Hut HaMeshulash 2018

Soar Above – A New Therapeutic Dance Program


Report on the use of support made possible
through the PPO Foundation (Feb 2019)

“If you hit a wall, climb over it, crawl under it, or dance on top of it.” Unknown

Based in Jerusalem but serving national needs, Israel NGO Hut HaMeshulash provides practical, emotional, vocational, and residential assistance for high-risk teens and young adults (14-25) including high-school dropouts; the homeless; those addicted to drugs and alcohol; youth who may have turned to crime and prostitution to support themselves; abuse victims; and others. What began in 1999 as a modest grassroots effort to provide basic needs, led to establishment of a multi-venue organization with the infrastructure to offer lifeline assistance to more than 850 people annually, positively altering the downward trajectory of their lives. In 2018, longtime funder, the PPO Foundation helped make another Hut HaMeshulash’s dream come true – the full launch of a new therapeutic dance program:   Soar Above.  Below is a report on the use of the grant.

The Project
In a new collaboration with the Kolban Dance Troupe, housed at Jerusalem’s Gerard Behar Cultural enter, Hut HaMeshulash, with a lead gift from the PPO Foundation, created and piloted a therapeutic dance and mo
vement program for girls and young women, ages 16-25. The goal was to provide an opportunity for participants, many of them survivors of physical and sexual trauma, to experience dance as a way to express hard to reach emotions, encounter their undamaged, more curious sides, and, in doing so, enter a healing process. Beyond the portions of the class which focused on dance and movement, every lesson concluded with a sharing circle which furthered the process of breaking through deep-seated physical and emotional barriers. Throughout the year there were 17 participants; six consistently participated for the entire project, which took place weekly for eight months. Some dropped out, each for her own reasons. Two Hut HaMeshulash staff and the Kolben Dance Troupe instructor were present at each class.

We were initially challenged to work with the dance instructor who was somewhat reluctant, fearing she lacked the tools to work with our population. With considerable coaching by one of our social workers, she was able to move beyond her obstacles and, in doing, so underwent a parallel evolution to that of our participants.  In the words of one girl, “this [the class], above all else, gives me hope for a better life.” So successful was the program that one young woman, who will soon turn 25 and now lives in Beer Sheva, where she is studying social work, has continued to make the weekly trip back to Jerusalem to participate. We are in the process of helping her find the right dance program in her new community.


Select Participant Profiles
M, age 22, has no family base, was previously homeless and took part in street life, with all that it implies. As part of her personal process toward wellness, M, known to us for the past four years, found unique refuge and safety in the dance studio and within the community that has evolved over the past year. In her words, the dance class "gives me a reason to live.” Now entering her second year in the project, she not only enjoys the classes but has found a healthy way to address her preoccupation with issues of body image.   
While M’s path to the class took many years, K was ready to join without hesitation. Age 18, K from an ultra-Orthodox family, lives in her parent's home but no longer feels a sense of belonging to the  Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox) community. As part of her search for identity, she sought out our Open Space Drop-in Center where she leaned about the dance program and signed up the same day. A naturally talented young woman, K has found in dance a response to many of the profound questions she faces.  She integrated into the group in a pleasant and fast way.
As these descriptions reveal, dance classes allow participants to undergo an intertwined individual and group process. At the personal level, the participant learned how to commit to an ongoing activity, establish a new relationship to her body, and respect the discipline that dance requires. At the group level, the program provided a sense of sisterhood within which body movement brought about healing and joy.

In the words of Hut HaMeshulash Co-Founder and Open Space Director, “The first-year pilot was a resounding success…the project provided a much needed opportunity for meaningful self-expression through a process which took into consideration the challenges faced by the girl and/or young woman struggling with issues of identity and personal safety. Many, having had engaged in high-risk behavior, find the dance community a place for self-expression and safe body movement.  The PPO grant enable us to pilot a new initiative which is now fully integrated into Hut HaMeshulash’s continuum of outreach programming.” The second year of the project launched in November 2018. To date, ten lessons have taken place; 16 girls and young women have attended classes, with a constant core of 5-7 people participating each time. 

Thank you, PPO, for believing in the power of this project!