Checking In With: Break the Cycle

It’s Testing Phase, and we’ve been making the rounds to participate in our Youth Challenge cohort’s events throughout Chattanooga. We’ve talked about these solutions for 6 weeks. Now we get the chance to see them in action.

“Come on, move the legs, move the legs!”

“Your whole left side is movinnng and explorrrring the space…let your left side just float.”

Ann Law, Program Director of Barking Legs Theater, leads kids from Olivet Baptist Church, ages 13–18, through a series of stretches to get their brains and bodies in sync. Amidst lots of laughter, students move arms and legs, reaching as far as possible to the left and right.

Barking Legs Theater is well suited to Break the Cycle’s movement-based approach to emotional safety and positive relationships, as lots of space is necessary for the students to translate relational dynamics into expressive movements.

During a communication skills activity, everyone is handed a long wooden stick. Ann chooses a student to join her in the middle of the circle; she holds her stick with both hands and hits it forcefully against the student’s stick as the student reacts by taking a couple steps back.

Ann continues to hit the student’s stick forcefully: “Tell me what I’m being,” she prompts.

“Aggressive!” a couple of students reply.

“What is she being?” Ann asks, referring to the student.


Now it is everyone’s turn to choose a partner, with one enacting aggression and the other passiveness in a kind of dance. Ann then tells them to interact in a dynamic of their choosing.

Performance plays an important role in solidifying concepts and giving the group ownership over the topic. Each pair gets the chance to act out their chosen dynamic for the group on stage. Ann asks the audience to guess what kind of interaction their peers are demonstrating. Are they watching a healthy give and take between the two students? An unhealthy one? Is there a balanced back-and-forth taking place?

“What is a relationship?” Ann concludes, “Balance! Nobody wants someone pushing them around.”

Their performances complete, they finish up by eating dinner together and discussing the keys to balanced relationships.

Read here for an interview with Break the Cycle team member Olivia Anderson about her takeaways from their first event in February.

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