After the JUNTOS Immersion volunteers traveled home (read about Week 1 here) we continued our journey in Mexico with the JUNTOSAbroad dancers. Here is what happened during our second week of intercultural exchange…
Mexico 2019: Week 2
lunes 14 enero
The staff and dancers left this morning for Tuxtla Gutierrez, a city in the south of Mexico. It was a long travel day, so when we arrived in the early afternoon we all took a moment to breathe and eat some lunch.
At around 6:00pm, the JUNTOS dancers taught a workshop to a group at Born to Dance studio in Tuxtla, which was followed by them taking a workshop from this same group. The JUNTOS volunteers and staff learned a dance called Quebradita: a dance style that originated in Mexico. This dance was very physical and the dancers were being flipped around by their partners quite a bit! A good reminder that art doesn’t need to be overthought: the movement was so fast in this dance form that the dancers did not have time to overthink, and simply had to trust the movement and their bodies, and be confident that everything would be ok.
The day ended with a debrief for the JUNTOS volunteers, which had a strong focus on teaching.
martes 15 enero
We left early this morning for Alberque de Casa Esperanza. During the JUNTOS performance, a young boy with developmental challenges, Jose Manuel, had the urge to get up and move with the dancers. He walked up to JUNTOS volunteer Hannah Cyr while she was performing “Prakirti” and they danced the choreography together. It was beautiful to see Hannah improvise with Jose Manuel, not worry about the right steps, and create something unique in the small space.
You can read more about this experience, and the conversation that JUNTOS had with Jose’s parents here.
In the afternoon, the Abroad volunteers performed their work in a local hospital for children, dancing in different rooms and hallways of the hospital – a total of 6 separate small performances in different locations!
In the hospital, there was a father who could not get his baby to stop crying, so one of the nurses encouraged them to go watch the dancing in the hallway. It took a few minutes, but the little boy calmed down and became enthralled with what he was seeing. You could see relief settle on his father’s face.
Performing at this hospital was emotionally difficult for the dancers, and so it was hard to transition into another workshop with the group at Born To Dance. They still had a great time teaching, taking class with them, and getting to know the group a little better. At the end, JUNTOS handed out shirts and welcomed Born To Dance to the #juntosfamilia!
miercoles 16 enero
Today, JUNTOS staff and volunteers left Tuxtla and traveled to San Cristobal. Upon arriving at San Juan de Dios Retirement Home the dancers performed three pieces. When the elders knew a song, like Paloma Negra, they would clap along and move with the dancers! Teaching a short workshop for them was an equally energizing experience.
After lunch, the dancers left for FOMMA, Fortaleza de la Mujeres Maya, where the JUNTOS dancers taught a workshop for the staff members. FOMMA is a community center and theater group formed by Mayan women in Chiapas, Mexico, that focuses on women’s and indigenous rights, literacy, cultural survival and education.
It was such a special experience for the dancers to be in a room filled with women looking to make a positive impact and change within their community. The staff members were so interested in the concept of physicalizing their thoughts, and incredibly enthusiastic about social action through the arts.
The final activity for the day was teaching a workshop to a group of students aged 9-16 years at the Academia de la Danza San Cristóbal, where the students there were very talented and disciplined. The JUNTOS volunteers also took a Bachata class at the center which was a fun way to get to know the students at the academia even more.
The day ended with a short debrief, dinner, and much needed rest!
jueves 17 enero
The JUNTOS volunteers began their day with a performance and short workshop at Cenilia retirement home. JUNTOS Staff member Julia Horner had visited this retirement home on her trip two years ago as a dance volunteer, and some of the residents remembered her. Seeing familiar faces was a nice way to start the day!
At the retirement home, there was a woman who was so moved by the dancing that she was singing and clapping during the entirety of the performance. In speaking with us afterwards, she mentioned that she doesn’t have anyone anymore, no family, and also that she is losing her sight. She said our visit and performance was such a special gift to her. Another man, who we remembered from past visits, was there as well and sang “Paloma” the whole time. Visiting retirement centers is always special, as we are reminded of how much desire to move each resident has. They are always so energized by the music and performance!
This was followed by a second day of workshops with the staff members at FOMMA. The volunteers worked on the two different group pieces and then performed for each other. We then joined together for feedback and discussion, in which the FOMMA participants were vocal about their beliefs, and the ways in which those beliefs fit into the act of making art. They wanted to ensure that the movement in their dances represented the FOMMA mission of women’s empowerment and working against male centered culture.
The day ended with a performance in the Parque Central de San Cristobal. There was no announcement made, so the performance began and a crowd started to form, growing even larger as our partner dance school performed. This was the last public performance for our Abroad trip volunteers. The JUNTOS staff members were inspired and amazed, as they usually are, at how the volunteers developed and grew over the past two weeks as performers, as teachers, and as artists.
The day ended with a workshop at the Academia de la Danza San Cristóbal. The volunteers led a contemporary dance class and then took another class from the Academia.
viernes 18 enero
Field trip day! The volunteers and staff visited a distillery in Comitán de Domínguez where we learned how Comiteco is distilled and made. This is another agave based drink made specifically in Comitán, Chiapas, Mexico.
Then the group visited the Cascadas El Chiflón, where they hiked up to the waterfall and back down to a picnic area. They had such a fun time relaxing and going into the water. Staff members Joanna and Sussan even took a zipline down the mountain! It was a wonderful day to experience the culture of Comitan and the natural beauty of the region.
sabado 19 enero
The JUNTOS volunteers and staff traveled back to Tuxtla Guttierez today. The volunteers performed and taught a small workshop with children living at El DIF Juventud.
The final debrief was very special. Gifts were exchanged between staff and volunteers. On this trip, there were a lot of discussions about connection, and learning how to give and receive from the communities we connected with. The volunteers also thought about how to bring what they had learned back home, an often difficult task.
domingo 20 enero
What an incredible two weeks this was! JUNTOS dance volunteers traveled back home today. Each of them grew in incredible ways, creating authentic connections between themselves and the groups we visited.