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Kids These Days

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August 26 & 27 @ 7pm

Lincoln Performing Arts School - Blackbox Theatre

Artistic Director

Amberly M. Simpson

Associate and Technical Director

Joseph R. Brandt

Ambo Dance Theatre proud to elevate the voices of our Junior Company and Apprentice dancers in Kids These Days, an evening-length collection of dance works reflecting the experiences of the youth of today. Too often the phrase “kids these days” is used to refer to 21st century youth in a derogatory manner, often alluding to how easy young people have it now in comparison to older generations. This show directly addresses the unique challenges of today’s youth, from their perspective, and devised collaboratively by the dancers, allowing them to tackle issues of body image, mental health, identity, social media, school culture, and so much more!

Funding for Kids These Days was graciously provided by the Kentucky Foundation for Women through their Art Meets Activism grant!

Program Duration:

1 hour, 15 minutes of choreography

15 minute talk back with the dancers

There will be no intermission during this production.

Kids These Days in the News:

‘Kids These Days’ dance work shows teens in their own perspectives

by Stephanie Wolf


Show Order


Music: “The Kids Are Coming” by Tones And I

Choreography: Amberly M. Simpson and the Dancers

Mental Health

Music: “April" by Kai Engel; "Straight Towards the Sun" by John Bartmann
Ensemble Choreography: Amberly M. Simpson in collaboration with the Dancers

Solo/Duet/Choreography: the Dancers

Soloist: Madalyn Durst

Duet: Mia Henry, Ava Lyons

Content Warnings: This section of the show contains portrayals of a variety of mental health experiences relating primarily to depressive and anxiety disorders.

External Identity: Presentation

Music: "Gentle Rain" by John Bartmann

Choreography and Soloists (in order of appearance): Helena Smith-Pohl, Eszti Krizsan, Aila Kolehmainen

Staging: Amberly M. Simpson

The School Experience: Social Dynamics

PART ONE: Shifting Social Spheres

Music: "5 115" by Michael Wall

Sound Effects: School Bell

Choreography: Amberly M. Simpson in collaboration with the Dancers

PART TWO: Bullying

Music: "Assignment 1", "Chi11", and "Gaia" by Drake Stafford

Choreography: Rylan Cole, Madalyn Durst, Carly Hay, Ellie Lindy, Ava Lyons

Soloist: Rylan Cole

Content Warning: This section of the show contains portrayals of a variety of experiences pertaining to bullying.

PART THREE: Social Media

Music: "Synthetic Epiphany - Anticipate" by Dank 'N' Dirty Dubz

Choreography: Alyssa Ernst, Lydia French, Mia Henry, Aila Kolehmainen, Eszti Krizsan, Helena Smith-Pohl

Soloist: Lydia French

Content Warning: The section of the show also contains portrayals of bullying as it relates to the digital social world. This is, however, not the sole commentary presented on youth's relationship with social media.

The School Experience: American School Culture

PART ONE: "Neither Distract, Nor Disrupt" (2021) - The Dress Code Dance

Music: “Rust Colony” by ROZKOL; "Relent" by Kevin MacLeod

Lecture Source Audio: Alan Watts

Voice-overs: Zachary Haley, Amberly M. Simpson, Joe Welsh

Content Warning: This section of the show contains statements and portrayals pertaining to the appearance of the female body, and how it is frequently handled under school dress code policies, as well as on a broader societal level.

Program Note: This dance was originally created on/by Ambo Dance Theatre's Apprentices in the summer of 2021 as part of their joint show with the Professional Company, Imprint. All of the outfits featured in this section were outfits in which the dancers were dress coded. All of the statements made by the dancers were statements they heard made by adults in the context of dress code disciplinary action. 

PART TWO: Over-Testing, Over-Sitting, Over-Pressured

Music: "Rosas danst rosas" by tweede beweging

Choreography: Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker

Staging: Amberly M. Simpson

Program Note: This dance was created as part of the Rosas Remix Project! To learn more about this initiative, click here!


Music: "Get in the Car" by Travis Lake

Voice-overs: Braden McCampbell

Sound Effect: Alarm

Choreography: Amberly M. Simpson

Content Warning: The section of the show contains portrayals of the training process for active shooter and intruder situations in schools. This dance is situated in the context of a drill, not an active threat situation, and represents the procedures associated with ALICE: alert, lockdown, inform, counter, evacuate.


Please note that this section begins with an alarm sound effect. There is no active threat present when you hear this sound effect. In the event of an actual emergency, all lights in the theatre will come on and an announcement will be made.

PART FOUR: The Assembly Line Complex

Music: "Eleven" by yMusic & Ryan Lott

Staging: Amberly M. Simpson

Internal Identity: The Things We Carry

PART ONE: LGBTQ+ Identity and Allyship

Music: "Salue" and "Headway" by Kai Engel

Voice-overs: Alyssa Ernst, Carly Hay, Helena Smith-Pohl, Scout Tarquinio

Choreography: The Dancers under the guidance of Amberly M. Simpson

Music: "Stereotypes" by Black Violin
; "It Was Another Time" by John Bartmann

Voice-overs: Rylan Cole, Ellie Lindy, Sofia Ritchie, Arie Washington

Choreography: Heather Moran in collaboration with the Dancers

PART THREE: Family Identity and Relationships

Music: "Great Expectations" by Kai Engel

Choreography and Soloist: Carly Hay

Staging: Amberly M. Simpson

Mental Health Reprise: Mutual Support

Music: "July" by Kai Engel; "HeavensDust2" by Michael Wall

Ensemble Choreography/Scoring: Amberly M. Simpson

Pas de Quatre Choreography: Madalyn Durst, Mia Henry, Eszti Krizsan, Ava Lyons

Thank you for sharing this experience with us!
Thank you for working to empower the rising generation!

