Month: May 2015

Butler University makes the impossible possible with Kids Dance Outreach

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Members of Butler University’s Movement Exchange at the Kids Dance Outreach workshop. (May 2015)

A bright eyed and energetic group of about fifty kindergartners awaited dance instruction for Kids Dance Outreach’s first of three workshops just for kindergartners with Speedway Schools. Some students looked nervous to begin while others could barely resist from moving. As soon as director and dance instructor for Kids Dance Outreach (KDO) began to teach his famous “Russian dance” from the ballet The Nutcracker, students were immediately captivated by the challenge of remembering sequences of steps. Once Tchaikovsky’s Russian music began, the students began to pick up energy and feel the excitement of this familiar tune heard during the Christmas season. Whether or not the students fully remembered all of the steps, smiles began to emerge from each child’s face. By the end of the dance, the students, dance instructors, parents, and teachers all had a smile on their face and couldn’t believe what a group of kindergartners could achieve.
Butler University’s Movement Exchange acted as teaching assistants for the three Kindergarten level workshops with Kids Dance Outreach, a local dance educational outreach organization in Indianapolis, IN. Members of Butler’s Movement Exchange had the chance to contribute to what was most students’ first time in a dance class. In addition, Butler’s Movement Exchange had the opportunity to teach a dance called “Bailando” in which students began to express their creativity. A long introduction to the song turned into a chance for students to bring in their own dance moves.
This expression of creativity continued as students were encouraged to dance one by one in front of their peers and teachers. Both the members of Butler’s Movement Exchange as well as director Michael Johnson were amazed by the dance moves kindergartners were able to create. Director Michael Johnson states that he had been dancing since age four “but I [he] did see some of those children come up with moves I [he] would have never thought possible.” Butler University’s Movement Exchange hopes to continue volunteering with Kids Dance Outreach to make the impossible possible.

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What would the world look like if every child had access to dance education?

What would the world look like if every child had access to dance education?

Here is what Florida State University and Western Michigan University dance diplomats had to say to the following question after their exchange to Panama this past week:

What would the world look like if every child had access to dance education?

“I think every child would have a lot more confidence in themselves and be much more open to exploration. Everyone would have a better sense of themselves and their bodies. I think the world would be a much more open, inviting and self-assured place.”-Adele Switzer

“A much more expressive, beautiful, confident, joyful place. Every skill you can possibly imagine like dedication, hardwork, team work, etc. can be practiced in dance. I just feel like the opportunity to dance could give so many children a pathway for success/joy/expression/everything and anything. Dance education can teach a child immensely more than I can even write in this little box.”-Sarah Mills

“If every child had access to dance than more people would appreciate the arts and have a foundation of self discipline and confidence.”-Erin Goodman

“If every child in the world had access to a dance education, we wouldn’t see as much sadness. We wouldn’t see as much disease and illness. We wouldn’t see isolation. We would see more friendships, laughter, and positive energy.”-Alexandra Page

“The world would be far more accepting of individuality, imagination, and creative problem solving.”-Taylor Ennen

“I think the world would be more peaceful. Dance is a great outlet to express yourself and to learn more about yourself. Dance has completely changed my life and I love sharing dance with other people.”-Emily Bethune

A MoveEx Inspiration.

Words from FSU’s Dance Diplomats after our Exchange to Panama:

“Movement Exchange is about so much more than sharing dance between cultures; it is about making a change no matter how minuscule or vast it may be.”

“Those kids will forever have a place in our hearts and will be our motivation to continue giving back in any way we can… If those kids can be thankful, happy and have high aspirations in the situation they are in, I can’t imagine what they could do if they had more resources and support.”

“I woke up this morning and just laid on the couch looking around and thinking about how I have this entire morning to myself and parents who love and support me. At first I felt guilty, and then I realized that I just shouldn’t take it for granted and that this privilege allows me the voice and ability to make a real difference to those not afforded the same opportunity.”

“I wish we could have spent so much more time there and given back so much more, but we have to remember that with what little time we were there we made a difference in those kids lives.”

A few days ago, myself and other dance diplomats from Florida State University and Western Michigan University returned from our Exchange to Panama. With a new perspective on dance and life in general, we all agreed that Movement Exchange truly has the ability to change lives. We were touched by the children’s eagerness to learn and their constant desire for affection and love. Although saddened by the knowledge that these kids do not have families who care for them and give them the attention they need and deserve, we were grateful for the fact that we were able to give them that happiness for at least a few hours. We, as dance diplomats, felt privileged to have this opportunity to work (and play!) with such amazing kids. After seeing the way these children live, it was harder and harder to leave the orphanages each day. The most we can hope for after this trip is that we left these kids with something they didn’t have before. Because of their smiling faces and extreme joy, we know that we have made a difference in their lives and that they won’t ever forget the experiences we had with them. We left Panama blessed that we were able to use our love of dance to inspire and spark happiness in these children.

