Voluntourism can be considered one of the most honorable ways to spend time exploring and giving back. As a dancer, it is an important career choice to have the experience of a trip such as this one not only to improve my credentials as a young aspiring artist, but also to allow me the unique opportunity to spread the love and joy that dance can bring to any community.
Rob Horowitz, Columbia University Teachers College’s associate director of the Center for Arts Education Research, said “[Dance] is incredibly effective in terms of social-emotional development and in terms of being able to incorporate kids from different backgrounds, different ethnicities, different social backgrounds and have them do something common,” (Yap Cleo). Having the ability as a young artist that is well versed and is continuously studying the art form myself, it would be a privilege to be considered for the Movement Exchange Dance Diplomat Grant (“Movement Exchange”).
Allowing me to expand this trip that would normally be 1 week into 3 weeks would allow me to improve my own knowledge, have the ability to teach and allow these under privileged children the opportunity to experience dance and expand their horizons. This would be a journey that not only would benefit myself and future career, but would also benefit the kids in the impoverished areas of the Republic of Panama. My experiences with teaching children at various dance studios, having many family members that currently live in the country, and studying dance as a college student, uniquely qualifies me to receive this grant.
I would like to start by explaining how my experience and qualifications would benefit me on this journey. I have been dancing for a total of 13 years and have been training to become a professional dancer for close to 10. Dancing has always been such an important element to me and has helped me push though some of the toughest milestones and changes throughout my life. Even when I felt I was not good enough or could not make it any further, dance was always my solitude, and when I was old enough to help other young artists learn to dance and be able to help provide that escape for them, I jumped on the opportunity as quickly as I could.
I began teaching at 3 local dance studios around my hometown in Davenport, Florida. The pride that a dance teacher feels when they see a young student light up with joy because they finally mastered that pirouette, or the day they try on their first pair of pointe shoes is an experience that truly makes teaching worth it. After all dance is a universal language that is well understood, no matter the culture or native tongue, however being able to speak Spanish does have its perks.
With this being said, the moments of pride bring an element of satisfaction that so many teachers must feel. I can only hope as a student myself while working towards a Dance B. F. A at Florida Southern College, my dance professors feel the same way I do while teaching these bright minds. In order to foster these bright minds, dance is an important factor for a young child’s development. In a publication titled “Teaching Dance as Art in Education”, Miss. Brenda McCrutchen explains “All of the arts are vital, complex subjects worth serious attention in education” (McCrutchen, 3).
Dance is such a unique method of learning that can be so vital to any child’s creative, artistic, and social development. Dance teaches the student not only about the technique and important health benefits to help stay active, but it also forces the students to learn how to better interact with one another. In life with any job, one may not like the people you work with, but you have to learn to get over that and be able to get the project finished, and dance can help teach that.
Dance involves trust and cooperation, which is such an important element for young children to learn to be able to work well with others (Yap Cleo). Dance can be such an amazing way to get students to be excited about learning as well. Miss. Elsa explained on the Go Abroad webpage that during her experiences while teaching in the Philippines, the dance lessons she taught started out very basic, and although the kids seemed a bit giggly about the movements, they were “very responsive” and “eager to learn” (T. Elsa).
To me this simply helps to prove that dance can be such an important art form for all students to learn. It is a beautiful way of expressionism and creativity that so many adults do not understand the value it can be for children, especially children in impoverished areas such as communities in the Republic of Panama. The country of Panama holds quite a large amount of significance for me. Not only is the Republic of Panama already a wonderful location that is offered by Movement Exchange as a location to be a dance diplomat, but is also relates to me on a personal level.
My grandmother on my mothers side was Panamanian and she and I were very close. When I was a freshman in high school, my grandma passed away from Alzheimers disease. My entire upbringing as a child I heard story after story about her childhood growing up in Panama and how much she loved it there. Unfortunately it was not until after she passed away that I was finally able to go see the country for myself, and although much of it had changed from her stories, quite a bit was still exactly how I had pictured it my whole childhood.
