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Monday, August 10, 2020

Kulshan Chorus responds to #MeToo with “Breaking Silence”

The Kulshan Chorus stands behind dancers from Kuntz & Company. // Photo by Ali Raetz


By Ali Raetz

Audience members watched with teary eyes as the Kulshan Chorus and professional dancers performed a concert intended to bring awareness to sexual assault and the #MeToo movement.

The concert, “Breaking Silence,” was held at Bellingham High School on Saturday, May 12.

The first half of the concert featured music describing one woman’s experience with sexual violence. Her story was woven together through song, narration and dance performed by three professional dancers.

The first song of the concert shed light on the stories of sexual violence that often go unsaid.

“We sing for all the souls that do not complain,” said a lyric from “How Can I Cry?” by Moira Smiley. “We sing for all the silent people.”

Audience member Harriet Markell said the concert was a masterpiece. She thought it powerfully conveyed the message of how important it is to come together and share stories.

Dancers from local professional dance company Kuntz and Company contorted their bodies to mimic being stricken and beaten in the first half of the concert. The choir echoed in song behind them.


Kristy Gill, the rehearsal pianist for the chorus, said she appreciated collaborating with the dancers.

“The dancers and choreography add one more layer of power to evoke emotion,” she said.

Before intermission, the 120-person choir sang “I can’t keep quiet, no, I won’t keep quiet,” in the song “Quiet” by MILCK.

This song marked a shift in the concert as the second half initiated a call to action for change, said Dustin Willetts, the artistic director and conductor of Kulshan Chorus.

Willetts said the latter half of the show intended to foster hope and dig deeper into the audience’s “joy centers.”

“Just by being here, we are changing the world,”

Jessica Heck.

Willetts said his goal with the concert was to make a difference in at least one person’s life. He said if he could do that, the extensive work and time that went into making the concert happen would all be worth it.

Willetts’ goal for the concert was for audiences to “use what [their] passion is to further the kind of world [they] want to see.”

The idea for this concert started out as a tiny seed two years ago and was influenced over time by what was going on in society, Willetts said. As the #MeToo movement started, the choir decided to go ahead with the project and Willetts said he incorporated a lot of suggestions from the women in the choir.

The community choir collaborated for the first time with two organizations in Bellingham that advocate for women’s rights and healthy relationships, the Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center and Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services. Twenty percent of the ticket proceeds from the two performances benefited the organizations.

The music not only represented the stories of #MeToo and sexual violence, but provided an alternate way to start important conversation regarding this subject, said Jessica Heck, development director for DVSAS.

“The community is ready to have this conversation,” she said. “Just by being here, we are changing the world.”


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