The beginning was not as smooth as I hoped it to be. Brazil was an unfamiliar place, I almost missed my connecting flight, I was nervous about spending 10 days with entirely new faces, and I was full of doubts about myself as a dancer and as a teacher. However, from the moment I landed in Rio to tearful goodbyes on the last day, everyday was the best it can possibly be. When I came back to school, someone asked me how my summer was and I immediately said it was perfect. The moment I said that, I realized how impactful these 10 days were in my life. So here is what I learned, what I will forever remember, and what made even imperfect moments so perfect.
Walking into Dom Cipriano School, I was anxious about how I will be with kids. I was worried that they might not like me or I might hurt them unintentionally. But waited us were smiles so bright and eyes full of curiosity. When I found myself trying ridiculously hard to understand every single question that the kids are throwing at me with my scarce knowledge of Portuguese, all the worries washed away and only smiles remained. I decided to come to this trip because I wanted to be of help, but that ended up giving me bigger laughter and happiness.
Of course, not every moment was flawless. At first, my Asian looks were unfamiliar to many of them, which resulted in problematic gestures that I was not happy about. But the next day, a boy handed me a heartfelt gift to show his love for Kpop, and kids started telling me everything they know about Korea very enthusiastically. When we got past that stage, they began to welcome me for who I am; some of them hugged me and hold my hand whenever they saw me. That warmth completely broke down the walls to my heart. I feel like I never got to thank them enough, so here it goes. To the boy who asked me if I am leaving on our last day, and who made a very sad face when I said yes, I’m sorry to have you experience the sadness of farewell so early. Perhaps I was naïve to think that I could just come and go without any emotional consequences. But the warmth you gave me every time you hugged me still remains with me. To the boy who quietly gave me two thumbs up after our performance, and who gave me his own drawings as a present, you have no idea how much you made my day. I will never forget you. To the girl who told me that I’m her friend, who always wore the prettiest hair bands, and who seemed shy but was so eager to dance along, you were the best student I had and I’m very sure that you will be a great person one day. I do not know how long my presence will remain in their memories. I hope that, even if it’s not me, someone else will come along, show you joy, and go back home with bigger happiness through this program.
Dance has always been an escape or a safe place for me. I would happily dance for hours, and even the stressful moments that came up during the practices were pleasant. Nevertheless, it has always been nothing but a hobby. I knew that in the back of my mind, that no matter how much I try (to be honest, I didn’t have the courage or time to practice as much as others), I’d never be a professional. When I decided to participate in Movement Exchange, I still had this mindset. Although extremely excited, I doubted how much this trip would be valuable for me since I did not see dance in my future. With these pathetic worries, I came on this trip. But my thoughts began to change. Still, I probably will not be a professional dancer later in life. But even if that is the case, I threw away the idea that loving and continuing to dance is a waste of time. Dance is a huge part of my life in that it makes me focus only on myself and let go of all the useless worries. Being a part of this Movement Exchange and interacting with friends who share similar passion and concerns made me realize that.
In a broader sense, I saw that dance has a power to connect and to change. Although we did not speak the same language, whenever we started dancing, kids started to focus and follow along. Later, they began to incorporate their own styles and confidently showed themselves in front of their peers. Through dance, we became one and felt each other’s presence. Furthermore, I learned dances that embody the strength of those who fought for their rights in oppressed situations, met people who proudly teach these styles and continue the tradition, and interacted with peers who are seeking to make a difference in this world with dance. I was completely captivated by their passion.
I miss every little detail about this trip. I miss laughing with kids, sweating so much from both dancing and walking under hot sunlight, exciting girls night outs, daily reflections and many others. Speaking of, here’s my final apple, onion, and shoutout from two weeks after the trip. My apple is that I got so many wonderful memories to look back to. I’ll always keep them close to my heart. I became more sure of myself, as I was surrounded by people who accepted and welcomed me for who I am. As always, no onions. My final shoutout goes to Aline, Adele, Anna, Emma, Stephanie, Alexis, Tamia, Shannon, Alyssa, Zakiya, Lizzy, Emily, and myself for truly making a difference in each other’s lives and for all the awesome things we will do in the future.
– Minjoo Kim, Dance Diplomat from Colgate University