One of our many goals is to create more sustainable arts programming juntos, specifically dance, in Mexico and Central America. In these countries where dance classes are not always an option, and performances from abroad do not reach the barrios or smaller communities in the region, we aspire to share what we have as a form of intercultural exchange. While we do not bring fresh water or new homes to these communities, we bring the hope and the beauty of universality: art transcending barriers of race, religion, language, and differences in culture.
We can do this for short periods of time during our JUNTOSAbroad trips, yet it is our JUNTOSAmbassadors that can really dive into this concept of sustainability. Last November, JUNTOS Collective put together it’s first #GivingTuesday Campaign and successfully raised a total of $5,000. For a small non-profit organization, this money had the power to make a difference in our local and abroad communities. With this money, we were able to bring 3 of our Ambassadors abroad for longer periods of time, to develop and support the arts exchange happening with JUNTOS.
One of our Ambassadors was Megan Stricker, a professional dancer living in New York who has been working with us as a student and alumna since 2012. Megan traveled to Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec, Oaxaca this past summer, where she had the opportunity to live and teach dance with Mixe people for four weeks, one of Mexico’s oldest indigenous cultures.
Megan fully immersed herself in a new culture, a new language, and a new group of students. The community welcomed her with open arms, gave her a place to stay in a cozy bedroom behind the town church and arranged 3 classes to be taught every evening: 2 for children under 18 years, and one for the adults.
Upon return, Megan shared her experience with us, and the power of bringing dance to this community:
« I realized […] that the community truly wanted me and needed me there. Before I had fully decided whether I wanted to teach in Tlahui, there were a few questions that I wanted to discuss with Maestra Irma who had invited me there. I asked her, “Why do you and the community feel it’s important for me to come and teach. What are you looking to get out of it?”[…]I was curious from their perspective why they were interested in this program. After a week and a half of being there Maestra Irma proceeded to tell me very passionately her vision for dance in this community:
‘We want the arts to be living, vibrant, and flourishing in this community. As a child I was fortunate to be in the first band, in a class of seven here in Tlahui. And it has been an honor to see how music has grown and impacted our community. I want the same to happen for dance here. And I’ve been advocating and trying. The students love dance, you always see the smiles on their faces in class, and they always ask me for more, but I am only one teacher. You have had the privilege of attending excellent schools and receiving prestigious training. You have a gift and a power to give the community that which I can not provide.’ »
Through this experience, Megan was not the only one to give. She also received a tremendous amount from the people that surrounded her. She explained to us that her experience teaching in this indigenous community helped her refocus her energy and remind her about the things that are truly important in life.
Megan’s journey was one of the first Ambassador trips made possible by the generous donations received through #GivingTuesday. As we gear up for this year’s fundraising campaign, we are already excited by the possibilities of empowering through the arts, bringing people together, and sharing what we love to do so much with others.