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JUNTOSAbroad: Nicaragua 2015

By August 3, 2015August 13th, 2015No Comments

We’re thrilled to be back in Nicaragua for the 4th year in a row. And how do we kick off? A 7am spot on Primera Hora, a national Nicaraguan morning show (similar to Good Morning America). Keep checking in! We’ll be posting photos, videos, and words as we dance throughout the country.

Llegada a Managua


Day one and it’s already off to a packed start. 6:3canal20 am breakfast with group 1 so we can head off to Canal 2 for their national morning television show Primera Hora (similar to “Good Morning America”). Julia and Kemba (both JUNTOS newbies) perform Ariane Michaud’s Soledad on screen as well as move to a few Nicaraguan beats with Manuel Sanchez who teaches Monday morning movement on the show. In the middle of all that of course is the formal but fun interview with Christian and myself (Joanna).

We wrap up our work at the station and head back to the hotel where the rest of the group awaits us. Departure time! You guessed it: Rehearsals, rehearsals, rehearsals. Five hours may seem like a lot, but oh no – much more is needed! Alas, we have no more time and amid the raging 90 degree humid weather lunch appears the wisest choice (yes, dancers11707626_1010721272281172_7422916510787992445_n do eat) before we jump into more activities. Three pm already? Our first workshop is upon us: dancers with the Academia Nicaragüense de la Danza, a group we’ve been working with for the past 4 years now. The crammed, sweaty room does not deter their enthusiasm. Fast paced and quick learners – these dancers challenge us! An hour and a half is not enough (and at this point seems to be the theme of the day) but we must mo11215817_1010759072277392_8184759070490220962_nve on. What’s next? Ballet folklórico de Nicaragua, taught to JUNTOSAbroad dancers by students from the Academia, a true exchange! Naomi (our teacher) challenges us to dance with comals on our heads. Yes, that does mean balancing a rounded object on our heads while moving our feet and arms. We’re always up for a challenge!

A long day at the Academia rehearsing, teaching, and taking classes. We head back to our hotel, but know there is more to do. More reviewing, evaluating, and rehearsing. At the end all are exhausted – dancers slow down, Rachel and myself are taking more time to form sentences, and Christian is nowhere to be found (either working or sleeping upstairs). 10pm seems an appropriate time for bed. One long first day.

But yes, what you are wondering is correct: this is just a normal day in the life of JUNTOS. canal2


Buenos días Managua! Is it only day two?

We’re off to a beautiful start to our day: a workshop and performance at Casa Alianza, an organization and rehabilitation center rescuing homeless, abandoned, abused, trafficked, and exploited children from the streets. The morning workshop proves difficult at first – we aren’t prepared for such a large group and it is our first non-dancer workshop together. We work with them for an hour, the last combination being the most exhilarating for them as it incorporates rhythm and more movement. Following this we perform a few select pieces for the group of  about 50 kids, all ages 13-18, who turn out to be incredibly quiet and engaged.

After our lunch with the group we head off to the Academia Nicaragüense de la Danza to conduct and take another workshop. Although hot, humid, and a tight squeeze of about 30 people in a small room, Julia, Kemba, and Courtney teach the incredibly talented group once again – two that are in international dance companies (one dancing in El Salvador, the other in the Central American dance company). An hour and a half fly by and we find ourselves once again tying on practice skirts for the workshop students Naomi and Georgina are to teach us. We learn a new piece (Te amo Nicaragua) that we will perform tomorrow with the piece from yesterday. How exciting!

6:30pm is upon us and we thank our teachers, pack our bags, and head out the door. Back by 7pm for dinner to be followed with more rehearsals in our hotel. Although tired and working so hard, we’re enjoying every moment.

Off to bed and ready for tomorrow!


First stop of the day is at the Albergue para niños con cancer. Although it is on hospital grounds, it is not in fact a part of the hospital but instead hosted by nuns. These women have dedicated their lives to helping young children be treated for cancer, offering children and a guardian a place to stay during their treatment. Children sometimes stay months depending on the level of cancer, and travel days to get to this location.

