Azariah, 13, Men in Motion
Getting to Zero, a new dance, is part of an exciting partnership, funded by the Elton John AIDS Foundation and conceived by the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, to educate Atlanta’s youth about the rise in HIV/AIDS diagnoses in young people, aged 13-24. Moving in the Spirit and project partner VOX Teen Communications have used the funding to develop innovative teen programming that will be presented on December 5th.
Did you know about HIV/AIDS among teens and young adults before you started working on Getting to Zero?
I did, actually, I knew a lot about it because I had friends at my school with HIV. As I’ve learned more about HIV, it made everything really deep because you think about ‘Wow, it’s my next door neighbor, it’s my cousin, it’s the person who mows my lawn, and it’s more common than you think. It’s not like we don’t have to deal with that; it’s everywhere.
Was it difficult for you to talk about HIV/AIDS? How did the rest of the group respond, in your opinion?
I think that this is the most mature group I’ve ever been in or with in my life. There were no snickers when we had this conversation, there was no reluctance, and even if somebody did seem uncomfortable, they would let us know, like “I don’t know if I feel comfortable with this, can we move away from this topic and kind of talk about something else?” But there wasn’t too much of that happening; we were open to conversations.
How do you think we should talk to your peers about this issue? What do you think is the most engaging way to talk to young people your age about this issue?
I think the way we’re doing it now, with music and dance. That’s pretty much what kids and young adults are doing, dancing and singing. They’re watching, they’re listening. In the conversations we had about HIV and AIDS, some of the people didn’t really want to listen to it, they didn’t want to hear it, they want to see it, they want to understand it. They want to see the visual, the expressions on our faces, the movements of our bodies and what that means and how that’s expressing the feelings between us and them. Dance is one thing, but once you add the music, you have completed the picture and put it inside of the picture frame.
What surprised you about the choreographic process?
What surprised me was that even with some of the biggest mistakes we just kept trusting each other. We have this one thing, called the Caterpillar, where Julia is walking on our shoulders as we’re standing up and there were little times where we got a little wobbly and she could have fallen over, but we always had to catch her, we always had to have her trust in us and the rest of the dancers had to have trust in each other.
What was it like working with Leah Mann?
She is just like this ball of energy, that like, once you walk into the area of her energy, it’s like oh, it’s Leah, and there’s a smile on my face. I can’t be mad around her because she’s just always so funny and uplifting. When she sees you’re sad, she’s going to find the slightest things that you get angry or upset about and she takes that, she crumples it up, throws it in the trash, and gives you a big, big, big ball of energy. How she does it, I don’t know, but she is just one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met and it’s always great to be working with her. I would love to do another project with her.
What is one thing that you took away from working with Leah?
One thing I took away from working with Leah is that the more you work and the harder you work, the better you feel.
Why do you think this performance is important?
The whole goal of Getting to Zero, in my opinion, is to spread the world about HIV/AIDs, to inform people in our age group from 13-24. We’ve almost filled the age group gap ourselves and once we inform the people we’re working with, their group’s circles can inform more until everyone is aware. But you have to start with one person, one little group because the smallest things can make the biggest differences.