Month: June 2017

Con Niños

Con Niños

This picture, like the kids of Aldea, is full of life, imagination, and inspiration. It was wonderful working with the children of the orphanage and working beyond the language barrier using whatever Spanish I knew, combined with the help and understanding of these kids.

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Bienvenidos

Bienvenidos

It was 2am and all I could think about were two things:

How I had never heard anyone snore so loudly in my entire life, and how badly I wanted to release my body of the pretzel it had been in for the past seven hours. And not the soft Auntie Anne’s either. But the ones you buy in a bag that are stiff and break upon snapping. “What am I doing here?,” I thought as I reflected on the craziness of my journey after spending the past 2 weeks backpacking in Costa Rica. Then I remembered what I was doing on a bus to Panama, and a wave of nervous excitement washed over me that made it all worth it. Later that day I would be meeting ten other dance diplomats from all over my home country of the United States to engage in a Movement Exchange.
After napping for a few short hours on a couch in the lobby of the hostel where we would be staying, I let my energy drive me towards exploring Panama City before the rest of the crew arrived. As the day went on, I was continuously touched by people I encountered on my solo adventure towards Cerro Ancon, a nature reserve that we would enjoy as a group later in the week. One of them was a man living in the hostel with Parkinson’s disease. After learning about what I was there for, he told me about how much movement has helped him with his terminal illness. While at one point he could barely get out of bed, he says that now it’s all he can do to move his body so that he will continue to be able to move it. After that point, every conversation we now have is about music and the importance of dance.
The other friends I made came about as I had gotten lost on my way to the park. Long story short, I ended up receiving papayas, bananas, and mangoes from them (a few days breakfast for a frugivore like myself!!), in addition to lots of laughs, and dancing in the street. In a country where I don’t speak the language, communicating bits and pieces with natives is how I learn the most. And besides, dance doesn’t need a spoken language for it to be affective.
Finally, it was early evening and time to meet the fellow diplomats that I would be bonding with for the rest of the week. After dinner together, we got together in a studio to start moving as a group. And let me tell you, there’s nothing like music and dance to break the ice and get us pumped for the week. We spent a bit of time reflecting on the week ahead and again the question came up for me, “What am I doing here?” I found the international exchange through an email from my dance department at Virginia Commonwealth University. I had been searching for an opportunity to dance abroad for much of the school year, but no program caught my eye like Movement Exchange did. Through teaching at orphanages and collaborating with local university students in Panama, I would get to combine my passion for youth, teaching, and dance, while challenging myself through the lens of a foreign culture. Plus much of the program costs would go towards benefitting the mission of the program year round. I was sold. So basically, that’s what I’m doing here. I recently realized that my relationship with dance draws towards being service oriented. While I love performing and choreographing, my true authentic self is most fulfilled by sharing dance with others and rejoicing in the power of it to bring out the qualities that unite us all as human beings. With all that being said, let’s get this week started!
(Photos are of the views of Panama, and passing through the border)
– Taylor-Leigh Adams, Dance Diplomat from VCU
IMG_20170624_142109593
Movement Exchange Blog

Movement Exchange Blog

When I walked off the plane and into the Panama City airport, I jokingly thought to myself, “I’m not in Kansas anymore”. It was my first time ever stepping onto non-U.S. soil.

The night before the flight, I had been worried about potential weather and culture shock, my inability to collaborate with an unfamiliar team, and my lack of dedication to an art form that I had slowly been distancing myself from. I had started studying dance when I was three years old and proceeded with professional training all the way throughout high school. When I went to college, however, I decided that I wanted to study child psychology instead – mostly because I was really interested in the topic, but also because I had grown emotionally exhausted from years of harsh  self-critique, physically demanding technique, and little opportunity for creative expression. Long story short, I had become dissatisfied towards the seemingly self-absorbed world of dance… that was until I came across the Movement  Exchange table at my school’s club fair. After hearing about their mission of dance diplomacy, I resolved to shift my viewpoint  towards dance outwardly. I craved an experience that would show me how dance can be used to establish community and bring joy to people who might not otherwise have the opportunity to perform. Over the course of the year, I taught periodically at my local Boys and Girls Club – later realizing that it would serve as  preparation for my time here in Panamá.

Teaching here in Panamá has been the most amazing experience. Not only because I’m seeing dance as more than just a commodity for the elite, but also because I’m being immersed in a true cross-cultural exchange. I’ve been able to practice connecting with people who speak another language and live a totally different life than me. I’ve been humbled to learn about the tense history between my home country and this land who suffered the consequences of its invasive influence. I’ve both met and been inspired by members of my team who have chosen to contribute their strength and light to this important cause. I’ve been challenged to focus my energy on my original intention, even when unexpected conditions like rain, exhaustion, or miscommunication have tried to drain me of my motivation.

All in all, I’ve been stretched in directions that have forced me to grow as a dancer, a leader, and a citizen of the world. I will never forget the impact this trip has had on me, and I hope to let it inform my future as a representative of MoveEx’s honorable vision of artistic humanitarianism.

IMG_0726– Rebecca Mattern, GMU Dance Diplomat

 

First Day at Aldea

First Day at Aldea

Today was an amazing day! We started out with an awesome folkloric dance class at the Panamanian University where we learned more about the culture of dance in Panama as well as cultural differences in general. After lunch we headed to the Aldea Orphanage to teach two dance classes and spend time with the kids. Our connection with them was immediate as they welcomed us into their home with open arms. We offered a challenging hip-hop class for the older kids which they did great at despite the rain and heat! Afterwards we taught “cotton eye joe” to the little ones, they were so motivated they often asked if they could do it for us rather then with us. Last we spent time playing games and running around, which really wrapped up the day nicely. I felt an overwhelming amount of love and joy asI felt myself reliving my childhood with laughter, imagination, and dance. Overall it was my favorite day thanks to my new friends, Move-Ex leaders and most importantly the beautiful kids!

– Olivia Cara, University of Delaware Dance Diplomat