“Before JUNTOS, I never saw myself as a leader in dance”, says Ambassador Maxine Patronik, currently a Junior in the Dominican/Lines BFA Program. As we spoke about her experience thus far as an Ambassador, it became clear to me how much JUNTOS has impacted her education and training these past three years. Her confidence in teaching and becoming a true innovator in the dance world has blossomed, especially this past week when she led her own workshop for kids in her community of San Rafael, California. The workshop has sparked a new understanding of change for her; that you don’t need to travel too far to make a difference.
As all of us artists know, practice is the fuel for growth. “The more I [teach], the more rewarding it is”, said Maxine. Not only has she become more confident in teaching, but she has also grown in understanding her creative endeavors as a choreographer. Although she doesn’t quite know where her experiences will take her in the future, she knows that JUNTOS has definitely helped her discover her strong potential as a leader in the dance world. Her workshop last Wednesday was at Catholic Charities, an after-school program in San Rafael. It was a 45-minute class of fourteen 4th and 5th graders and luckily she had JUNTOS participants Anna Olmstead and Marissa Head to help her out. While it was challenging to keep the kids calm and focused at times, she created a game for them at the end of the class. She asked each of them to create and share their own movements with each other, movements that expressed how they were feeling in that moment. This allowed everyone to truly come together and feel connected with his or her own creativity. For Maxine, this workshop was just one stepping-stone towards many more opportunities for her to continue to challenge herself as a teacher; envisioning tools that can bring even the wildest kids together to learn and create.
Speaking with Maxine reminded me of my years in college when I often questioned my role as a leader in such a huge community of dancers. I remember how much I loved teaching in the studio at The Ailey School and how incredible it felt to lead a classroom on my first JUNTOSAbroad trip. I overlooked the leader in me as a dancer, struggling to find my unique voice amidst a competitive atmosphere. Today, being a leader doesn’t feel so foreign to me, it’s as if my innate curiosity to learn and collaborate with others has naturally become my dream career. Teaching, creating and learning from other artists and cultures is my passion and like Maxine, being a part JUNTOS has helped me discover this.
In thinking about leadership and our work as Ambassadors, I think back to a 2013 TED Talk video of Rosalinde Torres. In defining leadership for yourself or company, one of the questions Rosalinde asks is, “Where are you looking to anticipate the next change to your business model or life”? When I asked Maxine this question, she immediately said that above all she realizes “narrowing down the change” by doing local work has been just as important as anything else.
Leadership is something we as dancers can discover simply by challenging ourselves to step outside of our own “dancer” environment and collaborate with people who know nothing about dance. Throughout my education and post-grad life, I have found that the most profound ways to grow are to make a change in the environment that surrounds you. Leadership is not something that is given to us in our familiar classroom, but it grows by shaping our own experiences and building those unknown relationships that exist in our own community.
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. 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.