Juan dancing with one of his teachers at a show
When we started Enlaces (At Risk Children Dance for Social Change), our mission encompassed more than simply dance and theatre. We longed to be a light for our students, in order to guide them to a better economic and social situation.
That was five years ago. Enlaces was young and the coordinators dreamed of a program that could reach the fame of international projects of the same quality. This year, more than any other time, we have living, tangible proof of the real impact that this initiative can have.
This proof has a name: Juan.
A dedicated student, a hard worker, and a young man with unbreakable values, Juan has been with us from the start. With incredible talent and an insatiable hunger for success, this young boy from Santa Ana has become famous in circles outside of Calicanto. In 2012 he was selected to participate in the nationwide Panamanian show “Little Giants” and between 2012 and 2013 he participated in a series of learning workshops organized by Prisma Festival.
In 2013, he participated in a conference called Youth Creation for Peace, organized by DanzÁrea, where he placed third.
All these achievements culminated in a gold medal win at an international competition organized by Danza Activa in 2014, in the Solo – Youth category.
Juan has come very far from his beginnings in the program 5 years ago. In many ways, he is representative of our mission. He is a young man that lives in difficult conditions but that benefits from the unyielding support of a grandmother who has served as both father and mother to him and who has always encouraged him to follow his dreams, no matter the socioeconomic context.
From April 20th to 24th of this year, Juan traveled to Cartagena to participate in intensive workshops with the prestigious Compañía Periferia and El Colegio del Cuerpo (The School of the Body.) We cannot stress what a huge achievement this is for him and the program at large.
The latter institution provided us with the basic blueprint for Enlaces (with some minor changes.) At The School of the Body, the teachers prioritize the value of the students’ bodies, human dignity, emotional development, and the balance between the physical and the psychological. All these characteristics are of upmost importance in Calicanto.
You could say that Enlaces is a descendant of this academy. And like sea turtle offspring returning to the beach of their birth to lay their own eggs, the cycle that started in 2010 comes full circle.
Enlaces returns to Cartagena with one of our best students to recognize that, although Juan will keep advancing and growing, he has now become the kind of dancer that can hold his own in the company of professionals five or six years older, all within the walls of an internationally renowned academy.
But the connection is also personal. José Leonardo, an Enlaces teacher, comes directly from this school. His story is very similar to Juan, with slightly different but equally important challenges.
José Leonardo’s success is an example to his student and they both see themselves reflected in the other. They represent two different stages of one success story and we are sure that, given a few years, Juan will achieve his dreams in the same manner his teacher did.
Juan tells us that he wants to be an architect one day and wants to study abroad. He says that dance has been an outlet through which he’s been able to freely and fearlessly express his feelings and his identity, without fear of being judged.
The Foundation is proud of this young man. He represents a reality that, in a world full of cynicism and pessimism, is sometimes hard to accept: anything is possible if you follow your dreams, work hard, and leave fear behind.
If you want to help Juan with the costs of his recent trip and his dancing partner Raul with his upcoming travel arrangements, visit Help Juan and Raul Dance for a Future, our microproject under "At Risk Children Dance for Social Change."
*The names in this report have been changed to respect the privacy of our beneficiaries.
Juan at the end-of-the-year recital
Juan at a ballet recital based on Disney's Frozen