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Using movement, dance, and storytelling to counter stigma and discrimination

July 30, 2018

By Allen M. Quinn

Education master’s student Edmond Kilpatrick set out to reimagine his thesis in a new and imaginative way, using movement, dance and storytelling to present a topic often associated with stigma and discrimination.

After over two decades as a dancer, Kilpatrick was inspired to present part of his thesis using his experiences in video form. This resulted in two videos telling the story of Shelly, a woman living with HIV, and her struggles with the stigma attached to her diagnosis in her everyday life.

Kilpatrick’s research focuses on how art can disrupt embodied prejudice by inspiring new felt, emotion responses on the body, including discriminatory behaviours often going unrecognized by the person behaving in that manner. “I have people in my life who have been touched by discrimination due to their HIV status, and I wanted to see if I could use my experience and skill with telling stories through movement to introduce a more positive narrative,” said Kilpatrick.

Dancer: Shelly Tognazzini (Photo: Sophia Wolfe)

In The Betrayal was to the Bone, we meet Shelly, who shares her betrayal upon contracting HIV from her partner and the potential for criminal charges. She provides a sensitive and inspiring argument for how the criminalization of non-disclosure of one’s HIV status is unnecessarily harmful and protects no-one.

In The Heart is a Reversible Organ, we see how Shelly’s diagnosis has affected her life, including her personal relationships with friends and family, including the discrimination, rejection and pain experienced. However, we also see her empowerment over the stigma and the embracement of those who stayed by her side.

Kilpatrick’s thesis and videos have received international attention, with the videos premiering at the 22nd International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam earlier this month, and with potential exhibitions at various film festivals over the coming months.

The videos and background highlighting the process can be found at