Article by Sherehe Hollins
TranscenDANCE Youth Arts Project took to the stage August 21st through the 23rd at the Lyceum Theatre to debut their newest production, “Because I’m Still Becoming”. The Multimedia dance performance, which featured 21 artists, ages 12 to 22, was the culmination of a summer long performance arts and community building program that engaged youth in dance training, creative writing, and personal storytelling. The goal of the annual production is to give audiences a glimpse into the challenges facing youth, while providing a platform for youth to be empowered by their own stories.
The honest, intimate, and poignant stories of young people, learning to heal, discover their resilience, and transcend life’s unexpected circumstances, served as the inspiration behind the choreography. Select pieces were choreographed by TranscenDANCE alumni, who since graduating from the program, have become teaching artists for the non profit organization that was co-founded in 2005 by Catherine Corral and Julius Capuchino. TranscenDANCE’s programs, which primarily serve National City and City Heights youth facing adversity, have produced over 200 shows for an audience of over 55,000.
“Because I’m Still Becoming” was a unique production in that it was a joint partnership between TranscenDANCE, So Say We All, PEN America, and emota. The result of this collaboration was an interactive presentation that weaved dance, digital storytelling, and spoken word throughout nine performance pieces. The dancers, many of whom were performing on stage for the first time, set aside their nerves to take the audience on an emotional journey into personal accounts of divorce, immigration, homelessness, violence and poverty. The youth’s performance was equally heartfelt and deeply moving as it was uplifting and electrifying.
Executive Director, Catherine Corral, has learned through 15 years of working with youth that presenting the youth’s work in public spaces is a vital part of TranscenDANCE’s programs because young people, “are in a phase of life where they are hungry to self actualize, understand themselves, and really push themselves mentally, physically and emotionally, in order to find out what gifts they have to offer the world.” Each piece performed was an affirmation of how the arts provided a safe and powerful space through which the youth could reflect, explore, question, and strive to define themselves as they rhythmically and poetically expressed their desire to persevere.