Just 26 miles north of the capital of Managua, Nagarote is home to an incredible organization, NicaPhoto, who from January 11-16th held their first ever “arts brigade” festival. It was a week of collaboration with JUNTOS and two photographers, full of self-discovery and growth for Ambassadors Alivia Schaffer and Nestor Rodriguez. As I spoke to Liv and Nestor about their experiences, it was clear that they had learned so much about themselves both as a team and individual leaders. Their work in Nagarote has brought to light the importance of collaboration amongst people of different communities, demonstrating that the global language of dance can bring us face to face with our own personal goals as leaders.
NicaPhoto has been partnering with JUNTOS since August of 2013. They provide educational support to economically disadvantaged children living in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Nicaragua, mostly in the barrio Sonrisa de Dios (Smile of God). NicaPhoto began in 2005 with a series of photography workshops led by founder Ronnie Ellen Maher, but the project has since grown and now offers programs in art, health and personal and community development. While our Ambassadors immersed themselves in the community of Nagarote, they brought with them their different dance backgrounds: Liv with her contemporary edge and Nestor with his latin influence. Together they made a strong JUNTOS duo, diving into a new experience of individually teaching their own workshops. The experience reassured Nestor, Ambassador of Xela, Guatemala that he loves teaching above all:
Sharing what I do is what I love the most; teaching a philosophy of life more than anything and sharing values that don’t necessarily have to do with dance.
Liv, who is based in San Francisco felt similar, that the experience reminded her of how important her actions can be and how she can continue to push past the “external definitions of success”.
Everything you do and focus on is setting an example. I feel like my talents can be used or performed in a town that needs support. My powers are better utilized through community engaging than the concert-presentation way of making art.
As Ambassadors, we are moving past what is expected of us as dancers, creators and performers, we are learning what it takes to become a leader in a community and be a force for growth. Both Nestor and Liv are reminders that while teaching and performing in spaces like Nagarote, we are bringing ourselves closer to the reasons behind our careers and daily actions. Like Liv mentioned, we are setting an example for the future generation of leaders and creators and it goes beyond dance. Everything we do from team-building to expressing ourselves can affect someone in a positive way.
Hearing from Liv and Nestor brought up many questions for me as a dancer, choreographer and advocate for the arts. How can we seek to resolve conflict? How can such a diverse dance community come together to create positive change in our community?
I can definitely say that the answer to these questions starts with this type of exchange: creating a team and going into a community with an innate desire to learn and share everything you have. As JUNTOSAmbassadors, we don’t go into a community to only give, but it is the platform for giving and learning from each other that encourages students like those in Nagarote to become their own leaders in their community. “When you go in as a solo individual, it doesn’t hit as hard as two equal groups equally exchanging,” Liv mentioned of her experience learning from the students in their own community garden. Whether it is for one day, one week, one month or one whole year, this work is proof that we can be dancers with a mission that extends beyond normal performance spaces. We can be teachers and choreographers whose every word, action and piece of work is the impetus for the future of world leadership.
About the blogger:
Julianna Bulgarelli is a dancer, choreographer, teacher and arts advocate based in Los Angeles, California. She graduated magna cum laude with a BFA in Dance and Spanish Studies from Fordham University/The Ailey School in May of 2015.
Julianna is currently a member of an innovative physical theater dance company, Theater Jazzo and is choreographing her own work as part of a 6-week residency program with Rosanna Gamson. Her passion for teaching has led her to Angelica Center for Arts and Music, where she is the ballet and modern dance instructor for kids ages 4-17. Her travels and performance experience with JUNTOS Collective have been a major influence in her life and she is proud to be an Ambassador, bringing dance programs to Los Angeles. As a facilitator of the Ambassador Blog, she hopes that the voice of JUNTOS can continue to reach different communities; reminding us of the infinite possibilities we can bring to the world as dancers.