Moving Through Trauma With Mercy

 Image courtesy of  D. Campbell Photography.

Image courtesy of D. Campbell Photography.

Watching Mercy move is a visceral, gut-wrenching experience. When you see her perform, it feels uncomfortable and all-at-once invigorating, kind of like the thrill you’d get from stealing and reading your big sister’s diary. That’s because Mercy, in many ways, uses movement to move her experiences out of her body, releasing them back into the world transformed. It’s like a moving memory.

Mercy Baez began dancing at the age of seven, her debut performance a dance to say goodbye at her grandmother’s funeral. From that moment, she says, “I felt the spirit of freestyle and spreading love and speaking a language through motion art instead of speaking.” Her performance soon led her to become a dance leader at my church's dance ministry. Despite her talent and passion, she stopped dancing from ages sixteen to eighteen, leaving her feeling empty. At eighteen, she gave birth to her daughter. Wanting to reclaim her art, she was able to get back to dancing slowly by taking all style classes at Alvin Ailey.

In 2015, Mercy was introduced to freestyle dancing through Flexn'. Originating in Brooklyn, Flexn’ animated gang violence through motion art, reframing it as something positive. “I was able to explore myself and understand what my dance style would result to by exploring different freeform dance styles, still taking some dancehall and lyrical contemporary classes from time to time.” At those classes, Mercy also became involved with her dance trainer, a relationship that culminated with a three-hour physical altercation. Mercy suffered a concussion as a result of their fight, breaking them up for good and sparking her advocacy for victims of domestic violence.

Out of that relationship, Mercy sought to create a “rebirth” for herself, hoping to remove all of the emotional and spiritual toxins from her ex-partner and their situation. Unable to speak about what had happened, she found peace and self-expression through performing. “I couldn't speak out with words until mid-2016 about what had happened to me,” she remembers, “and I was able to continue only because countless women would come up to me after speaking and performing. They were thanking me for being the voice for them because they didn't know how to get out of a domestic violence situation. The more ‘thank you’s’ I heard, the more I felt a need to never stop being the voice for the voiceless.”

Mercy continues to perform and host events, sharing with her art the lessons that she has internalized through her painful and transformative experience. “I started to realize that us women are all reflections of one another. I started to feel and know that there was more hate than love in the world. I wanted to understand why women went through domestic violence and I wanted to know their stories. I wanted to understand why the younger generations didn't believe in relationships nowadays and what caused their mindsets to be be like this.

I hope to continue to show women that they aren't alone. I can't help but to create projects to show healing through artistry and the power behind any art. Through my freestyle dancing, I'm able to dance through feelings, vibrations, energies, and play with the music. I get to feel everyone's situations and in that moment, I am you, as you are me. In that moment I get to show you that you are not alone and ask to carry your baggage for a moment. I show that there is hope and love to be shown. Through all my artistry of spoken word, curation of woman empowerment events, performing, teaching I hope to be remembered as a woman's advocate for domestic, and someone who can create beyond measure.”