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Guatemala 2022

JUNTOS is so excited to travel ABROAD for the first time in over 2.5 years! We will be traveling to Guatemala, visiting Guatemala City and Xela with 6 Dance Volunteers, 1 student leader and 4 JUNTOS Collaborators. For 10 days our Dance Volunteers will teach JUNTOS workshops, perform contemporary and modern dance repertory, and learn new styles like Salsa with local professional dancers in Guatemala. JUNTOS plans to work collaboratively with Aldeas Infantiles SOS, Casa Onice, Centro Cultural Efrain Recinos, Fundabien, Escuela Municipal Estudio de danza Estudio Academia Chevah, AMADANZA, Escuela Circo Batz, and Cuerpo de Baile. We look forward to making new connections and growing our global familia. 

Tune in daily for updates to our Travel Log!

*A JUNTOS First: JUNTOS is building a new way to travel and create connections Abroad. Together we can rebuild the global path to in-person artistic and cultural exchange!

Past JUNTOSAbroad travels in Guatemala.

miercoles 29 de junio

JUNTOS Dance Volunteers arrived safely into La Aurora Airport in Guatemala City today. We are staying at a hotel here for the evening before our big first day of activity! We lunched outdoors in our hotel’s garden and took a walk around the neighborhood to get some Guatemalan paletas and totopos. Dance Volunteers spent the rest of the afternoon creating plans for our first workshop tomorrow. Our dinner was a typical Guatemalan dish – pepián, with rosa jamaica and tortillas. After dinner we discussed our itinerary and other trip details and JUNTOS Staff answered questions and gave out our yellow JUNTOS t-shirts.

We are now full, exhausted, and ready to sleep. ¡Nos vemos mañana!

jueves 30 de junio

Our first day of work began with a beautiful breakfast at our hotel of juevos, frijoles, platanos, frutas, pan, y cafe of course. When we finished, we checked out of the hotel, loaded up the bus, and headed out to our next home at a beautiful Airbnb in Guatemala City. We quickly checked in, then boarded the bus again for Estudio Academia Chevah – a studio owned by Tania De Figue – who generously loaned her space for us to rehearse. Many thanks to Tania, and we look forward to leading a workshop at her studio this Saturday!

After rehearsal, we grabbed some quick lunch for the bus ride and traveled to the studio of Ballet Moderno y Folklorica/AMADANZA for a workshop and performance exchange with their dancers. We were amazed at how welcoming the dancers were, and how open they were to trying new things in our workshop. Our dance volunteers worked as a team to lead the class in a warm up, exercises across the floor, improvisation, and a challenging final combination. Then our volunteers performed JUNTOS favorites – “Paloma Negra”, “Awakening”, and “MeMeMe Makes 3”. And as an impromptu gift, two dancers from AMADANZA graced us with a beautiful traditional Guatemalan dance from Chajul el quiché, where they presented and danced with a Guatemalan textile through a story of love. It was a truly beautiful exchange of dance, stories, and culture.

As a reward for all the hard work, we went out for a delicious dinner at Saúl Bistro before we went home to debrief on the day, and prepare for tomorrow.

¡Vaya bien y hasta mañana!

viernes 1 de julio

Our second day began with breakfast at the airbnb. We packed our bags for our workshops and performance and hopped on the bus with our driver Toby to get to our first location of the day, Aldeas Infantiles SOS. We began rehearsal in their outdoor theater space and prepped for our workshops. We gave a total of 4 Movement Workshops with the children and youth that live there. Then our Dance Volunteers prepared for the presentation. JUNTOS performed 3 dance works for the staff, leaders, and youth living at Aldeas Infantiles SOS. We spoke with the organization’s directors Lidia Velasquez, and program leaders, Enrique and Karen about how the organization works to serve infants, children, youth and teenagers who have become orphans or experienced violence in their families and have now come to live there. We were so grateful to experience the love and care of this organization and share the art of movement and community.

After our tour of Aldeas, we had some lunch and rested for a bit at our airbnb. We then went back to the city center to take a Latin Dance Workshop with JUNTOS Alumni, past Ambassador, and educator Nestor Rodriguez. Nestor gave an energy filled workshop where Dance Volunteers learned Salsa, Bachata, Contemporary/Latin Fusion and worked on artistry and musicality. Thank you Nestor!