I loved the country and finally being able to meet all of my family that she had left behind when she moved to the United States in the 1950’s was such an amazing moment for me. The experience was one I will never forget. It was such a different cultural experience from the United States. Seeing the areas that were in poverty with little to no where for some kids to live was really intense. According to World Bank, “Poverty is a national problem, with several key regional pressure points. Panama’s poor are spread across the country.
Although poverty rates are significantly higher further away from the capital area, or residents are concentrated in the Provinces of Panama and Colon” (“The World Bank”). So for me to have this first hand experience, it helps me to better understand not only what I am getting myself into by going to the country, but it also helps me to better understand what the children could have gone though in some of these provinces. For what to expect the grant to be going towards in terms of travel expenses, a simple itinerary should explain it.
While doing some research on this type of trip, there was a blog that I read by two young women who have done the original single week trip though Movement Exchange, and an article posted by Miss. Mei-Ling Murray during her dance instructing travels. The young women, Emily and Angela, go into a bit of detail with their experience through movement exchange and how they slept in hostiles and got to experience a multitude of different types of food and cultural aspects of the country and how wonderful it was to get a new look at a different area of the world.
They discuss that “Our week was filled with moving, conversation, reflection, sightseeing, eating, and sharing. There was no better way to end our week, but to dance, dance, dance! ” (Angela and Emily). Miss. Murray seemed to have had similar views while | read her article in “Stance on Dance”. She also talks about her time in Panama and how teaching there was such a wonderful combination of travel and dancing, two of her passions (Murray). Miss. Murray also went with Movement Exchange as one of their dance diplomats.
During my first 15 days in the Republic of Panama I will be traveling over on Copa Airlines, and although can be pricey is the easiest and quickest way to get there. As far as lodging I will have the ability to stay with family members in Punta Pacifica. Although this is one of the major cities and does not seem to be an area where help is needed, there are still many children in this region of the country that need the exposure and opportunity for expression.
If I was to travel into areas such as Colon, it would not be safe for me to stay there due to the ncreasing crime rates in that city. Luckily help is needed in the safer areas as well. As far as transportation to various locations in the city, family could escort me, and the benefit of a city is that I could always walk. During the weekdays I will be able to get up, eat breakfast with family, and go on to teach these amazing young children the art and joy of dancing. At nights would be able to spend exploring the city and getting lots of rest for my students for the following days ahead.
During the third week and for food and other cultural aspects, I will be lucky enough to have my family as guides and company for me while | am there. They will be able to show me both the unique and “touristy” areas of the country and city that I would not otherwise be able to see. I will then near the end of the third week have my students perform a small show for the community and their families, and depart to fly back home to hopefully start planning a second trip back. When I return I hope to have accomplished a number of tasks. I would like to return knowing I was able to make a difference in a young child’s mind.
I want to have been able to go through a growing period myself as well, and come back more of a cultured and wiser young adult and student as well. Having the extra two weeks will allow me the ability to truly experience these tasks and be able to fully follow them through. My family always says that it’s impossible to get all that you want done in Panama in just a week, and it is quite true. The country is such a unique and beautiful place and the people there are just as wonderful. I hope to gain much more knowledge and hopefully have instilled some knowledge in the children I would teach there as well.
After completing my initial 3 week trip to Panama, the goal is to be able to go back each summer and either work with the same or new students to help them grow in their potential. I would also like to bring back more diplomats with me in future visits, for them to be able to see all that I would be able to see this time and possibly even more. More than anything I would just like for the trip to become a continuous tradition for these children to expect each summer. The culture and experiences are a once in a lifetime chance for both sides, me as the traveler, and the children who live there.
Being able to bring those ideas and experiences back would not only be something to add to my resume and repertoire of dance experience, but would also add to my character as a person. As well as those encounters, would be able to bring the knowledge of the culture and help to spread awareness of the impoverished children back to Florida Southern and other dance institutions and studios in Florida, and maybe not only expand our knowledge locally, but beyond as well so that the culture and learning can continue for everyone. To be able to receive this grant could be life changing – not only for me, but for so many others as well. 6