Taqiy Abdullah-Simmons
Selfie I sent to my wife in Cirque du Soleil.

As I send my wife a selfie to show her how poorly I’ve applied my makeup-up for my second day of shows at La Nouba, I am telling myself, “Wow, you are finally here! You have accomplished one of your life’s goals … to perform for Cirque Du Soleil! Check that off the list.” Little did I know that three hours later I would be experiencing the most painful and scary moment of my life. I was lost. “What? I am lost in the air? No! Taqiy doesn’t get lost in the air. I always know where I am.” But this time I was actually lost. And as scared as I felt in the air, nothing could compare to the feeling I had when I felt the impact. I felt it, I knew it, and the anger set in immediately. I just knew, but I didn’t want to believe how serious this injury could be. Strapped down to a backboard, with my neck in a collar, I was repeatedly telling myself, “You’re good. You’re good.” However, everyone’s faces around me were saying something different. I kept telling myself there was no way I could have done what, in the very back of my mind, I knew. The second my face hit the trampoline, I knew that this was the worst thing I had ever experienced. When the doctor came into my room, I was still beaming with false confidence. He started talking, but I was only hearing the words that I wanted to hear; however, in the back of my mind I knew the outcome was much worse. As he read the results of my scans, I was like, “Wow, he hasn’t said it yet.” But then the words came out … “So, yeah, you broke your neck.” Then it hit me, it was the ultimate feeling of failure I felt for myself. I let myself down. I wasn’t good enough to save myself. I had done something so bad that I may not be able to come back from it. After a solid moment of tears, the calm eyes of my wife gave me a sense of peace, and I was on my way back from my life’s bottom.

Surgery was a smashing success, and I was up and walking around the next day. But what now? The doctor told me that if I wanted to return to performing, it might be possible with about a year or so of rehabilitation. He explained that the rehabilitation process would be long and very tedious. I had just experienced a trauma greater than anything I had ever experienced in my entire life. I was able to see in everyone’s eyes a look of thankfulness; thankful that I am well, and thankful that I was not paralyzed. I was also able to see a look of happiness and relief; but, with that, I also saw so much sorrow. The sorrow is what hurts the most. It isn’t their fault, but the sorrow is what reminded me of how bad it really was and how things could be moving forward. And the sorrow is what made it so hard to move forward. But move forward, I must! But how? My brother (Midknight Robin), who also suffered from a career-ending injury, always spoke of redefining yourself while transferring that mindset into something else. Essentially I could no longer look at myself as an acrobat, the very thing that had defined me as a person ever since I was six years old.

After a couple of weeks spending all my time playing video games, I realized that I needed to put all my energy into something that I felt equally passionate about. But what was that? I wasn’t willing to accept that for the next year or so I would not be the person I had planned on being. I quickly realized the importance of switching gears and going off into a new direction. At that point I dove head first into focusing all my energy on creating something for the local performers I had worked with on a weekly basis. It was then that I realized we all have a story inside of us. My story, and I think a familiar life story, is about what happens in life when a person has a setback. Life can knock you down, but how you react and what you do after that point is what’s important. “Rise An Acrobatic Play” is my comeback. “Rise” is a project created by GymCrew in order to do something different. We were excited about trying to develop a show with a twist from the traditional play. After two years of training local acrobats, dancers and performers, we realized that there was a strong drive for performers in the area. We had a great core group of young adults that were eager to perform and also eager to showcase their amazing talents. The characters in “Rise” are very true to each individual in the cast that performs them. Most of the characters are a version of the real person playing them. “Rise, An Acrobatic Play” is a story that closely mirrors GymCrew’s performance family. It is a story about creating something for those that are looking for careers in the world that is true to them, and that career path is performing.

The fun in writing about characters that closely resemble the person playing them is that they begin to see themselves as the character. They are able to catch themselves using lines from the play in their everyday conversations. “Rise” is about the constant struggle of life. We all have stories of setbacks and unfulfilled goals; but every day we, as people, are always rising back from these circumstances. Rising in life happens once we have fallen. And the beauty of life is that we do rise. We do have stories of people that accomplish amazing feats after tragedies. “Rise An Acrobatic Play” is about rising from life’s unfair circumstances and has been written by someone that needed to rise from his own life’s setback.

-Taqiy Abdullah-Simmons-


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