Senior Dancer Briya Simpson Choreographs Tribute for Fallen Classmate


Briya Simpson

Dancing for a Purpose: Senior Briya Simpson choreographed a tribute dance and concept video to honor the beloved memory of a fallen classmate. Shown above from left to right are junior Chloe Clayton, sophomore Jessie Lottie, and sophomore Ava Geller.

Dance has always been a form of expression. There is meaning behind each step, a purpose to the choreography. So when senior Briya Simpson, a dancer for over a decade, wanted to share a special message, she knew this beautiful form of art would be the perfect way to share her emotions with others.

Last fall, Nico Vasallo, an adored classmate of the Class of 2021, passed away from suicide. This loss shattered the hearts of many people in the North Atlanta community. Nico was very loved, and very dear to countless students. Like her peers, Simpson was torn by this and she knew she wanted to honor him in some way. So, when the time came for the NAHS spring showcase, she thought of an idea.

As everyone who knew him would say, Nico was a light in this world. He could always be counted on to put a smile on everyone’s face. Simpson wanted to commemorate him in a way that would highlight this through her favorite form of artistic expression: dance. “As a dancer, choreographing was something I’ve always loved and enjoyed doing,” said Simpson. “So as soon as we found out about what happened, I knew that creating a dance would be the best thing for me to do to let out my emotions but to also touch people in a creative way.”

When the showcase was canceled due to Covid-19, Simpson decided to transform the choreographed dance into a concept video, still as a tribute to Nico. She reached out to fellow dancers, rented Windmill Arts Dance Studio, and got moving toward producing her beautiful act. “I filmed this video myself and held three practices where I taught the dance and made sure it was camera ready,” said Simpson. “I’ve been dancing for around 15 years and choreographing is just the icing on the cake to how much I love creating art to change lives.”

The final product was a beautiful video, created in tribute for a beautiful person. The video also included clips of classmates and close friends of Nico’s sharing their favorite memories of him. Simpson ultimately wanted to remind others of how important life is, and how we should deeply appreciate our own light inside us. “Being a classmate of Nico’s, he was always such a light, which is why I chose the song ‘Leave a Light On’ by Tom Walker,” said Simpson. “When the news broke about his passing, it tore me to pieces. I wanted this dance to remind people that they are strong and that it is okay to go through things but to never feel as though their life doesn’t matter, because it does. Everyone has a purpose.”

Nico’s family cherished the beautiful dance as well. They were very grateful toward Simpson for the work and love she put into keeping his memory alive. “It was very emotional for me to watch the video and I will forever cherish it,” said Nico’s mother. “Nico’s stepfather Rennan, his brother Enzo and myself are truly honored and grateful for this tribute. I wasn’t aware of how many lives Nico touched. It warms my heart that he was loved so much. My hope for the future is that his memory is kept alive and that it helps other people and prevents this tragedy from happening again.”

Ultimately, Simpson’s talents have brought the North Atlanta community together to honor Nico’s memory and the profound impact he had on those around him.