Francesca Flamminio, JUNTOS Ambassador 2019 and JUNTOS Alumni
The greatest gift that dance has given me is the ability to get over the fear of making mistakes.
From the time I was young, I was a perfectionist and never wanted to try anything unless I knew for certain that I could do it perfectly. I was happy living in my safe little bubble, until I saw my first performance of the Nutcracker and was completely captivated by the beauty and grace of the ballerinas I saw onstage. From that point on, all I wanted to do was learn how to move like them.
Stepping into dance class, however, meant that I needed to come face to face with my fear of mistakes. The grace and strength of a professional dancer does not just happen overnight, but takes years of trial and error to achieve. I realized that in order to learn a new dance step, I had to practice over and over again to master it, and even then there was still room for improvement. It wouldn’t be perfect right away, but it doesn’t need to be.
As I grew as a dancer and artist, I was eventually able to recognize that there was beauty in my mistakes. My mistakes made me the dancer, artist, and person that I was.
In every JUNTOS workshop, students are not only taught dance steps, but are encouraged to use dance as a means to express themselves and connect with the people around them. As a JUNTOS Ambassador in 2019, I noticed at the beginning of my time teaching that many students were hesitant and nervous, as many of them had never taken a dance class before. However, once I was able to show my students that mistakes were allowed and even encouraged because they are essential to learning, little by little they began to approach the class with more confidence. It was incredible to watch them let go of their fears and truly enjoy the movement.
When we are able to let go of fear, even in small ways, we open ourselves up to so many more experiences and opportunities. With JUNTOS, I have been able to travel, learn new languages, and connect with people all around the world who share my love of movement. I feel so grateful to work with an organization that uses dance to instill confidence and fearlessness in so many young people all around the world.
Nailah Ramcharan-Gibbs, JUNTOS Social Media + Marketing Intern
I began dancing later in life, when I was in my junior year of high school. I had taken classes before but it wasn’t anything I ever paid attention to or took seriously as I had my heart set in the world of gymnastics. After having to retire from the fast-paced, heart-pounding excitement of artistic gymnastics due to a back and hip injury, I was heartbroken and desperate to find something that could combine my love for movement and my need for self-expression. So I turned to dance. I started with a Jazz class because I loved musical theatre, then I began Modern because it made me feel so much more powerful than I could have ever imagined. I fell in love with the intricacies of musicality and the incredible range of styles to learn and perform, even within just one genre. When I began to take it more seriously, I knew that I needed to begin ballet in earnest, something that I wanted but was also dreading. Ballet has never been natural to me – as a gymnast I had trouble with the minute movements and specificity of muscular control – and as I felt pressured to match the technical level of my peers I allowed myself to cheat my way through the rest of high school and into university, a habit that I never saw the need to fix until I began getting injured because of it.
These injuries would have been easily avoided by using correct technique and surrendering my ego, but it scared me to let others see me as having to work below them technically after all of the work I had put in to reach the pre-professional level in such a short amount of time. So I compromised. Every day after classes I would find the smallest studio, go through my book of assigned physiology exercises, and then re-dance the entire morning barre and centre practice with the specificity, corrected alignment, and understated extensions that I needed to rewire my muscle memory. As my hard work began to pay off I began to look forward to this almost meditative daily practice of mindfully breaking everything down into the tiniest details, and as my technique improved I became obsessed with the why’s and how’s of these changes and began studying anatomy and physiology on my own time. I began to bring this mindful mind/body connection into all areas of my life, beginning with dance, slowly integrating it into other physical practices, and eventually into my work as a choreographer and teacher.
By remaining curious, digging for the answers to my questions, and self-identifying as a lifelong learner I have had many opportunities that I would never have had access to without this open mindset.
It’s been several years since I began this journey, and I couldn’t be more grateful to dance for forcing me to understand that it’s okay to not know something because learning is a lifelong endeavor, and to cherish the small victories over the large ones. This discovery has completely changed the way I move, teach, and create, and I truly believe that it may be the most important lesson for everybody to learn.
GivingTuesday is a global generosity movement unleashing the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and the world.
GivingTuesday was created in 2012 as a simple idea: a day that encourages people to do good. Over the past seven years, it has grown into a global movement that inspires hundreds of millions of people to give, collaborate, and celebrate generosity.
This December 1st JUNTOS will participate in this global celebration by kicking off a week of giving with sharing photos, videos, virtual performances, and more! JUNTOS believes in the power of dance to improve mental and physical health, creativity and leadership skills, and community building through arts education and dance performance in our Community Alliances in Latin America as well as our high school and college aged Dance Volunteers.