I have had the privilege of attending this trip for the second year in a row and I can attest to the fact that Movement Exchange has and will continue to change lives. Dance has this amazing ability to evoke change and growth. It affects one’s character by requiring discipline, concentration and thoughtfulness. Without dance, I know I personally would not have the perseverance, confidence, or concentration that I have today. After seeing some of these kids after a year of having access to dance through Movement Exchange, I saw an amazing difference in their attitudes and confidence levels. Girls who had no desire to dance last year were now at the front of the class, dancing their hearts out and leading the rest of the group in the choreography. Others who barely spoke to me last year were dancing along side me and talking to me with what broken Spanish I have! This year we were also able to spend four days at Malambo Orphanage. Over the course of the four days, I saw an increased confidence in themselves and their bodies and an increased appreciation for dance and ballet. One girl who had never danced before amazed me. She was extremely overwhelmed the first day and seemed to be struggling in the back corner. She practiced every day and by the last day, she knew the choreography better than anyone else in the room. I was extremely inspired to see her fall in love with dance in just four days. Dance has the power to spark this perseverance that I believe she and the other children will be able to transfer to other aspects of their lives.

Although we can’t give the kids the daily affection they deserve, I know that by spreading the joy of dance, we are helping them increase their self confidence and perseverance, which betters their futures and will be a part of their lives forever. The power of dance is immense and I am beyond grateful to have had the opportunity to use dance to inspire others in various aspects of their lives. As the semester end, I think it’s important to remember that because of dance, we have touched someone in our lives. Whether it was simply a family member at a recent performance, a child in Panama, or a student at a University, dance has put a smile on someone’s face; and that’s simply the beauty of Movement Exchange’s mission. Through dance, we can add that extra burst of happiness to someone’s life.

~Move To Change~

A beauty worth experiencing

As I sit here reminiscing on all that I was experiencing just over 24 hours ago, I can’t help but be immensely grateful. In just a weeks time, I was not only reminded of the many reasons I fell in love with this passion of mine in the first place, but I was also reminded of how powerfully dance can impact anyone and everyone in an infinite number of ways. I arrived in Panama City, Panama hoping that I’d IMG_3327make a positive influence, share my passion, and find inspiration, but I left with much more than I could have ever imagined. I left with an entirely new perspective on how dance can be used, with a much greater understanding of what it truly means to be patient, with an awareness much larger than myself and my own culture, with a desire to give every single child and teen I had the privilege of meeting the love and attention they deserve, with a newfound appreciation for all I’ve been blessed with in my life, and with an incredibly full heart. I believe there are few moments in a persons life that can be pinpointed as the moment a part of them changed forever, but I believe this trip was one of those moments for me.

I have always had a colossal love for dance. I love it for the feeling it gives me, for how good it is for me, for how much fun it is, for being able to use it as an expressive and emotional outlet, and for all of the positive qualities it continues to instill in me every single day. This trip, however, made me realize how self-centered my love for dance has been, especially in the last few years. This trip reminded me how important it is to share what I am passionate about so others can also experience its boundless potential for good. Movement Exchange is about so much more than sharing dance between cultures; it is about making a change no matter how minuscule or vast it may be. During mIMG_3226y short time in Panama, I saw little changes occur in the young girls and boys I had the privilege of working with throughout the week that left me inspired and with a perpetual smile stretching from ear to ear. At the Malambo Orphanage in Arraijan, the girls would stand a little taller, hold their heads a little higher, smile a little bigger, and dance a lot more when they realized they could do the movements we were teaching them. Each day they came with a greater enthusiasm to dance than the day before, and the joy on their faces alone when they saw us each day was enough to encourage and inspire us to give them all we possibly could. They became empowered and would radiate a sense of self-accomplishment that was enough to give me goosebumps from head to toe. At the Aldeas SOS Orphanage in Panama City, a group of tween/teen girls I was working with erupted with screaming, jumping, and a contagious excitement when they finally did the dance all the way through without messing up the difficult footwork of a complicated section we had been working on. From this moment on, these girls danced their hearts out and even became confident enough to improv with me before and after the choreography they learned. There is something special about witnessing how positively dance can impact someone in front of your very eyes. I quickly realized that for all of the reasons I love dance, there were ten additional reasons gained to share my passion with these kids.

