Each day in Panama was an honor, each smile from the children was a blessing and each laugh from my fellow dance diplomats was a joy; my experience during the Move-Ex Open Call this past week was priceless. My time in Panama with Kourtney, Kate, Ruby, Simone, Olivia, Kim, Jen, Hayley and Mama T (Tinna!) was a unforgettable and I hope that by sharing my reflections, others will by inspired to participate in their own experience.
Day 1: It had only been a day in this gorgeous country but I had already learned and seen so much. Our leader, Tinna, made me promise to learn at least 20 Spanish words a day, but from the looks of it, I’m in for much more. Working with the kids in Colon today felt extremely difficult. Not only were we facing the humidity and torrential rain, but the language gap was enormous. Yet looking into the children’s beautiful faces forced me not to give up, dance is universal and we can always connect through movement. And at last, we did. With the rain pouring and thunder and lightning that seemed to strike over head, we all danced together Step Up 2 style! My favorite moment of today was when I was trying to engage one of the girls to dance by bumping hips and soon after, another one of the more shy girls joined us. We became a beautiful hip bumping sandwich.
Day 2: Today began with a whirlwind of dancing and making connections. During the contemporary/creative movement class taught by Hayley and Kate, I felt a sense of comfort in taking class as usual in addition to curiosity at how the students at the University of Panama would respond. I was excited to see that the students were eager to learn and excited to dance with us. I was especially honored when one of the dancers came to me for help in breaking down one of the steps; he and I did not talk but could communicate perfectly through gestures. While at the Malambo orphanage, I enjoyed practicing my Spanish with the girls. I appreciated how one little girl took the time to find a way to communicate her question to me in Spanish. Another beautiful moment was when amongst the chaos of teaching dance to a large group of screaming little girls, there were a few minutes of silence while all of them focused on their sticker craft. It was peaceful and wonderful to see their genuine commitment to their activity.
Day 3: I like to call this day, “another gorgeous scorcher”, as each day though hot and sweaty gets better and better. It began with a hike, that while complaining the whole way up was probably my favorite part of the day. The view, the plant life, the animals (including a sloth and its baby!) were all amazing. Afterwards, we took an incredible class taught by Olivia and Kim. It had an Afro-fusion style that left me eager to do more; I fell completely in love with the movement and could not wait to dance the combination with a dancer I met and partnered up with during the class. At Aldea that afternoon, there was still a little difficulty holding the kids’ attention but amazing moments of focus and dancing were so much fun. I am unbelievably proud of our kids for learning and performing the combination that we taught.
Day 4: This must have been the longest day for me, but it had a fabulous end. I enjoyed the morning contemporary class, it was like a sweet taste of home. Amazing connections were made during the folklore class, I felt that after dancing with the university students for the last 3 days allowed us to become friends and know a little about how each other having shared so much through movement. At our second day at Malambo, I had a fantastic time with one young girl wearing a pretty lavender shirt where we would practice the steps together and then I would ask her if she was ready and she’d give me a beautiful smile and say yes! We did this throughout the whole class and it was so much fun. Finally, we ended the night with a salsa party! There are no words to describe how much fun we had that night and it was beautiful to see my fellow diplomats dancing socially with a taste of their personality in the way they move. Salsa in Panama is a must!
Day 5: Our last day of dancing in Panama and it was perfect. We began with a crazy intense aerial class that left me hungry for more! I felt strong and beautiful while sweating in the heat but it was an experience I can’t wait to have again. I am confident that this one class has prepared me for a long career with Cirque du Soleil. Then we had the most delicious snacks and refreshing juice right before a full hour of shopping (my kind of activity!). After a gorgeous lunch brought by Mama T, we headed to Aldea one more time. Things ran smoothly with teaching and I had an amazing moment with one of the girls. We had a conversation in both Spanish and English in which she told a little about her schooling and her background, then while we were leaving she ran up to me, gave me a hug, and told me how much she enjoyed our conversation in English. I have never felt more thankful and blessed.
Day 6: This was our last full day in Panama and it could not have been more unexpected and fun. With each progression of the day, it kept on getting better. We began with a boat ride where we saw the wildlife including monkeys, baby crocodiles, spiders, turtles, birds and boa constrictor. Then we got the opportunity to jump into the lake, and received challenges for different trick jumps from the little kids of the families on the adventure with us. For lunch we had chicken with pineapple that I have no words for besides delicious and perfect. After a breath-taking kayak trip down a creek and precarious walk across the bed, we arrived at an even more beautiful waterfall that we got to jump off of! It was a level of fun and excitement that I cannot explain. Then, after returning to what could be the considered the “real world”, we went to see authentic Panamanian attire and consume the best street-side snacks. There is no end to the surprises Panama offers!
One week, that felt like months in the beginning, seems to have flown by. I am so grateful to have seen this gorgeous country, met such wonderful people and shared so many amazing memories. I will never forget my time during the Movement Exchange Open Call 2015 and I am honored to call this week one of the best of my life so far. I cannot wait to see what comes next, move to change!