Hi everyone, 

Bienvenidos a mi blog! I have just arrived in the city of Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, also known by its Mayan name, Xela! It is located in the Western Highlands and is the second-largest city in the country. I am so excited to be able to share my 5 weeks in this vibrant community with all of you! 

The objective of my project is to use dance education as a tool to develop leadership skills and encourage community participation in young people here in Xela. These skills include self-confidence, effective communication, and work ethic.

I’m looking forward to working with some fantastic organizations on this project. One of these is Education and Hope, a non-profit education organization located in Xela. They provide academic support for students through scholarships and after-school programming, as well as a daycare program and a family health and wellness center. 

I am also really looking forward to collaborating with dancers from the Municipal Theater of Xela, one of the main centers of the performing arts in the community. I will be teaching classes, creating a dance piece, and accompanying them in dance outreaches and collaborations.

Last but not least, I am thrilled to be able to travel to San Cristóbal Totonicopán to teach classes at a technical high school called Tecnologico Teczion. This unique educational model focuses on giving them students training in mathematics, computer programming, technology, and English!

I’m really looking forward to getting to know the community and learning more about the important work these different organizations are doing here in Xela.

Stay tuned for more posts and updates! Hasta la próxima!

July 23, 2019

Org Spotlight:
Education and Hope!

Hello everyone! I want to take the next couple of posts to talk more about the different classes I am teaching with each of the organizations. Let’s start with Education and Hope!

I teach classes in the afterschool program on Mondays and Wednesdays with almost all of the students who are part of the project. The main focus of theses classes is developing important leadership skills. The students have been bringing so much creativity and energy to each class!

On Monday, I teach three classes with the students in primary school (ages 6-12). Everything we do in these classes is focused on developing confidence, concentration, and creativity. For example, we begin each class in a circle. Each student has to say something to the group, like their name, favorite color, or favorite food, with their own movement. Speaking in front of the class helps to develop self-confidence, while the movement part sparks their creativity. We are also working hard on a dance for the final performance in a couple of weeks.

On Wednesday, I teach two classes with the students in básico and diversificado (high school). These classes incorporate many of the same themes as the primary school classes, but they also add self-expression, communication, and critical thinking. We are working on identifying different movement qualities, working in partners, and creative improvisation.

Everything we are learning in class will culminate in a final performance at Education and Hope that will be open to the community. Keep following the blog for more information about the two other organizations and my travels! Thanks for reading!

Click here for more information about Education and Hope!
August 6, 2019

Org Spotlight:
Tecnológico Teczion

Happy Monday, everyone! Today, I want to talk to you guys a little bit more about Tecnológico Teczion, a high school located in the rural community of San Cristóbal, Totonicopán. During my time here in Xela, I have had the opportunity to teach classes at a really unique school every Thursday afternoon. About 600 students attend Tecnológico Teczion, and their studies are specifically focused on technology, mathematics, and a very strong English program. Most of the students study at the school on academic scholarships and travel from very far away to attend. The class I teach here is especially interesting because it is all girls and we work on incorporating what they are learning in their English class into the dance curriculum. We do this through movement exercises that incorporate English vocabulary or phrases! This has been such a cool experience for me because I am very interested in becoming TEFL (Teach English as a Foreign Language) certified in the future! Additionally, the class includes partner exercises, to build trust and effective communication, and composition exercises to work on presentation and self-confidence. I am very grateful to the staff and students for having me every week. Their energy and enthusiasm is so inspiring, gracias Tecnológico Teczion!

Org Spotlight:
Municipal Theater of Quetzaltenango

The Municipal Theater of Quetzaltenango is over a century old and one of the most important hubs for arts and culture in Xela. The building itself features gorgeous neoclassical architecture and has played an important role in the history of Quetzaltenango (Xela). Although the theater is currently undergoing restoration, performances and workshops of all kinds take place in the theater’s foyer and outside in the beautiful plaza space.

Once a week I have had the opportunity to teach at the theater’s School of Dance, which is under the direction of Vanesa Rivera, the current director of the theater. I teach a contemporary ballet class for the students in the professional training program. Since the students already have strong ballet technique, these classes are focused on musical interpretation, improvisation, and individual expression. It is so incredible to see these dancers stepping out of their technical comfort zones and exploring a new connection with the music. We have also collaborated to create to jazz piece to Nina Simone’s “Feelin’ Good” during the past couple of weeks that the students can perform even after I leave!

Education and Hope: Final Performance!

After 4 weeks of dance classes and rehearsals, the hard work of the Education and Hope students paid off at their final performance! Each of the 4 classes learned, rehearsed, and performed a dance inspired by one of the four elements: water, earth, fire and air. The youngest students in Preparatoria, Primaria 1 and 2 made some waves with their “splashing” performance of “Under the Sea” from The Little Mermaid. Next up were the groovy students from Primaria 3-6 performing the earth-inspired piece to Earth, Wind and Fire’s “September”. Then, the students from Básico lit up the room with their fire-inspired dance that included some awesome break moves and student solos. Last but not least, the students from Diversificado blew the crowd away with their Air piece. After the performance, each student was individually recognized with a certificate of participation for their hard work and dedication. I feel so incredibly proud of all the students and their accomplishments of the past month! They had such great energy in every class and approached each new exercise with open minds! Thank you to everyone at Education and Hope for all of the support and love during this whole process.