Never Again

On April 23, Youth Rising performed their gun violence edition at City High School.

There is no curtain in sight, nothing to hide the dancers from your sights. You observe them on the sides of the gray tinted stage interacting and laughing, but next thing you know they are about to begin. They rise from their stools, and take their places. The lights dim and the music starts.

Youth Rising is a performance consisting of poetry, performed by a combination of spoken word performers, actors, and dancers about important issues that are happening, today. The performance was brought to life in response of the 45th president, Donald Trump, got elected into office. Leslie Nolte, the artistic director of Nolte Academy of Dance, and Akwi Nji, the founder and director of The Hook, which is a non-profit organization in Cedar Rapids that shares stories and poet on a stage to an audience, decided to collaborate on a project that they were both very passionate about, which eventually became Youth Rising.

“We wanted to give the writers and dancers an opportunity to work through some of those [feeling and thoughts about the 2017 election] through art,” Nolte said. “So we put the call out for writing submissions. We didn’t give anyone any context about happy, sad, right, or wrong. Left leaning, right leaning, we just said, write something about how you felt after the election and presented to us. And that’s sort of how [Youth Rising] was born.”

Youth Rising performed a gun violence edition, starting with 13 of the 16 dancers scattered across the stage. When the music began and the orange colored lighting started to show the audience the dancers, Isabelle Bach ’21 began to move around on the ground. Bach moved into another position which matched Emma Bach ’22, and then they started to dance together. This continued until every dancer on the stage was doing the same movements. This dance takes the audience into the first poem, which is about what the the poet remembers when the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School happened.

The next dance begins with all 16 performers making nervous movements with their arms and hands while walking around the stage randomly, and running at different times. They eventually move into a straight line across the back and continue to dance.

Getting close to the end of the show, the dancers perform a piece that inspires hope in the audience. The message is that things are going to get better. All 16 dancers perform this dance sitting on stools. This dance continues into a duet danced by Lauren Dreusicke ’19 and Ellie Brown ’19, and concludes with Dreusicke and Brown walking across the stage holding hands and looking up at the sky.

The final piece begins with Kristin Asa ’19 and Brown dancing in the middle of the stage. More people start to come on stage and add on to their movements. Eventually, the spoken word actors spread out across the stage, and begin to yell the names of the shootings that have happened. Then, as the final words “Never again,” are shouted randomly by the spoken word actors, the music stops and the people standing on the City High School stage disappear from the audience’s view, ultimately ending the show.

“The goal is to just give artists, young artists a chance to put their art together with politics, which I find to be very important, because everyone, I believe should be involved in the political realm and the political world and therefore understand that every vote matters.” Nolte said. “For instance, really making sure that the people’s choices and the youth’s choices are being represented in our government.”

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