We are Mikaela Clark and Mackenzie Clevenger Valley. Dancers. Choreographers. Abolitionsits. Our journey, though not it’s beginning, really took off in 2009 when we were struck with the reality of modern day slavery, specifically the global sex trade. As artists, we felt compelled to do something: learn about this issue in more depth and create a dance performance about it. So, that is what we proposed for the Cleveland Workforce Fellowship (through Cuyahoga Parternship for Arts and Culture), a 20,000 grant given to individual artists in Cleveland, OH. Mikaela was awarded, enabling us to pursue this vision. It was a two part vision: 1. travel to Southeast Asia to learn more about this issue and 2. create and perform a dance production to raise awareness.See Mikaela’s interview here: CPAC 2010
Traveling to Thailand and Cambodia, we performed for and created with dozens of at-risk children while investigating the effects of the sex trade within these countries. Southeast Asia is considered a destination spot for human trafficking. This means that people from all over the world will travel to a place like Cambodia to purchase a woman or even a child for sex. What we learned and what we saw was devastating; this issue was far more complex and deep than what we expected. In some parts of Thailand, it was if people had given up. The silence was screaming at us. But admist this darkness, we found hope. We visited safe homes where at risk children were given opportunities to go to school, learn a trade, and be well fed in body and in spirit. If not given these opportunities, they would most likely be sold for sex and have to keep up the trade to help feed their family. We had the opportuntiy to share dance with them and just when we thought we were there to give these children something, they gave us something: hope.
Upon returning to Cleveland, we realized that what was happening across the world was also happening across the street in our very neighborhoods. We still had a lot of work to do. With more research, we were ready to begin creating. A successful Kickstarter campaign enabled us to finish our vision. See Kickstarter video here: Without Words Kickstarter Campaign
Collaborating with several local artists, this work “Without Words…moving against the sex trade” was premiered at Cleveland Public Theatre’s 2011 DanceWorks Series. Read the review from the Plain Dealer here: “Without Words” Review
Creating and performing this work, instead of bringing closure to the issue, only stirred something deeper within our hearts and made us even more acutely aware of the fact that more action must be taken against this atrocity. A second Cleveland Workforce Fellowship Grant was awarded to Mackenzie through CPAC in 2012, for their work “Without Words…”. This generous fellowship allowed us to shift our focus to pursue this work on a full-time basis. See Mackenzie’s interview here: CPAC 2012
In August of 2012, Without Words Movement was officially launched. “Without Words” because the issue of sex trafficking still leaves us shocked beyond words and because it is without words that we speak. And “Movement” because we dance and also we desire to start a movement. A movement of freedom. So Without Words Movement exists today to reclaim freedom through dance.