Watch our promo video below!
HerStory was carefully conceptualized and choreographed by our New Orleans Big Easy Award nominated Artistic Director, Monica Ordoñez. We depict the long journey towards gender equality, beginning with the unyielding Suffragists who paved the way for progress, the role reversing Rosie the Riveters of WWII, the 'bra burners’ of the Women's Liberation Movement, and many more key figures who progressed the rights of women. HerStory ultimately culminates into the prospect of our first female president and the new wave of resistance that has formed after the disappointing 2016 election outcome, in which we fight for equality for all and to progress forward, not backwards.
HerStory was originally presented November 10-13, 2016, just days after the election results poured in, devastating women and men alike around the world. Little did we know what a profound impact we could make by helping heal as well as entertain and educate our audiences.
It all began with some inspiring, good ol' Nawlin's history: The Stormin' of the Sazerac. On September 26, 1949, a group of women dressed in their best crowded the men only Sazerac Bar and demanded to be served. And they were! Each year, this historic day is still celebrated at the Roosevelt Hotel's Sazerac Bar. We wanted to honor these groundbreaking New Orleans women with an imaginitive and fun dance piece portraying that powerful and inspiring moment in herstory.
But why were women only permitted in New Orleans bars on Mardi Gras day in 1949?
What's the big picture?
Join us on a journey through the decades, which pays homage to influential moments during the three waves of feminism, that is moving, educational, celebratory, thought provoking, fun, inspiring, humorous, at times provocative, and healing.
Women have had to fight for their human rights since the beginning of time. Thorough research led us to discover shocking facts about women's (lack of) rights through the decades. For example, a criminal had more rights than a woman pre-19th amendment (which only passed less than 100 years ago), and a man could legally rape his wife until the 1990's. We also learned of incredible and inspiring stories, like Susan B. Anthony's unwavering determination to fight for the right to vote, the 1950's housewives who dared to question their purpose outside the home, and the activists who fought to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, guaranteeing womens' rights under the constitution.
These were stories we had to tell. We decided to create a well-rounded and exciting show that incorporates dynamic choreography, film, and elaborate costuming to support an entertaining and moving celebration of progress made towards gender equality.
Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness
HerStory opens in the late 19th/early 20th century when women had so few rights that they could not receive a strong education, own property, have parental rights, be seen in public without the accompaniment of a man, or, of course, vote. The piece tells the tale of the Suffragists who traveled the country on foot and horseback to fight for human rights. We depict what is known as The Night of Terror, when a group of unrelenting Suffragists protested Woodrow Wilson's White House demanding equal rights. These women were beaten, strangled, kicked, and jailed all because of their protest for gender equality. We must honor these brave women who initiated the path towards equality.
"Aint I a Woman?"- Sojourner Truth
The New Breed?
As we continue, we dance through the 1920's-30's when women dropped their corsets, smoked cigarettes with men, and raised their hemlines, briefly, until the old stereotype loomed back in.
Many may recognize the infamous Rosie the Riveter, symbolic of the era when women truly first had the opportunity to step up to the plate. During WWII, women took on roles that were traditionally reserved for men, to fight for our country as pilots, Women's Auxiliary Army Corps members, nurses, riveters, and more.
Here come the real feels. With war comes loss, longing, struggles, and victories, and HerStory tells it all.
It's Your War Too
In case you were wondering... our mega-talented and thrifty costume designer, Kaci Thomassi made the ladies' army hats from newspaper. She also made the men's sailor costumes from bedsheets.
We have been fortunate to collaborate with Kaci in several productions. She magically helps our vision come alive with our small budget!
War is over...back to the kitchen, ladies! Men wanted their jobs back, and women returned to the home and their delicate roles. This is why women had to storm the Sazerac for a cocktail in New Orleans in 1949! They went from tending bar to storming bars. After having a taste of purpose outside the cult of domesticity, many women were feeling rather unfulfilled in their roles but felt ashamed to admit it or confide in one another...until Betty Friedan released her influential book, The Feminine Mystique, in which she presented:
The Problem That Has No Name
Particularly inspiring was the chapter in Friedan's book, which discussed the psychiatrist diagnosed "housewife syndrome" to describe the constrained housewives who went...
