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BLOG: Dancing on Broken Glass

Jaene Castrillon, 37, was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and depression as a teenager, eventually entering the sex trade to escape the psychiatric industry. Now, as an adult and member of Workman Arts, she uses any form of artistic expression: dance, film, poetry, to free her mind and become the person she wants to be.

Through story-telling in dance and movement I express what is an internal journey of exploring the social, political and cultural issues concerning social justice, advocacy, poverty, marginalization and equality. Through movement I examine the relationship I have to these different institutions and present it to the audience through an experiential perspective. I dance to express the depth of emotions that are both complex and diverse within. I surrender myself to a vulnerable and visceral process while presenting it publicly to challenge preconceived notions. I aim to lay bare before the audience the complex relationship I have with myself and the world around me as someone who lives with both mental and physical disabilities.

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As a person who has survived a long, painful history of abuse and trauma, I feel being an artist is a radical and revolutionary act. Through my art I give voice to those living with mental illness, to psychiatric survivors and to sex workers. I feel people like us are relegated to living in the margins of society in silence enveloped by misconceived notions of wellness and illness. By creating and performing art I feel I am adding to the current dialogue on these topics and am further fighting the stigma while shedding light on the experiences of those of us living on the fringes.

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Often we are missing the experiential voices of those who are deemed marginalized, those who live with disabilities, and those who are not of the “norm”; this silence feeds into the continuing oppression and impression of those “less fortunate”. For me to present works of art that are raw and real, challenges the audience to see these issues in a different light and encourages them to overcome their own limitations, bias and misconceptions while entertaining them through an accessible and cathartic experience. My goal is to shift the paradigm from “marginalization” to acceptance and understanding that people like me are part of the fabric of humanity.

Maybe we are all just struggling to find a balance on the spectrum of mental wellness… As a performer, artist and activist, this intersects all the things I am passionate about and I hope this helps the dialogue and impression of mental illness in the general public by showing the brilliance and the heart-break of living a life less ordinary.

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