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Stories of jail and parole told through dance

Christchurch parolees’ stories are being told through contemporary dance as part of the city’s Body Festival.

Hagley Dance Company’s show Forward and Beneath opened this week and included 11 dance pieces linking the stories.

The students interviewed parolees from the Salisbury Street Foundation who were either on parole or had just finished their sentences. They were asked about their past regrets, what drove them to make certain choices and what they hoped for the future.

“The students had to think about what struck a chord with them and they created the dances as a reflection back to them,” Hagley Dance Company director Candice Egan said.

Student Tayla Corlbeck, 18, said her dance focused on the struggles parolees faced when reintegrating back into society.

“Having the freedom that reintegration brings can cause a culture shock and that can cause some people to reoffend,” she said.

Her dance reflected this by starting with repetitive movements that showed the regimented life of a prisoner.

“Then the music changes and shows their release from prison with lots of uncomfortable and angry movements to show the reoffending,” Corlbeck said.

She used what was said in the interviews and her own research into reoffending to choreograph her dance.

Another work created by Jhawan Raika-Morgan, 18, focuses on one parolee who was passionate about cycling.

“I looked at how he changed his way of living and became a cyclist, so there are cycle movements to show him continuing to move into the future,” he said. “It’s about a person stuck in the past, but he wants to get rid of his old habits.”

Egan said the interview process gave students more insight into offending and making behavioural changes. “There was a mix of emotions during the interviews. It made them question and learn about New Zealand prisons and the justice system.”

Salisbury Street Foundation director Lyn Voice said the process was also beneficial for the prisoners, who were able to open up about their pasts.

“They find that most people don’t want to know them, so to find people that want to talk to them was great.”

Forward and Beneath opened on September 23. The final show is tonight.

See for details.

_Jess Pullar for The Press