Dance As Activism
The Swan Within teaches ballet to girls in juvenile facilities.

They say that not all heroes wear capes. It's true: Some, like Meredith Harper Houston, wear leg warmers.

A few years back, Houston, who is black, began thinking about how none of the students at her Los Angeles dance studio looked like her. Her desire to use dance to serve her community eventually led her to found The Swan Within, an outreach organization that teaches ballet to girls in juvenile detention centers, many of whom have been sex trafficked.

"I've been a dancer my whole life," says Houston. "I started at the age of 5; ironically the same age that I was sexually abused. I used dance as my vehicle out of the house." Today, Houston wants to give girls the same opportunity to escape their past, and use dance as a springboard to their future.

We talked to Houston about what it's like to teach students who've experienced trauma, and how ballet is transforming her students' lives:

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