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  • Writer's pictureLindsey St Onge

Alex Rhodes from Indiana University's Reflection re: Move-Ex December 2012

I most definitely understood that dance is a universal language. I understood how important it is and what it can mean in a person’s life. Movement Exchange took that knowledge to a different level. It taught me to what degree dance is a universal language and to what degree it can change a person’s life. This trip solidified the decision in me to desire to be some sort of a counselor or therapist and utilize movement and dance as well. This trip did not change what I wanted to do with my life originally, it simply added more factors. I most definitely HAVE to incorporate dance now. There is no question. It also sparked a fire in me to be passionate towards traveling and international studies.

There were so many moments throughout the trip that truly impacted me and struck me in one way or another. Working with the kids in Chepo for the first few days truly had me in awe. I was truly humbled by the living conditions of our friend Elisandro. When I used his bathroom (which was somewhat of an outhouse) in 90-degree weather, I truly became aware of how much we take our lives in the states for granted. The kids were so eager and receptive to what we were doing. It struck me so much that these people hardly ever saw foreigners and I was so grateful that we could be there for those kids to show that someone does, in fact, care about them all very much and will come to their small community to work with them. Being able to perform at their tree lighting ceremony for the holidays was such a humbling experience. We were treated as such special guests. If I had to say, I think Chepo was my favorite place that we went. 

Another big moment for me was being at Malambo and playing with the babies. Anna had said multiple times things about how these orphans do not get enough love and attention. They don’t get held or touched nearly as often as they should. It wasn’t until I held the first one in my arms, though, that I really internalized that message. Knowing how important it is for child development for infants to have human interaction, protection, and simply love and knowing that these precious babies were not getting nearly enough of that broke my heart in that moment. Putting one down only to hear it begin to wail for you not to go was earth shattering. I remember walking into another room and the ones that could walk would waddle up to us with open arms. They just reached so high towards us for love. I realized a very interesting parallel to dance in this moment as well. I thought about when I am improvising. Personally, if I am feeling that the music is deep and moving, one of the things that I seem to find natural to do is to reach up high above me. I am not reaching just to reach or just because it is a pretty move to do while dancing… I feel that I am reaching for SOMETHING or SOMEONE. It is a natural human instinct to want to be loved and to want it desperately. We are all reaching for something… and in that moment, those precious, innocent children who have no idea what hardships are awaiting them out in the world were reaching for me. I felt overwhelmed. I wanted to hold each and every one and bring them home with me to truly give them the love and the life they each deserve. Of course when something impacts you like this, you then think about how many children there are like this everywhere around the world. Even in the states. I couldn’t and still can’t fathom the immense need there is for love for these children.

Diguar’s class was such a huge moment for me and for all of us. I walked into the room expecting a few things. I expected to have fun, I expected to get a lot out of it because I went in feeling very open and venerable, and I went in expecting to learn something. Those things being said, just as I stated before about Movement Exchange in general, all of those things came true but they were taken to a different level. Diguar’s way of teaching and orchestrating the piece that we did was beautiful to watch and be a part of. I had taken modern classes before where the creative process was similar to what he did in some ways. What set him apart was what he was saying and his presence. To be taught in a different language is always a beautiful experience. I almost like it better at times because I feel that all there is to focus on is the dancing. When he needed to be translated, though, he was talking about the piece and about life. The things he said were so poetic and beautiful. It truly shook me to my core to be in the presence of this man who looked at life the way he does. The piece felt so organic and fluid. It was wonderful to be a part of. I saw people like Cait completely burst out of their comfort zones and find something inside of them. All of the girls became so beautiful to me in that moment. I did not see a group of mere women, but I saw a group of extraordinary creatures. Diguar did that and made me see that in only about an hour. Dance does that. How incredible! By the end of the class, Kimberly began translating for Diguar as he was leaving us with some parting words. When she uttered the words, “We were all born moving, we’re supposed to dance, etc” I felt everything around me become blurry. I was no longer truly present and tears welled up in my eyes. Kim and I have always had very deep talks about dance. She could very easily get on a tangent about dance and movement. Some of the things that Diguar was saying literally had come out of Kim’s mouth and her own thinking process… so to hear her TRANSLATING for this man and simply saying everything that she believed in for a man that was an indigenous Cuna from another entire country about dance was absolutely surreal. By the end of our time with him, Kim and I were bawling uncontrollably. It was a very life-changing experience and I really do not know if he understands what it truly meant to us all. 

Reflection time every night was one of the most important aspects of the trip in its entirety. I understood the importance of it right away but I just thought it was nice to hear everyone’s different perspectives of each day. As the nights went on, these conversations became so much more than simply a time to recall the events of the day. We reflected into ourselves. We reflected on so many aspects of life. To hear everyone’s reflections each night was to reveal the passion each of us had in our souls. It was truly amazing to continually see legitimate transformations unravel within each individual person as the week went on. I feel that I got so much out of those times as well as the opportunity to truly become closer to these wonderful girls. It really forced you to change your perspective or your perception of a person once they truly opened themselves up to the group.

In all honesty, another aspect that truly resonated with me throughout the entire trip (not just one moment) were the spirits of both Anna and Mei-Ling. By the end of the trip during our last reflection, I could not even bring the two of them up without tearing up! The only word I could think of to describe them was “angels”. I still cannot think of a better word. No matter what, they consistently made everyone feel so special, necessary, needed, loved, and purposeful. I am not just referring to the children we worked with, but us! They are seriously the most pure beings I think I have ever met. There’s something so special about them that touched me in such a surreal way. I still can’t really explain who they are to people today without tearing up. No one in my life has ever affected me in that way. The fact that there are two of them and they are working together on this extraordinary project blows my mind. I aspire to be like them and I honestly try to channel their energy in my daily life now that I’m home. That is truly something so special that I will never forget from this trip.

There was so much about Movement Exchange’s programming that I found successful. Anna and Mei-Ling’s connections with the people of Panama made the trip so wonderful. I feel like we got so much out of it and were anything but tourists because of the way the trip was handled. I honestly loved the fact that we learned first hand about “Panama time.” It’s part of the culture and we were surely immersed in it! I really cannot think of anything I’d want to change about this experience. No regrets, no suggestions at this time…. Just love and gratitude. Thank you.

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