Housatonic, MA — Five teen students from the Young Choreographers Initiative (YCI) at Berkshire Pulse have been invited by the Creative Youth Development National Partnership to present an original dance piece on sexual assault at the National Young Artists Summit in Austin, Texas on Saturday, Nov. 2.

The full-day Summit is an annual event entirely designed and led by young people. It provides an opportunity for artists age 13 - 20 in a range of artistic disciplines from across the county to connect, create, and celebrate together. This year’s Summit centers on arts entrepreneurship, art making, creative expression, arts activism, and leadership development.

“It is an honor for these young women to be selected to share their work at this event and to have the opportunity to connect with and experience so many other young artists and activists from across our nation,” says Bettina Montano, Berkshire Pulse Artistic Director.

Pulse’s YCI is an empowering project for high school age dancers that builds confidence, inspires collaboration, encourages creativity, and fosters free expression. The YCI launched in summer 2016 with workshops led by teaching artists Susan Quinn and Ian Spencer Bell, and it has since expanded into a year-round program at Pulse. The YCI is supported in part by a grant from the YouthReach program of the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

Last fall, YCI Director Susan Quinn worked with students to explore the connection between movement and social activism. By combining movement and activism, YCI gives young people a forum to express their viewpoints through the art of movement. “These students all had things they urgently wanted to express,” says Quinn. “They just needed a way to voice them and be heard.”

Together, the young artists chose sexual assault as the issue on which they wanted to focus. “The students researched the topic and shared their findings,” Quinn explains. “This naturally led to discussion and journaling about what consent is, how survivors are often blamed or not believed, and brainstorming how to prevent sexual assault. The movement invention and structure of the piece was generated from the discussions, their feelings, and their writing.”

The choreographers (Cecilia Kittross, Paige Lussier, Rubielle Nejaime, Pearl Wright, and Stella Wright) will travel to Austin to attend the Summit, along with chaperones Quinn and Diane Pearlman, Chair of the Pulse Board of Directors. To raise the funds needed for travel expenses, an open rehearsal performance and reception will take place on Saturday, Oct. 19 at 3:00 p.m. at Berkshire Pulse’s studios (420 Park Street in Housatonic). If you would like to attend, please RSVP to berkshire.pulse@gmail.com.

(press release sent to WSBS from Berkshire Pulse for online and on-air use, featured image taken from Berkshire Pulse's Facebook page)