JUNTOS greets the children swaying slowly on their swing set, rolling on their plastic toy cars, sitting quietly on their parents laps, and observing from wheelchairs. With help from a local organization, we have a party planned to mingle with the children prior to dancing for them. After a short time preparing, we enjoy time with the kids: two piñatas (where even an infant and girl in a wheelchair have a go!), dancing with them, and chatting (as much as we can with our limited Spanish). Forty-five minutes of fun and games pass and we prepare for performance. We share the small space with our friends from the Academia Nicaragüense, they perform traditional dance and we perform our contemporary pieces. We hope to share a piece of our hearts, offering beauty in this time of hardship. How special we feel to be able to share in this time and space with these children. Gratitude.

Following lunch we head over to the Academia for our last day of workshops. Both groups teach and review repertoire for the evening’s performance. About a two hundred audience members gather to watch two groups from incredibly different cultures share the stage. We are honored to dance the traditional dance we’ve learned while cheered on by our viewers.

And of course, our time in Managua would not be complete without our traditional salsa night celebration. Yes, we dance the night away with friends from the Academia practice the little salsa and bachata we know.

Gracias Managua por compartir tanto cultura con nosotros. Off to bed and ready for a trip to Nagarote in the morning!

We arrive in Nagarote around 11am, a short one hour bus ride from Managua. Nagarote, a beautiful quiet town where few cars are on the street and instead moto-taxis and bici-taxis drive by. The heat and dust are a bit painful (it’s even hotter than Managua!) and we all know that sleeping may be a bit hard with no AC and only a fan to keep cool, but it’s all part of the experience that is Nagarote.

Shortly after our arrival we walk over to NicaPhoto, the wonderful organization that Connecticut-native Ronnie Mahler founded promoting education, art, and personal development in underserved youth from some of Nicaragua’s poorest neighborhoods. It is here that we are to spend the following few days. And what a gift it is to return! It is our third visit here and we are overjoyed as we enter the familiar simple yet energetic building. Children running around, laugher from various rooms, and curious faces…. The children sweep us into the main room to join them as they have a welcome party for us: three dancers, two singers, as well as juice in bags and mangoes for us! We receive these gifts – gifts of the heart – with so much appreciation.

Following this welcome we eat with the children and are joined by a group from Connecticut who are here in Nagarote for a week helping install latrines in the community. We all gather in one space sharing the same food and all get to know each other, the girls from NicaPhoto braiding our hair. Lunch is over, work begins, and Ronnie invites us to see the neighborhood where the children live. The photos below capture a glimpse of the barrio.

IMG_3912 IMG_3919

Upon return, JUNTOS heads over to the workshop space to rehearse a bit before we start our 3pm workshop with a group of the kids.

Before we know it, over 30 students flood the space eager to take our workshop! Even most of the boys are immersed in our class – the ones that never partake in outside activities. How wonderful! Although we only have a few days of workshop, we know we leave these children moments of joy, an outlet for expression and creativity, and an inspiration of dance and sense of empowerment.

Alas, the end of the day is nearly upon us and we wrap up with dinner and head to bed. A long day awaits us tomorrow.

9:12pm Nagarote school children: Teach workshop
3-5pm NicaPhoto: Teach workshop

9-12pm Nagarote school children: Teach workshop
3-5pm NicaPhoto: teach workshop
7pm Public Performance: Parque Central

Tentative performance in Nagarote
Travel to Matagalpa

10am Outreach performance
3-4:30pm Teach workshop: Arabesco
5:30-7pm Take workshop: Arabesco

10am Outreach performance
3-4:30pm Teach workshop: Arabesco
7pm Public performance

8-10am Travel to Leon
3-5pm Teach workshop to Yaxall: Casa de la Cultura

9-12pm Take workshop: Casa de la Cultura
3-5pm Teach workshop to Yaxall: Casa de la Cultura
7pm Public performance at Teatro Municipal de León
Evening: Salsa night!

Morning: Travel to Granada
10-12pm Casa de los tres Mundos: teach workshop
3-5pm Casa de los tres Mundos: teach workshop
7pm: Public performance at Casa de los tres Mundos

Free time: tentative beach trip
Evening: travel to Managua