A new dance-based, non-verbal film created in Victoria with help from the WITS Programs tackles bullying with a new approach. Contributed photo

Victoria-produced WITS online film takes new approach to bullying

Initiative encourages students to walk away, ignore, talk it out and seek help

A new film using the language of dance is now available online, in an effort to provide educators new approaches to bullying for school-aged children.

WITS In Motion, a non-verbal film, is part of an online education initiative to foster healthier relationships for kids through social emotional learning and conflict resolution. The project is a collaboration between WITS Programs – Walk Away, Ignore, Talk it out and Seek Help – the University of Victoria and Suddenly Media Productions.

David Ferguson, co-artistic director of Victoria-based Suddenly Dance Theatre, produced, co-directed and edited the 2015 film. It was released Oct. 15 and is now available for streaming to parents, educators and caregivers for $20. Its mantra: with no words, the film speaks to everyone.

Ferguson says the project was made possible in part by a grant from the City of Victoria in 2015, allowing the theatre to assemble a team of filmmakers together with six young performers. “I was surprised how instantly comfortable a lot of them were in front of the camera,” he says, adding the kids’ media-savvy skills made filming efficient and productive.

“I would have called it an anti-bullying film,” Ferguson explains. “But ‘anti’ is language that’s become out of fashion for some educators.”

He says most of the language around bullying can be talkative and preachy, but it’s important to remember that not all kids (or adults) learn that way. Additionally, using a physical language like dance enables the message to reach those with speech or hearing issues as well as immigrants learning new languages.

“It’s really a toolkit,” Ferguson says. “It offers a lot of questions and comes with a facilitators guide so people can have points of reference.”

Through fundraising initiatives online, the long-term goal is to see the project translated into other languages. While it’s currently available in just English and French, a Spanish version is in the works and will require translation of the guide, the acronym and the websites.

With the rise of cyberbullying, Ferguson says he’d also like to see a teenage version made to tackle the stresses related to conflict from their point of view.

“The film has a timelessness that allows it to be as far reaching as possible.”

kristyn.anthony@vicnews.com

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