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Guatemala, May 2014: Celebrating 5 years in Guatemala

As a tribute to our five years in Guatemala, we document our travels for you! Travel with us as we share time with dear friends and family, collaborate with individuals and organizations, experience dance in global context, explore images of beauty, embrace the greatness in all individuals, examine humanity beyond art, and inspire one another.

—- Check out our full itinerary here —-

Day 1: Familia

Un día llena de ensayos y viaje!

JUNTOS U.S. students arrived in Guatemala City yesterday! Today, we are hopping on the shuttle bus with Don Lucas, our trusted driver for the past four years, and driving four hours to the beloved Xela (where we are Distinguished Visitors to the city). Today is a day of preparation for the adventures ahead!

“Family” from Ariane Michaud, dancer from Boston Conservatory

It is the beauty of sitting in a car with people that I may have just met, and singing; Dancing with someone who does not speak the same language, and understanding; sharing a meal, and getting to know a stranger; seeing friends from the past and remembering the moments that we shared.

As we embark on this trip to Guatemala, returning to this country and seeing friends that I have only had the privilege to communicate with through the internet, has made me feel very nostalgic and yet excited. I think back to the numerous hours I have spent with JUNTOS dancers in the past, rehearsing, talking, sharing, I am reminded of the beauty of human connection through movement, and the communication that evolves from this alone. JUNTOS brings us together in ways I can never truly grasp, friendships are formed so quickly and I am reminded of how vital sharing these experiences are to being happy and to understanding why we do what we do.

No matter what trip I am on, where I am or who I am with, JUNTOS feels like nothing less than family. There is a comfort in knowing that this family extends to numerous countries, schools, hospitals, and people who all understand the same idea. JUNTOS is human connection, sharing, giving, learning, loving. So here is to another week of working hard, making friends, eating well, creating memories and dancing with family.

“Familia” de Nestor Rodriguez, bailarina en Quetzaltenango y director de Bakanos Dance Studio

JUNTOS Collective es un proyecto de danza el cual es muy especial ya que tiene como objetivo crear una comunidad de danza, dicha comunidad es mas que eso puesto que con cada visita a diferentes partes del mundo el lazo que se crea es más el de una familia y no solo de una comunidad de personas que bailan.

Todo esto es posible al grado de humildad que tienen los bailarines que conforman JUNTOS collective junto con el carisma de cada uno hace que sea imposible no desarrollar en tan poco tiempo un gran cariño. En visitas de tan poco tiempo como tres o cuatro dias las experiencias son inolvidables y eso hace que con cada visita crezca este  afecto.

La idea de JUNTOS Collective es ayudar a personas por medio de la danza, compartir con las personas el arte y la magia que ellos poseen de una forma en la cual ellos no reciben mas que aplausos en agradecimiento es lo que hace admirable el grado de humildad y a la vez son un ejemplo a seguir. De tal forma el trabajo de JUNTOS Collective es lo que hace que a los lugares donde vallan siempre crearan y harán mas fuerte el lazo de familia.

Day 2: Colaboración

Un día llena de ensayos, talleres, y intercambios!

A full day of activities! We are thrilled to begin our adventures with old friends. We begin with rehearsals, then break up into small groups to teach modern dance workshops with these old friends: dancers from Xela. Following teaching, we (U.S. students and Xela dancers together) get to take a bachata dance workshop with Nestor Rodriguez, director of Bakanos Dance Studio! To finish off the evening, we will dine at Café R.E.D. and Cultural Center, a fusion of art and social change to improve and empower individuals and community.

“Collaboration” from Yoshie Fujimoto Kateada, dancer from LINES/Dominican

It has been an overwhelming and incredible two days. This is my second trip, and I feel that JUNTOS has taught me so much, and has so much left to teach me. A part of this experience that feels so incredibly powerful is the ability to facilitate collaboration and cultural exchange.

Teaching workshops always makes me very nervous at first, but as we taught today I remembered the incredible joy that comes with sharing dance. I remembered that teaching is not a solitary act, it is completely collaborative in nature. Taking the workshop was an amazing reminder of this as well. Being immersed in a different culture reminds me that humanity is so much more than my single perspective. This knowledge of my smallness within the big picture makes me feel both more connected to the people around me, and to myself. I am reminded that collaboration is not only helpful; it is actually necessary to us as artists and human beings.

