I am a third year college student studying ballet and business, and I work at a diner on the weekends and teach ballet on the side.  I wanted more involvement with the community so I joined movement exchange recently and absolutely fell in love with the mission statement and values.  I decided to participate in this experience of traveling to Panama because I wanted to grow as a dancer and teacher, share my love of dance, and learn more about this organization.  I can tell you that this is one of the best experiences of my life.  I was not prepared for the impact it would have on me.  Today was the fourth day of classes for the students and three words that describe this experience thus far has to be growth, smiles, and rewards.

I have been working with the youngest age group of 5-8 year olds and the middle group of 8-12 year olds, teaching various genres of dance including ballet, jazz, and creative works along with a couple set dances.  The first day the students appeared to be timid and cautious, not fully participating to their capacity.  My teaching partners and I really encouraged them to dance and have fun.  We created a safe and fun environment to bring out confidence in their creative side.  By the fourth day, I saw monumental growth in these students.  I saw genuine smiles with sparkling eyes, confidence in their dancing and knowledge about dance, and a change in the way they were taking chances, trusting us and even themselves.

Because of their confidence and commitment to this week they allowed themselves to smile and have fun.  When I look around the room at these dancers they appear to have the time of their lives.  One little smile can change your whole day, and I cannot tell you how many smiles were expressed even just today.  I truly felt happy that I was sharing my love of dance and this art form.  My favorite moment today was when they put on their costumes for the presentation that is tomorrow.  All the students faces lit up and expressed gratitude for the leotards that Movement Exchange was able to provide for them through Misty Copeland’s company.  This leads into my next category.

Rewards.  Their are always rewards in being a teacher; however, being a dance teacher is such a different reward.  As we were doing our dress rehearsal, I realized how far they have grown, how many smiles were on the young faces, and how happy I was to be a part of it.  Even though my Spanish is not so good, dance is a universal language that we were able to share.  They shared their culture and we shared ours, yet we were one in the minutes we all danced together.

This exchange helped me learn about a different culture, helped my dancing and teaching, and most importantly helped me develop the appreciation and love I have for dance.  These students have made such an enormous amount of growth and improvement throughout these days and I am grateful to be apart of it.

- Emma Webb, Move-Ex Dance Diplomat
University of Cincinnati