Last November, as part of Enlaces’ Extension Programs, a Dance Festival was held at the Instituto de Nuestra Señora de la Merced (Institute of Our Lady of Mercy in English) of El Chorrillo in Panama City, where fifteen of the 98 students from 4th and 5th grade whom we have been working with since 2013, showed a work sample with four students of our intensive program who participated with an extract of a piece presented in “Mi Cuerpo, Mi Fuerza” (My Body, My Srength in English), a show that made its debut last August.
This was the first time both groups presented their work in front of an audience composed exclusively by their peers. They all showed a lot of concentration, self-control and hard work. In the short sample they used techniques such as presenting their names with their bodies and the Mirror technique, where one leader directs the group as they change positions.
It was a very emotional event, where the dance teachers’ effort and dedication showed as well as the commitment that children have forged in this year of partnership with the Institute of Our Lady of Mercy, where Fundación Calicanto accomplished to include Dance as a subject in their academic curriculum for 4th and 5th grade.
At the end of the event, one of the school teachers asked to say a few words and she said “We all know how restless and uneasy our children are on a daily basis, but something magic happens when they come to Dance class; when they dance they acquire a certain peace and they seem to listen more.”
In 2015 we plan to add another grade in this school so that more children can benefit from the dance lessons Calicanto offers.
This is the title of Enlaces Program’s most recent dance presentation at Teatro Anita Villalaz, one of the theatres at Panama City’s historic Casco Antiguo. For this show the children trained and rehearsed for more than 4 months, where they explored the relationship between their bodies as a tool for success and source of self-confidence and self-respect. Within the creation process they reinforced the importance of taking care of themselves and the concepts of individuality and how a group can act as a whole, too.
It is beautiful to see, how they become more professional with each presentation. They understand theatre codes, and see the stage as a sacred place. Their concentration was outstanding, and so was their coordination and teamwork. With each show they feel more engaged with their identity as performing artists.
We had a full house, for the first time the families of each one of them were present and so were some of their schoolteachers. The following days the event still pounded in the streets of Casco Antiguo and in our hearts. The children were completely satisfied and eager to work on the next show and share their art with the community. Stay tuned for the next presentation!
Alina is 12 years old. She lives with her grandmother, her younger brother, a dog, a cat, two parakeets and a turtle in one of El Chorrillos’s most dangerous barracks. When she was 2 years old she had an accident with a standing fan that left her with a big scar in her bottom left cheek. This incident made her very self-conscious, defensive, choosing to attack first rather than be attacked and also very introverted. Her defensive attitude caused her a lot of problems and she always found herself in some kind of trouble.
She came to Enlaces in June 2012, with bright eyes and a lot of energy. Her progress was fast. Dancing became her "thing" and in less than a year she became one of the best dancers in the class. She once said, “When I dance I feel like I am flying, like I am somewhere else”.
A couple of months ago, Alina was walking to a park near her neighborhood and she was hit by a vehicle that left her lying helpless on the street. Nobody saw anything, nobody said anything. The law of silence. Besides the fact that no charges were brought for this unfortunate event, she also was left with an injury to her right knee that made her limp. She missed several days of school because her grandmother couldn't afford medical care and what was even worse to her was that she couldn’t dance. “I am worried I’ll never dance again, I thought I was going to die”, she said sadly.
The Enlaces team immediately sorted together a strategy to restore her health back to normal if not better than before. The dance teachers got her an appointment with the best doctor in sports medicine of the country, and then she went over three weeks of physical therapy in one of the best clinics of the city. Since she missed over a month of school, the Enlaces team also helped her with her studies and homework so she didn’t fall behind her peers. When she went back to class the school principal told her “accidents keep chasing you, you better take care of yourself”.
The accident has been a new beginning for Alina. Her grades have improved and as well as her performance in dance class. She received a lot of letters and visits from her friends and teachers that missed her while she was away from the program.
Two months after the accident she is back on stage preparing a solo for a presentation in August. She is aware she has to take care of herself and that her body is her temple and she values dancing more than ever.
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Panama’s summer season goes from January to April; most children are on school vacation and usually enjoy days in the pool and other outdoor activities due to the good weather.
The children from the community we serve don’t usually have opportunities to enjoy a safe summer with recreational activities; instead they are forced to wander the streets and usually end up spending their time with adults who expose them to topics inadequate for their age.
For that reason, this summer the Enlaces children had the opportunity to continue to train in Contemporary Dance with their teachers and they also received master classes from two very renowned US dancers, Kellee Blanchard and Robert Mills.
They also had Art classes where they began working on their self-portrait with the acrylic technique; they had Psychology workshops where they learned the differences between materialistic possession and personal accomplishments.
Every Friday they participated in different fieldtrips: they rode bikes in a road by the ocean, they visited the Miraflores Visitor Center from the Panama Canal and a Science and Art Museum for Children called Explora. The Enlaces kids summer program ended with a big swimming pool party, sponsored by the generous donation of swimming goggles and cap by Ben Betesh International from the brand SPEEDO, plus the cooperation of several people in the community with towels for the kids.
Cristhian is 9 years old and currently lives in one of the most dangerous communities in Panama City.
Cristhian joined us on July 15, 2013 after he auditioned for the program at his local school. As part of the program requirements, the social worker visited his home and found that Cristhian is labeled as a problem child by many of the people who know him. His behavior was so troublesome that in October, school officials decided that it would be best for him to continue his studies from home with assigned learning modules. He was to report to school on Fridays for his physical education class and to turn in assignments.
The Enlaces team did not approve of the action taken by the school officials; not only was it unnecessary to put him out of school but the learning material the teachers had provided was in deplorable conditions. Katty, our social worker, visited the school several times and spoke to nearly all of the officials at the school until he was reinstated.
With more treatment, we realized that Cristhian’s problem came from several sources, including bullying, need for attention and love, as well as an eye problem, which didn’t let him study or focus.
Through a Facebook call for a donation that would help us get Cristhian reading glasses, we were able to test him and buy him a pair of new glasses. The smile on Cristhian’s face is unforgettable to the entire team. The pair of sunglasses helped his self-esteem and his maturity level in school. He was paying attention and doing his homework, which made his mother very happy.
We have started to provide therapy sessions for him and his mother, he is receiving the full benefits of the program: a healthy meal, dance and theater classes, and a drawing and painting class by a volunteer and academic tutor.
The smile on Cristhian’s face motivates us all to do this work. His behavior changed radically after only a couple of months with the Enlaces program.
Thanks to you, we can provide these opportunities to kids like Cristhian, if you didn’t follow our work and donate as you do, this wouldn’t be possible.
Let Cristhian’s smiling face motivate you to continue to support Enlaces.
Happy New Year!
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