“Colaboración” de Tiko Skates, breakdancer en Quetzaltenango 

JUNTOS Collective es una compañía llena de vida! La visión del grupo es poder ejercer a nivel mundial la virtud de poder bailar algo que nazca con el corazón. Las bailarias son importante para crecer en fundamentos artísticos lo cual nos ayuda en estilo mejorar técnica y presentación y la forma de aprender es como el nombre: JUNTOS.

Estoy muy contento de compartir experiencias llenas de alegría y momentos inexplicables. La ventura con JUNTOS es algo inexplicable. JUNTOS nos ha ayudado a trabajar en familia esforzarnos y poner a todos en un buen ambiente. JUNTOS ha venido a quebrantar distancias entre academias y aunirnos como familia seguiremos siendo parte de JUNTOS porque estamos en sintonía. Somos arte, somos danza, somos cultura, y lo más importante: Somos familia. I love JUNTOS!

Day 3: Danza

Explorando la danza con ojos nuevos

We began our day jogging up to IFEBU, the all girl’s middle school in Xela. We shared our language, spirit, and emotion with the students in front of us for the second year in a row. Following our first performance in Xela, we gathered with 22 students from IFEBU and taught a dance workshop – the first of two. After a short lunch break, we once again split up into two small groups to teach modern dance and improvisation workshops with Xela dancers. After a wonderful improvisation workshop taught by Yoshie Fujimoto Kateada and Ariane Michaud, we were thrilled to be introduced to urban dance style ragga by dance teacher Mariana Laparra. Check out the video below to see excerpts of the day!

“Dance” from Brittany Hernandez, dancer from LINES/Dominican

Dance is a universal language. It is a special way of communicating that is often overlooked. I forget about this when I am at school, but when I am on a JUNTOS trip I am reminded what a blessing it is to be a part of something so much bigger than me. I witness so much joy in dance workshops and performances. People light up when they start to move and discover how much they can do that they thought they couldn’t. During performances, I can actually see the faces of those I am performing for, which makes it so much more personal. There are no walls built up, everybody is ready and willing to give and receive. It is a refreshing environment compared to the conservatory style dance program I partake in every day at home. The challenge is how to package all this fire for dance and community I soak in here and take it home to develop it even more.

Day 4: Amor y belleza


Another fantastic workshop with girls from IFEBU! For director Joanna Poz-Molesky, these teen workshops are one of the most important activities JUNTOS conducts – for many students workshops are an inspiration and reminder that the students can do anything they want so long as they have drive for it. Following workshops (and gifting shirts of course!), we headed directly to the Nacional Hospital de Quetzaltenango, Xela’s public hospital. We conducted a short performance in the hospital’s pediatric wing (a location we’ve performed at for the past five years) and laughed with some of the children afterwards. Our lunch break was utilized to begin organizing Friday’s flash mob and two workshops approached quickly! We broke into our two groups for modern, then regrouped for belly dancing and tango! A long day, but one full of love, beauty, and passion.

“Amor y Belleza” de Mariana Laparra, dancer en Quetzaltenango 

Hoy la Directora de JUNTOS me preguntó porque JUNTOS es importante para mi. Mi respuesta: AMOR Y BELLEZA. El amor inicia consigo mismo, el amor propio. Pero es mas valioso aún cuando se puede manifestar a otros, al prójimo. El proyecto JUNTOS es muna manifestación de AMOR porque su pilar es compartir con otros..estar JUNTOS y es belleza, porque la creación de danza seamos como seamos, si lo hacemos con amor……. eso es BELLEZA. Gracias Juntos por transmitir su amor a travéz de una de las mas BELLAS artes.. La Danza.

Day 5: potencial

wajshakib b’atz’: año nuevo de los mayas.

Our day kicked off with a lovely performance in Zunil, Guatemala at a public school we’ve performed at all five years we’ve been coming to the country. (Zunil is a town about 20 minutes from Xela – also town of director Joanna Poz-Molesky’s roots.) Next, we gathered with Xela dancers to work out details of our flash mob, later which was taught to all six marching bands of the festival. At 4:30pm, our flash mob took over the street of Xela in front of the government building. Xelajú Es… ¡Un Lugar Diferente! We ran back from the flash mob with our Xela friends to take a Bollywood workshop from JUNTOS assistant Rachel Higbee… what fun! To complete a long day, the seven of us U.S. dancers dressed up in our finest to attend the opening night gala for the festival Xelajú Es, where our fellow dancer Sage Horsey performed as La Luna de Xelajú. What a fantastic day to start off the Mayan new year with.