We finished our dance with food at Lima, eating ceviches, arroz con pollo y camarones. Then we ate some paletas and headed back to our airbnb. The group sat and discussed Guatemalan history, conflict, American/Guatemalan relations, culture, art, and the history of Mayan communities.

After a packed first two days, we are signing off to rest and recharge. ¡Un abrazo! See you soon!

sábado/domingo 2 + 3 de julio

The 3rd and 4th days of our trip have been a whirlwind! Saturday was our last full day in Guatemala City, and we began with an “in-house” rehearsal at the Airbnb. Impressively, the casts of each piece found pockets of space around the house and were able to prepare repertory for performance. Julia Horner and Brooke Sinton were even able to create an entirely new 3-minute solo in less than 2 hours! After rehearsal, we traveled to Escuela Circo Batz to lead a 2-hour workshop for an amazing group of circus performers at their studio. Our Dance Volunteers made huge strides in their Spanish speaking, as they guided this group through a series of challenging but fun contemporary exercises and a final combo. The dancers also partnered up for a mirroring improvisational exercise, which brought AMAZING creativity from both groups! We then did a short performance for the group, which concluded with a thrilling performance of “Paloma Negra” in the midst of a thunderous downpour. Chills were had and the energy was unstoppable as the dancers brought this repertory to new heights.After such an exciting exchange, we rewarded ourselves with dinner and salsa dancing in Zona 4 – a perfect end to our time in Guatemala City!

Sunday – travel day! Today we departed Guatemala City and made the 4 hour bus ride through the mountains to Quetzaltenango (Xela), for the second half of our trip. We stopped halfway for lunch at one of Sussan’s favorite restaurants, Santa Rita, and loved every bite of this traditional Guatemalan food. When we finally arrived, we met local dancers from Cuerpo de Baile at El Teatro Municipal for a meet/greet. We were astonished by the warm welcome we received, complete with a tour of the theater, and a shared meal of pizza and hot chocolate!After a long day of travel and excitement to be in Xela, we settled in at the beautiful Hotel Pedregal. We finished the evening with a long debrief session and discussion of our time in Guatemala City, where the students began to reflect on observations they’ve made and ways they’ve already seen growth in themselves as individuals and as a group as they grow closer everyday. Now, we can’t wait to see what our time in Xela has in store for us!

lunes 4 de julio

Our 1st day in Xela and our 5th day of activity, began with breakfast at the Hotel Pedregal. We had pancakes, fruit, coffee and tea! Then we drove into the city center, to Casa Onice II, to give a workshop and performance. This organization houses and supports youth with disabilities, and works to find them permanent housing, jobs, education, and more. The young men at this house LOVE TO DANCE! After a short workshop and performance, they performed their own 15 minute piece for JUNTOS Staff and Dance Volunteers. They had so much energy and passion for dance. What a gift to spend the morning learning about this organization and sharing dance. After leaving Casa Onice II, we walked through the Parque Central for lunch at Mandarina. After avocado toast, smoothies, and more coffee, we were ready to move to our next workshop with Efraín Recinos. JUNTOS gave two Movement Workshops, one for girls ages 4-6 and another for girls 8-12. These girls loved dancing with our Dance Volunteers and learning new techniques like jazz! After some sweet moments finishing a combination and lots of photos, we said our goodbyes.

We got back into our bus and arrived to el Teatro Municipal Quetzaltenango for our final workshop of the day with Cuerpo de Baile. JUNTOS taught a full class then began rehearsing a collaborative dance piece that will be performed at the teatro on Wednesday at 5:00pm (Guatemala time), alongside other JUNTOS repertory pieces. We were received with open arms from the group and their director Daniela Sum. After a rewarding workshop, we had ramen, sushi, and tacos for dinner.

