ST. LOUIS – Dancers from Central Visual and Performing Arts High School return to the stage for the first time since the shooting that killed two of their own in a performance called “In our hearts.”

Seven months ago, the stage went dark after tragedy struck the school. However, now the dancers are back doing what they do best.

“It’s emotional,” said Jayden Brown, a CVPA dance student. “That honestly, nobody is going to forget, so we have to use that and turn it into our arts here.”

Through jazz, tap, hip-hop, and a variety of dance routines, students continue the healing process.

“We’re still going, we’re still strong, and nothing can stop us,” said Mars Sander, a CVPA sophomore dance student.

It’s an act of perseverance.

“The hurt is very real; the trauma is very real, but it feels good to be on the side of hard work, and we call it heart work,” said Dr. Kacy Shahid, principal at CVPA. “The title of this performance is in our hearts.”

A living tribute to dance student Alexzandria Bell and physical education teacher Jean Kuczka, both killed in the school shooting.

“She was a very stern woman about her job, but she loved everyone,” Jaylen Washinton, a CVPA junior dance student. “she loved everything about her job and Alex; (she was) bright, beautiful, talented, never a bad bone in her body.”

Their loss left a hole that will never quite be filled, but it inspires students to push on.

“This is a re-emergence for our dancers,” said Raymond Parks, director of the dance department at CVPA. “Being on stage is so much a part of who we are, and it feels like we are returning to the place where we belong. This has been difficult. Alex was and is a part of us. But making it to this point is a victory for everyone stepping onto the stage.”

Each move was a creative love letter to a supportive community and those lost but never forgotten.

“It’s a comeback, it’s a comeback,” Brown said.