“Greatness” from Joanna Poz-Molesky, JUNTOS director

Wajshakib B’atz’. The Maya new year.

I state the obvious when I say we all have moments of triumph and moments of defeat. Reality is however, we don’t always know how great we actually are – how triumphant we actually are. And those moments of realization hit us at the most unexpected times.

I was struck with a moment tonight. Xelajú Es opening night gala dinner – only the most important people for the festival are invited to this event. Of course, all U.S. JUNTOS dancers attend. The festival president begins his speech, shortly after calling upon the most important leaders and representatives in the room to stand beside him. He waves a beckoning hand in my direction. Must be someone behind me. Then again. And finally calls, “Joanna, por favor.” Startled, I join the group of eight middle-aged representatives, seven of them men. I  am a 26-year old woman. I represent the United States and JUNTOS, the president tells me. Standing there, I peer down at the reinas with their crowns representing the different areas, all texting on their phones. How as a child I wanted to be one! Now, standing here as one strong, young, beautiful woman among so many men, I am PROUD to be me – to have accomplished what I have, to be a leader. What a wonderful way to start the new year.

I think back at the girls from IFEBU middle school – their potential to create change, to lead, to inspire. I look around me at the beautiful JUNTOS women and see their sparks… How I can’t wait to see their fire. I am so excited to see what the world has in store for us – how so many of us can shape our future if we choose to. We are all capable of greatness.

Take time, be patient. Be defeated, stand up. Fight. Smile. Laugh. LISTEN. Let yourself be guided. Do this, and you will move mountains.

Days 6/7: Arte y humanidad

Colaborando con amigos en los actividades de Xelajú Es

We change pace these days. Festival Xelajú Es plays into our work and we prepare our pieces and enjoy our Guatemalan friends perform their pieces. We are also lucky enough to work with Vanesa Rivera, ballet and contemporary teacher and choreographer in Guatemala City. Our days were filled with smiles, applause, and above all things, a strong connection and love for those we worked with.

“Art and Humanity” from Holly Wilder, dancer from Boston Conservatory

When talking with new and old friends in Xela and telling them how much I love Guatemala they often ask me why. I have yet to be able to fully articulate my response but it always begins with: the people. There is an openness and a warmth here beyond just someone being eager to meet you. It is meeting a stranger and knowing from the first moment that they cherish you and acknowledge you and open their heart to you for no other reason that the fact that you’re a human and we are all here on this planet to be together. This is something that seems so obvious to me when I am surrounded and warmed by this culture of welcome, but is not so apparent back home when I find myself often in a culture that teaches us to be islands. The American value of being able to fend for yourself is so quickly swallowed by the Guatemalan ideal that we were all made for each other.

Coming to this country with the goal of meeting strangers to express something together through the art of dance creates a space where we feel safe enough to allow our own beauty to be seen and to be honest with each other from the first moment that we meet. The Guatemalan culture that is so a part of the people here heightens this safe space and allows us to instantly become juntos and celebrate our humanity together through dance. When I think about Guatemala I think about finding family everywhere that I go. I think about how big the world is, so big that it may seem like it’s trying to keep all of us separate. But JUNTOS has taught me that no matter how big the world tries to be, our hearts will always be bigger. We are not here alone, we are here JUNTOS and our family covers the globe.

“Arte, humanidad, JUNTOS” de Erick Zamora, dancer en Quetzaltenango 

Mas allá de ser llamados bailarines o artistas JUNTOS se convierte en la hermandad ligada al retorno de la amistad y el cariño, JUNTOS no significa hablar de lo ya creado sino de lo que hacemos y haremos por cambiar el mundo para que este vuelva a la paz y a la humanidad sincera. Se dice JUNTOS pero se pronuncia amor y amistad. La humanidad gira en base a un mismo ideal: la busqueda del triunfo y la riqueza pero juntos demuestra la vista hacia el horizonte que hará de nosotros personas integras y mejores. Esto es juntos el arte de bailar con el córazon en juego por lograr la unidad del mundo y el caminar perfecto de quien lo necesita, juntos es eso, la muestra perfecta de la unidad y la belleza de servir y luchar por que todos y cada uno de nosotros seamos libres y dignos de pertenecer a este maravilloso mundo. JUNTOS es arte, humanidad y sobre todas las cosas una familia maravillosa… siempre JUNTOS!!!.