by Amy McMurchie, Director of JUNTOSAbroad
Part 1, 15 agosto, 2017
Greetings from Nicaragua! Today marks our 8th day of hard work from 10 dance students hailing from various places in the United States. Each day has been filled with cultural exchange through dance workshops and performance.
We began in Managua for three days of exchange with Academia Nicaraguense de la Danza, Nicaragua’s largest dance academy. The JUNTOS dancers taught workshops to the Nicaraguan dancers and had the opportunity to learn a traditional Nicaraguan dance called Palo De Mayo. A highlight for all of the dancers – US and Nicaraguan – was a circle where they improvised together. The three days culminated in a beautiful performance demonstrating once again that regardless of language barriers, the group was able to come together.
While in Managua we also had the opportunity to do outreach performances and workshops around the city. At Casa Alianza, a home for teenagers struggling with addiction and psychological trauma, the teenagers were visibly captivated by the strength and expression of the JUNTOS dancers during their performance. At NITCA, a school and resource center for children living in extreme poverty, the kids learned a version of Michael Jackson’s Thriller dance! We’ve never seen such terrifying “zombies” who simultaneously had gigantic smiles on their faces.
After Managua, we hopped on the bus and headed to Nagarote for our fifth year of work with NicaPhoto. Founded and run by Ronnie Ellen Maher, NicaPhoto’s mission is to help kids from one of the poorest neighborhoods in Nicaragua through holistic methods, which includes education in the arts. We were greeted with smiling faces and dances prepared by the kids.
We spent three days working with the kids at NicaPhoto, which ended with a culminating performance and an encore dance party! We learned some great moves from a bunch of eight, nine and ten year olds. Not only do the kids at Nicaphoto know how to shake their hips, they also have a joy for dance that inspired everyone at JUNTOS.
Our visits to Nicaphoto are always a highlight on JUNTOS trips. But stay tuned… we’re only halfway there!
Part 2, 18 agosto, 2017
Nine tired JUNTOS dancers are riding our bus to Granada after three filled days of dance sharing in Leon.
We worked with an organization who gives support to children who collect garbage to help their families earn money called Ninos Del Fortin (no website). Because the families need their children to work, there is little room for the kids to play games and self expression. Ninos Del Fortin provides a space for them to play, while also feeding them lunch and emphasizing the importance of expression through the body.
We spent three days with Ninos Del Fortin, teaching one workshop the first day and two the following days. Some of the kids were tough shells to break; certainly wondering, “you want me to move my body HOW?” Though not all of the kids participated in the workshops, it was affirming to see the kids who were initially shy or hesitant begin to dive into dancing and spending time with the JUNTOS dancers. It was a clear example of dance breaking down barriers between people who are different from one another.
One afternoon, we performed for Mary Barreda , an organization that provides support to youth in similar situations as Ninos Del Fortin. The next day, we performed outside for a program Mary Barreda provides for women in rural communities who have been abused or need additional support. While the dancers were performing, it began raining. One woman said “they called the rain because their dancing was so connected to the earth.” The women were so impressed with the dancers, we will return next year to teach a workshop in addition to performing.
We wrapped up our time in Leon with an exchange with a group of salsa dancers, Ritmos Salsa. They taught us Cuban Salsa and we taught them a Jazz dance. All of the dancers were challenged to bring their attitude and sass to the class. Granada is the last leg of our packed trip. We’ll continue to spread love and connection through dance until we head home.
Adios For Now!