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Dance performance gives a voice to Bellingham youth



Describing the psychological trials of youth can only go so far on paper.  

“Airings… Voices of Our Youth,”  tries to break down this barrier, displaying the highs and lows of growing up through dance, to give a voice to young people who are often voiceless.

Senior Evyn Bartlett, a dance major, performed in the project, shown at Western’s Performing Arts Center Wednesday, Jan. 25.

“You’re able to see someone else embrace this same story physically on the stage, so it’s easier than reading about it in a book,” Bartlett said. “You can see the physical and the mental changes that happen inside the dance.”

“Airings… Voices of Our Youth” was inspired by stories choreographer Pam Kuntz gathered from teenagers throughout Bellingham. Kuntz cultivated the feelings of the teens and turned them into a performance that has traveled to public schools all over Whatcom County to tackle issues like bullying, sexuality and peer pressure.

“It’s hard to take time to listen to what people are saying; it’s especially hard to take time and listen to what kids are saying”

Pam Kuntz, choreographer


When “Airings… Voices of Our Youth” was performed for school-age children, the aim of the production was to provide a voice for people in the audience. When the show came to Western, the performance’s purpose was slightly different, Kuntz said.

“We wanted to share the work with Western students, especially those [who] work with youth or are planning to work with youth,” Kuntz said. “We thought students learning about their future encounters would be helpful.”

Since the event was sponsored in part by the Woodring College of Education, the audience was filled with educators and future educators.

There were still some young people in the audience who were hailed as pre-college students before the performance. The teens were reminded the night was all about their own experiences.

“It’s hard to take time to listen to what people are saying; it’s especially hard to take time and listen to what kids are saying,” Kuntz said. “I’m not certain they have the platforms that others do, and this piece is giving a voice to teenagers.”

After the performance, audience members were given a chance to share their voice through an art piece designed by Seiko Purdue, an artist who collects wishes. Purdue crafted leaves of paper, which she passed out to audience members to write their aspirations on. When they were done, the paper was tied onto pieces of twine hanging from the ceiling to resemble the branches of a tree.

“I wanted to make a connection with the theme of the performance,” Purdue said. “Pam has been working with the theme of bullying and growth for youth and the form of the leaf represents growth.”  

Purdue’s art installation was a one-time project to go along with the performance at Western. After the performance on Wednesday, “Airings… Voices of Our Youth” will have two more performances in Ferndale schools.



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