For UW-Green Bay senior Lindsay Kujawa, moving minds and hearts starts with moving feet.
Kujawa, 23, is the brains and more important, the passion, behind Wausau-based Introspect Dance Company, a troupe of teens and young adults that delivers performance art with a social message.
Undaunted — indeed, perhaps motivated — by their youth, Introspect’s artists tackle such weighty topics as suicide and sexual assault through acting and dance. With careful research, study and rehearsal, they present an artistic, yet accurate, take on the issues.
Kujawa founded Introspect in 2009, and in 2011 began the process of making it a standalone nonprofit organization. The daughter of UW-Green Bay Police Chief Tom Kujawa, she was taught early to serve — so Introspect does community service and donates to local charities, too.
“We’re all about making kids socially aware of what’s happening,” Kujawa said, “but we’re also artists who give back to the community to make a positive change.”
Kujawa, who is the Dance Captain for UW-Green Bay Theatre and Music’s April production of Cabaret, came up with the idea for Introspect after she had a bad audition. The Theatre Performance and Education major wanted to show that young people can make a difference, she said. In a company where the vast majority of performers and support staff are younger than 25, Kujawa has been given that chance.
“I’m just really passionate about educating people and getting rid of stereotypes,” Kujawa said, “because a lot of the issues that kids deal with, I think have such a negative connotation of, they just are depressed and they don’t want to deal with it and they’re just negative — and that’s not the case. There’s legitimate reasons why kids go through these issues.”
Kujawa and her fiancé, Nate Barr, are co-artistic directors for Introspect, and much of their work is done during the summer, in studio, as the company prepares for its shows. During the rest of the year, Facebook and other virtual tools help the pair stay connected to the group, kicking around ideas and planning for the next show.
The pair plan to move to Seattle in August, after their wedding, but they’ll stay involved with the group, Kujawa said. Part of Introspect’s mission is to prepare younger members for leadership roles, and that succession — a mentorship program is teaching kids to write their own shows — will help the company continue to move forward.
Introspect shows feature a 20-piece band and around 15 dancers, ranging in age from young teens (entering eighth grade) through college-age. The company’s next show, #ThrowAwayYourTelevision, will focus on media and the warped perceptions of reality they can create. It’s slated for July 18-20 at the UW-Marathon County Center for Civic Engagement in Wausau.
“It’s really amazing the amount of commitment we get from the kids,” Kujawa said, “and their parents — to trust Nate and I with their kids like all summer. It’s a really neat experience to see just all young people working together.”
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