Even more than sharing my passion, I was able to simply share my capacity for love and compassion. I traveled to Panama to meet up with seven students embarking on the same journey from Florida State University. Solely because of our desire to love on the children at these orphanages, we became undeniably close. We cried, laughed, and experienced moments together that left us inspired, touched, and not wanting to leave. We learned more about each other through the vulnerability of our experiences than any of us could have imagined. Together we experienced the amazing truth behind the saying that dance is the universal language. The language barrier did not keep us from spreading the joy of dance, and even mIMG_3986ore than that, it didn’t keep us from giving these kids and teens the love they deserve. If anything, the language barrier brought us a greater sense of what it means to be patient, and it allowed us to find different ways of expressing what it was we were truly feeling and wishing to accomplish with these children. The language barrier also forced us to show these kids that we loved them through action rather than words. Isn’t that all what we really want and need anyway?

One of the FSU ladies, Nicole, brought a bunch of little $1 bouncy balls that lit up with her and handed them out at the Aldeas SOS Orphanage in Colon. For hours these kids were smiling, laughing, and having a blast simply because they got to play with us and these simple gifts. I couldn’t help but compare this to how privileged many children are today. So many kids and teens nowadays require iPad games and the newest “things” to make them happy, whereas these children, who have already dealt with more pain in their lives than many will ever encounter, are happy with so much less. More than “things,” these children needed to spend time with people that would love on them. Even last night as I was laying in my bed looking around my room at all the stuff I’ve accumulated over the years, my mind kept racing back to the beautiful souls I had to say goodbye to at the orphanages that have far less than I’ve ever experienced. At first I felt guilty of all I have and that I have two parents who love me relentlessly, but then I realized that rather than feeling guilty, I should instead just not take all I’ve been blessed with for granted. I can use my privilege and the love I’ve been given and taught to givDSCN0906e from my parents and my amazing Creator to help in any way I can. Those children at the orphanage in Colon needed the love we were able to give them that day, and I will be eternally grateful for how much they touched my heart when I was there to touch theirs.

All in all, dance has so much more to offer than meets the eye, and I’m so grateful to have found an organization that sees the power and ability it holds. This trip with Movement Exchange has by far been the most rewarding experience of my life thus far, and I feel exceptionally lucky to have gotten the chance to be a part of it and to combine my passions of service and dance. While I loved getting to take in the Panamanian culture through classes given to us and teaching at the university to students that were incredibly eager for the classes we created for them, it was the time I spent at the orphanages sharing my passion and love with these kids that left a permanent imprint on me. I wish I could dance with and show these kids what love looks like every single day. If I impacted any of them even a fourth of the way they impacted me than I accomplished much more than I set out to do. This trip was a beautiful experience with a beautiful group of people. I could write paragraph after paragraph about the happiness, love, challenge, heart-break, and inspiration I experienced in every moment of this adventure, but words would simply not do it justice. It is a beauty that can only be experienced.

With love,

Sarah

Panamanian Days: FSU in Malambo Take Two!

Risen early, filled with coffee, and slathered in two layers of sunscreen, 8 bright-eyed and bushy tailed dancers scurried out of Magnolia Inn with fearless and feisty leader Tinna in tow to hike to the summit of Cerro Ancon. Sweating and chatting, we laughed our way to the top, indulging in every photo-opportunity with voracious enthusiasm. The view of the entirety of Panama City – both the old and the new – was absolutely breath-taking…and our silhouetted arabesques in the skyline were definitely en pointe 🙂

I could go on endlessly about the rich history and natural beauty of this country, but I only have so much time and this was truly only the very beginning of a long and immensely satisfying day of movement exchange! Along the hike, we were disappointed to find that the classroom at the University of Panama had flooded and we were unable to go teach those students for the second day in a row. TInna, ever the fearless leader of our ragamuffin crew, didn’t miss a beat. After the last dramatic jumping photo was snapped, we practically skipped our way back down the summit to tumble in the van and head to Panama Vieja!

Panama Vieja was STUNNING. As a major lover of all things of antiquity, I was in absolute heaven. Doused in bug-spray (deep-woods strength mind you) we traversed the ruins with sparkles in our eyes and springs in our steps. The cherry on top of this outing was a silent group improvisation jam session captured on Erin’s go-pro and Katiana’s phone…exhaustion and excitement combined in a magical force of synchronized movement creation.

…and then…hunger set in!

Starving, we headed back to Cafe Niko to fill our rumbling stomachs with rice and beans and plantains and shrimp and other delicious Panamanian comida. No food ever tastes so good as after such an active and ridiculously fun morning of dance photography and group bonding.

Fed and ready for a second wind: time for Malambo Day 2!!!!!

We got there at 2:00, much earlier than our start time, so were lucky enough to be allowed to go play with the babies. Now, normally I don’t think I’m especially good with young children, but I was honestly intoxicated by these young ones. Though they started off shy, unsure of the strange herd of girls invading their house, they quickly warmed to us. As TInna so astutely pointed out, each child gravitated toward the Movement Exchange member who best matched their natural energy. For me it was a very shy and observant young boy, who after stealing the sunglasses from my head quickly stole my heart. He sat in my lap for what must have been over an hour, investigating plush toys and giggling from my hugs. He even gingerly plucked the flower from my hair and inspected it ever so carefully, only to pick each petal one-by-one to hand back to me, each a special present.