JUNTOS believes that dance is for everyone and should be made accessible and welcoming to ALL. We do this work free of charge so those who believe in the impact of the arts can have less barriers accessing it. We are truly grateful to support many wonderful organizations here in Guatemala that are creating impact in their communities, and collaborate with them to create a social impact and nurture our world’s future leaders – no matter where they live.

martes 5 de julio

Today started with a visit to Fundabiem, an organization that provides various types of therapy for individuals and families in need. Our dance volunteers performed 4 pieces for a full audience of children and adults of all ages. Their energetic response to the performance will last with us forever, in addition to the special moments and photos we shared afterward. After the performance we had a short time for lunch and exploring, so Program Manager Christian Barrios brought us to a store where they make traditional Guatemalan goods by hand – including dolls, scarfs, bags, and much more.
In the afternoon, we were invited to teach a class for La Escuela de Danza Municipal – what a fun time getting to know these students! Our Dance Volunteers made special connections with these students through dance, help with the language, and…TikTok of course. After this workshop, we worked with Cuerpo de Baile to continue structuring our choreographic collaboration, which we will perform together tomorrow evening outside El Teatro Municipal.We finished the evening with a late night rehearsal, then boarded the bus back to the hotel where we had a delicious meal of lasagna y pan waiting for us. With our final performance tomorrow, we are all now headed to bed for much needed rest and recovery!

miercoles 6 de julio

What a DAY! We began early with pancakes, fruit, and cafecito… YUM. We left around 8AM to drive up into the mountains in Zunil, a town close to Xela. We arrived at Las Georginas – hot springs with our swim suits ready to relax and recharge after so many days full of activity. What a beautiful place surround by mountains, trees, birds and usually lots of fog. We had some lunch there, and then got back into our bus. We then drove into the center of Zunil to visit Cooperative Santa Ana, a Mayan women’s collective that hand makes textiles and handcrafts.
After we returned to Xela, it was time to prepare for our performance at the Teatro Municipal Quetzaltenango. We rehearsed some of our repertory onstage, then the dancers from Cuerpo de Baile arrived for ensayos – rehearsals. We rehearsed the piece we’ve been working on for the past two days collaboratively. JUNTOS Dance Volunteers created choreography and improvisation prompts, then pulled the piece together in just 3 rehearsals! Impressive team work! After rehearsal, everyone went into their dressing rooms to prepare for the show.
At 5:30PM, we began our show. During the welcome, JUNTOS Staff had a surprise for Program Director Cristiana Cavallo, all of the children and staff from Fundación Salvación. They traveled all the way from Huehuetenango to see the show and meet JUNTOS after 2 years of virtual programming. The performance continued on and it was a full program; 6 dances from JUNTOS Dance Volunteers, and 1 piece from Casa ONICE II, 1 from Escuela Municipal de Danza and of course the collaborative piece with JUNTOS and Cuerpo de Baile. After the performance we had chocolate caliente and pan dulce with all of the children from Fundación Salvación and dances from Cuerpo de Baile. We took lots of photos and had special moments with everyone. We finished our day with dinner and we are now off before we spend the first half our day tomorrow, recording the collaborative piece and some JUNTOS repertory pieces at the Teatro Municipal.

jueves/viernes 7+8 de julio

Our final day in Guatemala took us all by surprise. It’s amazing how fast these 10 days have flown by. This morning we had one final beautiful breakfast made my our friends at Hotel Pedregal, then packed up all our things and head to El Teatro Municipal de Quetzaltenango for one final activity. Daniela Sum, director of Cuerpo de Baile, had arranged for a recording of the collaborative choreographic piece that our dancers worked on together. But first, our JUNTOS dancers requested to take a hip hop workshop with one of their new friends Bima Escobar! It was so GREAT to watch our Dance Volunteers switching shoes, now becoming the students, learning dance in another language.
After this spontaneous workshop, we worked with Saúlo Reyes, the film maker for the theater to record our new collaborative piece on the stage. We also had the opportunity to record three other pieces of JUNTOS repertory – stay tuned for details about an upcoming watch party where you can see all of our work as we performed it in Guatemala!Once we finished recording, the students were very eager to have some free time to walk around Xela, shop for souvenirs, and get some last minute treats before we set off on our 4-hour bus ride back to Guatemala City. We thank our bus driver, Toby, for safely guiding us around Guatemala with his amazing expertise and kindness throughout.We are now all safely back in our homes – NYC, NJ, Chicago, Boston, L.A., Tampa, Toronto – but have left a piece of ourselves in Guatemala. We are still reminiscing and reflecting on this experience, our first trip since 2019, and are in awe of our renewed abilities. Our world is different now, but the love we have for our work remains. We look forward to all of the future trips we’ll take, students we will work with, and communities we will meet. Nos vemos pronto, Guatemala!

Stay tuned for all of the dance we will have shared in Guatemala. We leave a piece of our hearts in every community we work with and look forward to sharing these moments with all of you at a JUNTOS Watch Party in August.