Our photographer has been doing an amazing job documenting our experiences here in Panama. But in addition to taking candid photos and films, he is also conducting interviews with the students taking our classes, and us, the teachers. He asked some really great questions that highlight the uniqueness and therefore the value of Movement Exchange.

I have trained intensively in classical ballet. And I am absolutely in love with ballet, I really am. People like to say, “Ballet is my boyfriend,” because it is something that you are utterly enamored with, and it brings so much joy, but sometimes the relationship can be destructive. It is almost paradoxical. Ballet has given me so much self confidence, more than anything else I can think of, but has also stripped of that self confidence. Dance is such a tough industry that can instill a fear of failure coupled with an intense, obsessive work ethic. I think so many dancers work so hard, until they’re dripping with sweat, their feet are bleeding, and their muscles are so sore that they can’t walk, all in the name of “love” of dance. Movement Exchange is the first program I have ever been exposed to that eliminates all of this unnecessary, dangerous negativity and emphasizes the joy in dancing, moving and feeling. I think dance connects one’s body to one’s intellect and to one’s artistry in a way that is so totally unique. However, too many dancers lose this in the struggle for perfection that the dance industry itself so often demands. Being in Panama, teaching, moving, and connecting with new people is rejuvenating. It lays a foundation for a productive relationship with dance, with one’s future, and with oneself.

In this way, dance is empowering. We talked as a group about one of the older students today who is growing up to become a community leader and using dance as a tool to do so. He values our classes so much, but is also valuable in the classroom; helping other students pick up choreography or translating when we can’t communicate well enough. So many of the kids we teach seem shy, scared or hesitant at first. It makes sense- new people who look very different from you come and try to get you to strange things with your body… But I think becoming comfortable with dancing and with us has been really positive. We have been remarkably well received, but we are also seeing changes in the kids. They can pick up choreography better, they pick up on details, they are flexible, they practice steps without encouragement, they are vocal, they are accomplishing something they were unable to do just a few days prior. All of these skills are applicable to pretty much any situation you encounter.

While everyone was definitely tired and sweaty today, the classes were very smooth. Teaching is rather stressful for me at least because I don’t feel like I know what I’m doing, but the positivity and productivity from everyone today was especially encouraging. It has been three days and it is very apparent that we’ve done a lot here- and we still have a show to put on- but even though we aren’t here for very long, but everyone will gain something from dancing here. We’re not here to dance around for a few days and leave. We need to leave something behind.

- Catherine Gilfoyle, Move-Ex Dance Diplomat
University of Cincinnati