Within the scope of the 2019 Special Projects, Festival Quartiers Danses, has offered dance workshops in partnership with Relais Famille thanks to the support of the Caisse Desjardins du Coeur-de-l’Île.

Relais Famille is the only community organization in Quebec devoted exclusively to families and loved ones of people awaiting detention, detained or released from prison. Founded in 1998, the organization assists families who travel up to an hour and a half to join an activity. The organization offers a platform for members to speak openly of the challenges they are facing. However, many are uneasy or do not wish to express themselves directly about what they feel. Dance then becomes a valuable tool to escape daily concerns, to invite laugher and to create a sense of belonging.

“The workshop was mainly attended by women,” says Roxanne Dupuis, the dancer who led the twelve sessions. “I encouraged them to come with their husbands. I understood that many refrained from coming because they associated dance with negative stereotypes. Three weeks into the workshop, I had participants attend with their partners.” Roxanne also talks about the importance of creating a flexible, non-hierarchical structure in which organisation workers and participants are on an equal footing.

Dance allows to put aside worries by challenging ourselves physically or by laughing. It helps reconnect with a partner or connect with others faced with similar circumstances, without necessarily speaking of it. Roxanne tells us about a group gathering people with children, brothers or grandchildren in custody. Some grandparents who have custody of their grandchildren have even asked to bring them along for the last session in mid-December.

We are happy to have been able to offer a sense of well-being to an often overlooked audience; a place to let off steam in the space of a workshop.