Bahai News - Baha'i dance troupe Dawning of a New Light performs in Decatur LOCAL

Teen understanding

Baha'i dance troupe Dawning of a New Light performs in Decatur


H&R Staff Writer

DECATUR, Ill. (August 3) -- A young girl struggles against four black-robed figures with covered faces.

She tries to break through them, reaching for her parents. The figures block her way. In turns, they pull her into a grotesque parody of a waltz. They knock her to the floor.

But at last she finds the strength to push them away, one by one.

The figures represent the lure of drugs and alcohol in a dance by Dawning of a New Light, a group of 12 Baha'i youth from several states who performed at the Decatur Public Library on Wednesday. The performance was sponsored by the Baha'i Community of Decatur.

The young people, ranging in age from 15 to 20, all took part in Baha'i dance workshops which meet all over the country and usually only perform locally. But Anna Jo "A.J." Jenkinscq, 15, said the participants in the Louisville, Ky. workshop, where she's from, wanted to go on the road.

"We sent out an e-mail and said anyone who can do it and is willing to give up two months of their summer is more than welcome," she said.

The group began rehearsing June 10 and hit the road June 17. They've done 57 performances in nine states.

It's exhausting, admitted Kelsey Searlescq, 17, of Palmer, Alaska, but well worth it.

"We want to do it for Baha'u'llah and to teach our religion, and to let people know these social issues can be solved if people just open up their eyes," said Kelsey. "It's a great bunch of people and it's so much fun to be out here."

Kelsey and A.J. created one of the dances, "Suicide," which portrays the difficult relationships a young man has with his too-busy parents, his girlfriend and friends. He finally takes his own life, and only then do his friends and family realize the signs were there all along.

After that dance, Kelso urged the many young people present to pay attention when their friends mention suicide.

"Tell somebody," she said urgently. "Whether or not you think it's a joke."

All the group's performance pieces deal with social issues, among them domestic violence, racism and equality of the sexes.

The teens travel with three chaperones and usually stay at the homes of local Baha'is, said Pej Clarkcq of Decatur.

"We're going to see if we can find them some floor space for tonight," she said. "Then tomorrow, they're off to Springfield to do a performance there."

About 50 people attended, many of them children and teens.

"I thought it was something different. I liked it a lot," said 15-year-old Stacia Dandridgecq of Decatur, who attended with her church youth group, Youth With A Positive Direction of Main Street Church of the Living God.

Valerie Wells can be reached via e-mail at or by phone at (217) 421-7982

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