The Cast

Kids These Days features performers from Ambo Dance Theatre's Junior Company and Apprentice pre-professional track companies. Dancers are listed in alphabetical order by last name.

Rylan Cole

Allesandra Day

Madalyn Durst

Alyssa Ernst

Lydia French

Carly Hay

Mia Henry

Gillian Jarett

Aila Kolehmainen

Eszti Krizsan

Ellie Lindy

Ava Lyons

Vivian Ortego

Izzy Parks

Sofia Ritchie

Helena Smith-Pohl

Scout Tarquinio

Arie Washington

The Creative Team

Artistic Director and Choreographer

Amberly M. Simpson


Featured Choreographers

Heather Moran


***all choreography is created and developed in collaboration with the dancers!***


Lighting Design

Lindsay Krupski


Sound Design

Joseph R. Brandt

Amberly M. Simpson

Sound Operator, Prop Design

Joseph R. Brandt


Special Thanks

The Kentucky Foundation for Women

Stephanie Wolf and WFPL

Lincoln Performing Arts School

Melissa Case

Amos Hopkins

Rachel Bucio Grote

Typh Hainer-Merwarth

Heather Moran

All our donors and sponsors who continue to help us make pre-professional dance training and performance opportunities available to our dancers!

A Note From the Artistic Director

It didn't strike me until we actually got into the theatre and started running the show in dress and tech just how ambitious of a production Kids These Days was.  I forget sometimes that our dancers are only teenagers; the work that they produce, the conversations that they hold, the maturity they bring to the table is so far beyond their years. If it wasn't, I don't know that I could have even conceived this idea in the first place, let alone given it any sort of legitimacy enough to move forward with it and bring it to the dancers.  Most dancers never have the opportunity to perform an evening-length work in their entire careers, let alone as youth performing artists. I will forever stand behind the phrase that young people can absolutely be full fledged artists, and these dancers are most certainly proof of that.

The exploration that would eventually become Kids These Days all began with the 'dress code dance' (whose actual title is "Neither Distract, Nor Disrupt", language that we took directly from my school's dress code policy) in the late spring of 2021. This wasn't initially a dance that we had on our docket, but it was interesting (and concerning) to me how the same conversations kept coming up around the dancers' bodies, almost all of which connected back to experiences they had with their school's dress code. More specifically, they connected to how people enforced the dress code. This dance alone, frankly, is gut-wrenching, but as the performance came and passed and these sorts of conversations continued to crop up over and over and over again, it was clear that things weren't over for this piece. Indeed, it was starting to feel like more and more of a microcosm of something larger as the discourse we had in passing during rehearsals and classes became more nuanced.

Really and truly, the idea to create Kids These Days came from our youth pre-professional dancers and I simply working together, as well as from my work with middle-school age dancers in JCPS. The privilege that both of these positions has offered is longitudinal observation; where most teachers primarily work with students for a single year, my students work with me for three. As such, I've watched over the years as bright-eyed 6th graders excited to learn started to focus their attention on their bodies, driven by an increasing barrage of comments from their teachers in enforcement of the dress code. I've watched as students had their worlds flipped upside down and inside out from bullying, both in person and digitally, neither world offering an escape. I've watched as students who once loved the joy and process of learning shift their focus increasingly toward their scores and performance on standardized tests. I've watched as students discover their identities and experience the cognitive dissonance of simultaneous liberation in themselves contrasted against a landscape of challenges: will their family, peers, and teachers accept them as they are, or will they need to continue to straddle the line between being in and out of the metaphorical closet?  And I've watched young people struggle with their mental health through all of these things and more, often putting their own well-being on the back burner in favor of upholding various obligations, while also carrying the weight of people all around them labeling them as lazy, entitled, superficial, disloyal to work spaces, and and so many other things. Those three years that I get with my students continuously gives me a unique inside glimpse into teenage coming of age where students learn how to carry all these mixed messages and pressures, and if one thing has been crystal clear, it is that modern teenhood is certainly not easy, nor better than it was "before". It just has different challenges, challenges that can often be easily dismissed or denied altogether because they don't always exist in the physical world, or aren't straightforward.

Several people have asked me what the call to action is for this show. Simply put, there isn't one. At the end of the day, I know that not everyone is going to agree on the legitimacy of the experiences presented in Kids These Days. I don't know that this show was, at its core, necessarily built for the audience to experience viewing, so much as it was built for our young people to have a place to share and feel a sense of legitimacy in their voice. A space for their truth to exist. They are, after all, the experts on their own experiences; my teenhood was only a decade ago, and even I must admit that I am now too removed to be able to claim any sort of authority or true personal understanding of the subject matter of this show. Alas, right before my eyes (and without my permission), the world changed, and, with it, so did my understanding of, and connection to, the coming of age experience. The viewing of this work, therefore, becomes the privilege and responsibility of us, the viewers. So, ultimately, while there is no call to action to be found here, what I do hope is that people walk away with an enriched sense of empathy. 

Yours truly, 

Amberly M. Simpson

Artistic Director

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