In May, Company dancers Joshua Winzeler and Vanessa Valecillos traveled to Guatemala City, Guatemala to work with the dance students at Dance Studio. Last year, the entire company traveled to Antigua to perform at the Festival Internacional de Cultura Paiz 2011. On this trip, however, Joshua and Vanessa were on a different mission: to bring their professional experience and dance wisdom to young and eager-to-learn students.
Vanessa and Joshua reflected on their incredible experiences, and we are excited to share their with you! It’s amazing what our dancers are up to, so we hope you enjoy learning about what BH dancers do in their “free” time! You can find more information about Dance Studio on Facebook. Enjoy!
Joshua and I traveled to Guatemala City on May 21. We stayed at the house of Laura Galvez and her family. They truly made us feel at home! Laura is the director of the jazz program that Dance Studio has.
I taught all the ballet classes, and Joshua taught the contemporary classes. I had students who ranged in age from 7 years old to teenagers. I enjoyed all of the students! Some of the classes were high levels and very challenging.
I love to see the young ones that have a lot of potential paying so much attention and really listening to me. I find so much satisfaction in them really understanding dance at such a young age. For the older students, it was great to see them working so hard because they were given an opportunity to see what else is out there in the dance world and not just what they see on an everyday basis.
My biggest challenge was to teach ballet class to the jazz students. Most of them have never had ballet before. So I had to start with the basic positions and postures rather than the more difficult technique. And I only had one day to do it!
One evening we went to a dance challenge that was being held at El Teatro Nacional, a beautiful theater, where a lot of the dance schools compete. It was very interesting to see because it showed us the various levels of the different schools. (By the way, Dance Studio won first place in ballet and third place in jazz and hip hop!)
A great moment for me while being there was going to Antigua on Saturday afternoon. It brought great memories of when I went there with Ballet Hispanico last season!
I am looking forward to going back in the near future to teach at Dance Studio again and to see the great friends that we made while being there.
The facility where we taught was amazing! It was sort of a country club, with a pool, karate, a gym, a spa, spin classes…the works. After we got there, we observed some of the classes we would be teaching. Vanessa taught Ballet, while I taught Contemporary dance.
Both Vanessa and I had a lot on our plates. Most of my classes consisted of ballet-trained dancers who had never taken a Contemporary class in their lives, some not knowing what it was. Their technique reflected that of Ballet: poised, light and not very fluid in their movement quality. I had about 3 classes with them that each lasted an hour. I utilized the some Horton and Limón technique along with some Bartenieff fundamentals. I felt like it was important that the dancers knew the endless possibilities that the body could move in. How to release into the floor. To transition from one movement into another effortlessly. How to suspend or sustain a movement. How to dance from your core and not just the arms and legs. All terms vital in the dance world.
At first these dancers were timid and laughed at what I was showing them. They were uncomfortable and embarrassed that they might make a mistake. It was important for them to know that class was not only a place to discipline yourself in technique and style, but also a place to explore new ways of moving and discovering what works best for your body. It was obvious that these dancers were intimidated by Vanessa and me—“the professional dancers from New York and Ballet Hispanico”—but we were still human and had once been in the same place they were. They started opening up, and the shift of energy was like night and day. The girls were hungry and willing to learn. It was amazing to see such a vast change in their quality of dancing in such a short amount of time.
I went there with a goal. If I was able to teach them ONE thing, whether it be a new term in dance or a new way of dancing, I would have done my job. And that I did. One dancer asked me, “Why do you dance”? I replied, “Two reasons: one, dance is a gateway that allows me to forget about everything that happens in this sometimes mundane world and I am able to express myself in whatever way I chose. And two, I believe dance to be another form of communicating though the movements of our body.” It was something so powerful and profound to them. I could see it in their eyes. It was like they saw dance as a hobby at first and then realized that there was so much more dance had to offer. The icing on the cake was receiving status updates via Facebook or Twitter about how Vanessa and I have helped not only the dancers, but also the teachers to see dance in a new way. We have lit a brand new fire in them and that they are ready and willing to go the distance to achieve any goal they set for themselves. We are very optimistic that we will have another opportunity to reunite next year and create another successful workshop like this one.
I would also like to thank Nicholas Villeneuve for this amazing opportunity. Originally, Nicholas planned on going on the trip, but was unable to travel because of the School of Dance recital. He referred Dance Studio to me, and I am so thankful I was able to take advantage of this amazing experience.