the workshops lies in finding power through movement: “The main event is that you are breaking down walls within yourself to allow yourself to shine, uninhibited—that you are experiencing your body fully and without judgment.”
The powerful and uplifting effect of creativity doesn’t just have to happen in person or in class. It can also happen through shared writings or through soulful music. Singer Victoria Reed grew up with a father who was a professional musician, but as a young adult, she felt the pull of studying philosophy in Chicago. During an existential crisis of sorts, Reed explored the stars and tarot cards for guidance, which led her to pursue music full time. As a result, she moved to Brooklyn to record her album. Since then, she has been able to explore songwriting through the lens of philosophy. Her lyrics are filled with soul and an open, vulnerable tone that is powerful in its honesty. Reed believes that women can connect with her music because they explore her search for empowerment and are honest about what it’s like to look back on times of despair and lay it all on the line. “If I can help lighten the load of even one woman through telling my own little story of working my way through it all, that’s a beautiful thing!” she explains, emphasizing that her inspiration comes from connecting with others through her songs.
Seeing the way women I know are sharing their talents to connect with and empower others has been an incredibly powerful reminder that creative acts can help women feel supported and strong. “The women who take my classes have told me that they feel awake and alive and free when they come to class—even if they think they lack basic coordination or grace,” Bakshi explains, referring to the positive impact of her classes. “They come back because each time they maybe make one less disclaimer about their ability, they get a little freer, they let their hair down and let go of all the pervasive judgments about bodies and sexiness, and they just dance.”