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Youth to youth Baha'i group delivers positive messages through movement

By S. Jane Szabo
Anchorage Daily News

(Published: February 23, 2002)

Ayyam-i-Ha is a time of gift-giving in the Baha'i faith, and members of the Baha'i Youth Workshop are giving the gift of a positive message through dance.

This group teaches about racism, drugs, equality and peace through dance performances at local schools, the Alaska State Fair and other community events.

On Feb. 13, the group performed "Addiction" at Atheneum School. The dance portrays a girl struggling with peer pressure and the generation gap. Her parents wrongly accuse her of using drugs, but then she does so anyway because of their lack of understanding.

Dressed in black costumes and white masks, four dancers labeled "pot," "speed," "alcohol" and "cocaine" mimic each drug's effect. They try to grab the girl and block her parents when they try to help. Eventually, the girl realizes her mistake and pushes away the drugs.

The Baha'i Youth Workshop has performed a version of this dance at the Clitheroe alcohol treatment center and at graduation ceremonies for the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program for older elementary students and teens.

Workshop members perform for free and are especially ready to perform in coming days because of the Baha'i principles concerning Ayyam-i-Ha, the Intercalary Days. Baha'u'llah, founder of the faith, enjoined his followers to devote these days to feasting, rejoicing and charity before beginning a month of fasting.

The Baha'i calendar contains 19 months of 19 days each, leaving four extra days in the 365-day year (five days in leap years). These are the Intercalary Days: Feb. 26-March 1. March 2 is the start of the fasting month Ala ("Loftiness"), leading to the Baha'i New Year (Naw-Ruz) on March 21.

The Baha'i Youth Workshop began several years ago and has a current membership of about 15 people ranging in age from 10 to 18, said Nico Torres, who volunteers as workshop coordinator and also works as network administrator for the Baha'i National Office. Baha'is came from Seattle and Los Angeles to teach the dances, which are similar throughout the national program. There are about 150 Baha'i youth workshops in North America, Torres said, plus workshops in Europe and Latin America. Alaska also has a workshop in Fairbanks, and one in Juneau is in the process of regrouping.

The local group's repertoire includes the Unity Step Dance (which originated in Africa and involves using parts of the body to make sounds), the Racism Dance, the Equality Dance (about the equal rights of men and women), the Prisoners' Step Dance and "Bus Stop." Others being learned are the Poverty Dance and the Cultural Diversity Dance.

The dances are practiced during Sunday meetings that also include prayer, discussion and study. Participants share prayers aloud -- either Baha'i prayers or prayers from other religions. They memorize sayings and study the "Ruhi Book" series, which includes quotes from Baha'u'llah and other Baha'i writings.

Reporter S. Jane Szabo can be reached at com.

Baha'i Youth Workshop meets 1-7 p.m. Sundays at the Anchorage Baha'i Center, 1207 E. 74th Ave. (at Briarwood Street). Teens and preteens welcome. The workshop is free, but participants are asked to contribute $1 toward the meal (usually pizza or sandwiches). More information is available at 345-3740 or on the Internet at and

©Copyright 2002, The Anchorage Daily News

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