I went with Movement Exchange to Panama for my first time this past summer. No amount of research could have prepared me for what I experienced. Panama itself is a very beautiful place, bursting at the seams with arts and culture. I loved going to the outdoor markets with our group and seeing the handmade jewelry and molas. Although I wasn’t accustomed to the climate when we first arrived, it grew on me the more the week went by. The first day of heavy rain was uncomfortable and scary, and at the same time so freeing to run through. I have never seen rain as heavy as Panama’s, and having no choice but to run through without any umbrella allowed me to embrace the warmth and insanity of the water. Learning the history and experiencing everyday life in Panama reminded me the importance of dance and community. I knew I wanted to use my passion for dance to ignite some spark in the kids, to show them dance is something accessible that can be used to find your niche. The kids in both orphanages made me extremely proud with their talents and support for each other. Who knew there was a secret b-girl hiding in Malambo?!! They surprised me every day with what they could do and what they wanted to learn. There were many children with so much potential, and I strove to teach them what I could while making sure they felt that same passion for dance.
– Alyssa Muller, Move-Ex at UCI