The recognition of the need for women’s equality is one of the driving messages in IONA’s work. Artistic Director Cheryl Flaharty considers her first performance (at the age of 10), to have been carrying the cross up her church aisle after convincing the clergy to allow girls to be acolytes. IONA’s work over 30 years has featured a plethora of powerful female role models and the Company continues to work with women in transition including many who have suffered from domestic violence.
In 1993 IONA brought several angels from ‘The Mythology of Angels’ to the Hawaii Women’s Community Correctional Facility. As the dancers, dressed as angels entered the room, delivering inspirational messages on parchment, the impact of the performance was clear and the women were moved to tears and embraced one another. The following year the entire prison attended the performance and Flaharty became known as the “Angel Lady”. It was through this partnership that Flaharty became aware that 80% of incarcerated women are victims of domestic violence. IONA launched several domestic violence programs incorporating classes in meditation and movement for women, as well as new work surrounding the subject. ‘With these Hands’ (1997) is a compelling work that incorporates in its soundtrack, the voices of domestic violence victims and healers.
IONA’s ‘La Madonna’ (2004) seeks to place women in positions of spiritual power, using Christianity’s Mary as the launching pad for ten contemporary Madonnas. Just like the Happy Buddha, Flaharty spins her spiritual work on its side using humor to light the dark. Surrounded by a mandala of cut fruit and inspired by feminist theory, Madonna of the Sacred Fruit’s chalice is a goblet of chocolate and the blade a butcher knife. Blueberries ride on the tip of her knife as she feeds her chocolate dipped wisdom to the audience - both male and female. Who says chocolate isn’t a unifying force?