This morning I was nervous. At 10:30am I was to teach a class at the University of Panama with one of my awesome cohorts, Kate, who I met only two days prior. Also, I barely speak the language of the students. And yet, within a few minutes into the class, it felt like home. The university students were so open and kind, and excited to dance! The hour and a half class was full of smiles, personal connections beyond language, and sweat. The environmeimagewas free of judgement, and full of hard work and fearlessness of failing. It was so powerful to see the interpersonal exchanges between the nine diplomats and the university students – we really became a cohesive group who helped each other, cheered for each other, and inspired each other. We ended by expressing gratitude in Spanglish and universal hugs. I personally was inspired by the students’ willingness to try it all, and acceptance of a new style and new teachers (me and Kate!) who could barely speak their language. I could see their kindness, willingness and passion for dance in their eyes. I’ll never forget it.

As if that wasn’t enough to *make* a day in Panama, we then headed to the orphanage Malambo after a delicious meal at the university (meal time is my favorite…Panamanian rice and beans anyone!?). First we took a tour of their lovely property; including through the baby rooms where niños less than one year old lay in their cribs. I peered into one crib and met the bright eyes of a tiny baby girl, and with some loving talk and touch the little girl burst into the most beautiful smile. Tina, our amazing coordinator tore us away from the babies and we got ready to dance with the kids! My group with Oli, Kim and Simone began with the teens. The energy was rambunctious and excited. After a circle warm up, a percussion activity and across the floor, Simone took the stage to teach a belly dance combo. The girls were mesmerized Simone’s subtle yet expressive moves with Iranian music had their attention.

In Move/ex we talk about our onion, apple and strawberry moments during each day. Watching the kids watch Simone dance for them at the end of class was a strawberry moment for me today. They were raptured by her expressiveness, and you could see in their eyes how they admired her. Simone is a wonderful person to admire!

With the little ones in our next class, my teaching team enjoyed doing a freeze dance, a partner combo, and an epic obstacle course. Another strawberry moment were the besos I received when saying “Hasta luego” to these warm and bright niños.

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Another incredible day of growth and connections with Move/Ex. I am so proud and grateful to be a dance diplomat with Ruby, Jen, Kim, Caeli, Oli, Simone, Courtney, Kate and our leader, Tina. Besos!

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