Over the course of a couple hours, their boundless energy and innocent sense of play captivated us and filled us all with the resolve to push through our second day of choreography for the orphanage. So much was jam packed into this day that I cannot even begin to describe it all or do any sort of justice to the immense impact it left, the discussion it prompted, and the heart strings it pulled. The Malambo girls’ eyes shone with pride as they began to really comprehend and execute their ballet combinations, and even the sassiest members let glimmers of their true desire to learn show through the tough facade. This was truly a day to remember, an experience to relish, a moment to savor.

***Photos to come because they currently refuse to upload 😦

Malambo Day 1!

Just finished our first day teaching in Panama!! Besides a few rough patches, I’d say it was pretty successful and I could not be more ecstatic that FSU Movement Exchange has finally made it to Panama!

Today was supposed to be our first day at the University, but the AC wasn’t working so we salvaged the morning and started with a walk along cinta costera and then a contemporary class taught by our oh so lovely Move Ex coordinator, Tinna! I still can’t get over how beautiful and unique this city is. Especially walking along cinta costera, you can see the new city with sky scrapers and modern architecture on one side of the ocean and then casco viejo on the other side of the city. Casco definitely has a unique style with colorful buildings and old architecture. We also made our way past the fish market… very excited for ceviche later this week!

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Tinna taught us a contemporary class modeled after some of her teachers at the University. We started with some breathing exercise and a little bit of yoga to get our bodies moving. Tinna led us through some floor work with X-ing and curving. So, so, great to start moving at the start of our week! The best part of the class was the partner exercise we went through. One partner closed their eyes while the other led them around the space. In order to walk freely, we really had to trust our partner and simply let them guide us around the room. Eventually, our partner was leading us around the space by only guiding us with our finger tip. By this point, we were really dancing and moving around the space rather than walking. There was more of a giving and taking at this point as our partner guided our fingers, but ultimately we decided the “how” and “why” of a movement. During the middle of each exercise we also switched partners around, so everyone got the chance to work with a new partner. We also did another exercise where half the group made a circle and the other half of the group did some partner improv work with their eyes closed in the center of the circle. I think this was perfect for our first day because it really added to the group dynamic and got us all comfortable working with each other. Such a great way to start the trip!

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We headed back to the hostel for lunch (rice, beans, chicken and plantains… of course!) and then we made our way to Malambo!! When we got there, we got a tour of the orphanage and visited all of the houses! We spent some time in the house with los ninos and played with them for a bit, They were all so absolutely adorable. They latched onto us immediately and had us sit down on the couch and play! So cute. For teaching, we split up into two groups the older girls and the younger girls. Myself, Alex, Taylor and Emily were with the older girls and we started with a little warm-up and did some across the floor work with them. We went over pas de bourres and chasses and some of them already knew how to do the steps, which was great! We lost them for a little bit… they got pretty chatty and not being able to speak Spanish very well, it was a little difficult to keep them interested. Our choreography was also a little harder than we had realized so we had to tone it down a bit. Thankfully, Tinna stepped in and helped us out a TON. We also changed the music to Taylor Swift and they loved it! So tomorrow will definitely be much better. We’ll tone down the choreography and use some fun music and I think it will be great!

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After that Taylor and I went up to the room with the younger girls to teach them the jazz choreography. They were absolutely adorable and had SO MUCH ENERGY. By the time Taylor and I get there they were already danced out, but they danced for three whole hours so I would say they did a great, great job. Taylor and I taught them some fun moves with clapping and jumping and I think we’ll get through a lot more tomorrow! Katiana, Sarah, Nicole and Erin had been working with the younger girls before I got there and they said they had a ton of fun!!

We went back down to the gym where Tinna, Alex, and Emily were working with the older girls on a jazz combination. They looked like they were having SUCH A BLAST!!! After the ballet, I think it was really great that they got a chance to relax and just have a good time dancing. I could definitely see a change in their personalities and they looked really proud of themselves for doing so well dancing. Afterwards, I told two girls they did a great job and they told me it was their first time dancing!!! I could not believe it. They were absolutely AMAZING for their first time dancing. Pretty inspiring!

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One of my favorite parts of today was seeing some other girls who were there last year! They definitely seemed to remember me, and although my Spanish is really, really broken, it was so great to see them and see that they were doing well!!

Now its off to our first official dinner all together!!

Beyond thankful we finally made it to Panama and I can’t wait for what’s in store for the rest of the week!

🙂 Adele