We kicked off our second day in Panama with a flying low technique class, which was taught by a college student named Adrian. I’m personally not fond of floorwork but it was fun exploring out of my comfort zone and getting down on the ground (and I learned that I really need to work on my tricep muscle strength). He didn’t speak English, but the language barrier wasn’t an issue because just watching him demonstrate the movement was enough to know what he was looking for in the exercises.
After lunch we headed to Aldea SOS Orphanage for our first day of teaching the kids. Once our bus pulled up, my nervousness melted away. I expected to see shy faces, but many were very curious and were immediately clinging to our arms, touching our hair, and asking to take pictures on our phones. I was beginning to look forward to teaching them. However, a majority of the children vanished once we began class. It was honestly very discouraging for me, but the children who did stay behind were so genuinely eager to learn that the feeling went away. I wanted to ask them what they did today, what their favorite color is, whether they are a dog or cat lover. For someone whose basic knowledge of Spanish comes from watching Dora the Explorer, it was frustrating and I was disappointed and even ashamed with myself for not learning the language. But when I saw them laughing as we danced and played games, I realized we didn’t need to share words to create a bond. All we needed was the power of dance and our passion for moving. Even after several years of dancing, it still warms my heart to know that the language of dance has the ability to bring different people together. I can’t wait to see these children again and continue building our relationship through movement… and the occasional silly selfie!
– Jerica Tan, Dance Diplomat from UC Irvine