As our last day of teaching dance in panama comes to a close, I could not be happier with all that I have experienced here. I will definitely miss all of the kid’s genuine smiles, laughter, curiosity, and strength while I’m back within the madness of New York City. Before teaching today at Aldeas SOS in Panama City, Tinna and all of the other dance diplomats had a tough but AWESOME discussion about this “white savior complex” most service trips tend to have. What gives us the right to feel like we have to “help” certain groups of people? Is it because we simply have the resources to go on a week long trip out of the country like this? What are the motivations behind the actions of people with this way of thinking? Who is really being helped in these types of situations?
I have been on more than a few service trips and mission trips, and after having this experience with movement exchange I am now seeing some if their flaws. Normally, the term “help” comes with some type of expectation from both parties, and in the end where is the true value in that? What I have come to appreciate about the movement exchange program is that it is exactly what our name describes: an exchange. As dance diplomats we are leaving these kids with the outlet of dance, love, and the attention and affection that they deserve, while we receive so much in return as well.
We discussed how trips such as this can only be truly successful if we think of them as an exchange. This way, no group is superior to another, we are all just bodies living in this universe (sounds lame ik but true!). Some of us may have resources that others don’t, though that makes them no better, it simply means that the other groups strengths lie elsewhere. Sure I may have an abundance of material items, but these kids here are rich in so many other ways. As dancers, as diplomats, and as human beings, it is so so important that we hold onto these values and remember that we are all equals!
YAY DANCE <3 Al