More Than A Hashtag: Bindis And Bruises

    More stories from Robin Bridges

    ‘I was unaware’
    October 8, 2019

    Robin Bridges

    The dancers rehearse for opening night.

    For six nights an 11 member ensemble cast will use their bodies to express things that make people uncomfortable, in the most powerful way.


    “Bindis and Bruises” is not a happy, feel-good musical. And that’s ok. The show is designed to bring awareness to the issues of violence towards women through dance and movement.


    Inspired by the 2012 rape and murder of a medical student on a bus in Delhi, the choreography takes a spin around everyday experiences from the lives of those touched by intimate partner violence. With glimpses of the varying types of abuse from physical to sexual to emotional, “Bindis and Bruises” is more relatable than the title suggests.


    ”There is no male bashing allowed,” said director and ensemble founder Ellyzabeth Adler.


    Critics would expect the common portrayal of men as abusers in a show about domestic violence.


    Adler explained why saying, “The gay and lesbian stories in this as well as the men’s voice… will be projected because we thought it was important to not be the men in the show but to have their voice be heard in a positive sort of way.” It was a very deliberate and conscious choice on the part of the whole cast and crew.


    From the movements to the style of dance and the use of colors. “Bindis and Bruises” pulls from its Indian storytelling roots. They use Red for weddings and celebration and white to symbolize death and mourning.


    Choreographer and dancer Priya Narayan said, “I’m an indian classical dancer. I can’t do ballet, I can’t dance hip hop.”


    The title of the show also holds special meaning for her.


    “The bindi is a mark of strength or Shakti,” Narayan explained. “Shakti is a direct correlation to the hindu goddess Durga, her name means strength. So for me, trying to tie in that relationship with the goddess. As a female having this strength image there available for us.That’s where that correlation is.”


    On March 4th in an upstairs auditorium “Bindis and Bruises” will open to a crowd of over 100 people.The stories in the multidisciplinary dance performance are an amalgamation of stories so common that everyone will identify with them.


    “Over the years having conversations—whether it’s family or friends or media—a lot of these stories are a combination of something from this person, something from that person,” Narayan said. “It’s something that we’re constantly seeing. We constantly see our sisters hurting and that’s where these stories come from. Honestly, it’s a mix of what’s happened to all these people. It’s taking it and putting it in the context of this project.


    “Women in this audience are going to relate. If it didn’t happen to them it happened to someone that they know,” she continued. “Because the 11 of us sitting here it happened to one of us and it happened to someone else in some way shape or form, in one or two aspects of these stories.”


    “I’ve really appreciated being a part of this community of really intelligent women” said dancer Sara Maslanka.  “Its pretty unique in a theatre world to work with all women…Not that that’s the only thing [Bindis and Bruises] means to me but it definitely adds another element. I really enjoy being a part of an all female creative community.”


    It is appropriate that March is not only women’s history month, but also sexual assault awareness month. Maslanka hopes that the show will raise awareness about an issue that she is passionate about.


    ”I think we live in a culture that is very ignorant and content with being ignorant. Especially in the age of social media,” Malanka said. “It’s almost like we’re conducting our lives based on a hashtag. We almost forget that it’s not just a fucking hashtag.This event happened to someone and somebody’s life has been changed because of it.”
    The show runs on weekends in March beginning March 4th at 8pm. In the upstairs auditorium of the Ebenezer Lutheran Church, 1650 West Foster on Chicago’s north side. Tickets are $10 for college students and seniors, free for high and middle school students. They can be purchased at the door or online at under “Bindis and Bruises.” Tickets bought for shows performed on March 18 and 19 will benefit a local organization providing support to women.