What? women actually wanted to utilize their full capacities?
How dare they say it out loud!
The Second Wave...The Women's Liberation Movement!
Ok, now it was all out there! Women were coming out and wanted the world to know that they were here and demanded equal educational opportunities, equal pay for equal work, and the choice to choose if they wanted to raise children or not. Women united to fight against discrimination through protests, consciousness raising, feminist theory, and advocacy with leaders such as Gloria Steinem.
The Miss America Protest was a demonstration held at the Miss America Pagent in 1968. The protest was attended by approximately 400 feminists, as well as civil rights advocates. Unable to get a fire permit, they demonstrated by throwing restricting objects such as bras ('burning the bras'), stockings, and fake eyelashes, into a 'Freedom Trash Can', symbolizing the opression women faced by being reduced to sexual objects portrayed at pageants.
They gained national attention by sneaking in the theater, raising a Women's Liberation sign as the camera panned towards them.
In true Mélange fashion, we take this opportunity to reenact and enliven this infamous moment in women's history in a satirical way, much to the audience's delight!
Throughout HerStory, we bolster the storytelling with film so that the dancers can have a little breathing time, and the audience can gain some knowledge and perspective along the journey. We have found that our audiences appreciate this well rounded experience.
Here in the show, the film celebrates highlights from the Women's Liberation movement, like when we saw our first female vice presidential nominee, Geraldine Ferraro, and our first African American woman elected to Congress, Shirley Chisholm. Women were becoming more independent, and more laws were passing to protect their equal rights.
"I have a brain and a uterus, and they both work."--Pat Schroeder, the first woman elected to congress in 1973.
But side by side with this new, empowered woman was an old stereotype...
the objectified woman.
Take Back the Night
It's the tale as old as time- the overt sexualization of a woman. During the 1980's, there was a rise in advertising that began to deconstruct the female body. Many feminists theorized that this portrayal of dehumanized women opened the door to violence.
Any woman knows this all too familiar scene: you've just rolled out of bed, you're walking down the street in a baggy tee shirt and sweatpants, and you just want to get a coffee or tea. You can barely take a few steps before you hear, "Hey baby!" "Sexy" "Damn!" and the dreaded...."SMILE!" Yes, we all parade the streets on display in an effort to break our faces smiling for your damn pleasure.
Women began forming Take Back the Night Marches, which were led by both women and men to raise awareness and advocate against sexual violence and harrassment. They fought to make the streets, and our world, safer for women. And, hey, if a woman does happen to look fly walking down the street, it's most definitely for herself and not for some gross stranger’s unnecessary commentary.
Our bodies are for us to own, not you...
Not asking for it, not asking for it, and not asking for it.
"My friends, let us have faith in each other, let us not grow weary and lose heart, for there are more seasons to come and there is more work to do."
-Hillary Rodham Clinton
The Journey Continues
"For the record, feminism, by definition, is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities"--Emma Watson. Well, when you put it that way, everyone should be a feminist.
Now, more than ever we need to continue the path towards equality and NOT move backwards. In the end, isn't it all about humanity? We're in it together. It's not about gender, sexuality, race, or religion. It's about being human. We need each other more than ever to continue the fight for equality and not allow bigotry to prevail! We're so happy to be part of the resistance and honored to have this opportunity to share our passion in a positive, educational, and uplifting way to help push progress forward.
Some rave reviews!
Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to get a professional write up about dance in New Orleans; however, the feedback we did receive was overwhelmingly positive and encouraging! We presented HerStory for a second time on March 15-16, 2017 at Loyola University's Roussell Hall as part of Feminist Festival, and we have already been booked for next year! We are so honored to have the opportunity to grow and develop new material (the inspiration just keeps flowing lately..) for our audiences with each remount. Here are some examples of the feedback we recieved from our audience survey on the back of the HerStory program.
Anna Hassan, Emily Rose Apple, Laudrey Cody, Monique Brogan, Clinton O'Parfait
Tess Lossada, Ashley Justice, Gianni Reid
Monica Ordoñez, Alexa Erck Lambert