13 University of Utah students and one U professor all traveled to Panama for the sake of dance, through the Movement Exchange this past Spring Break.
An organization dedicated to dance and service in underserved communities, Movement Exchange has locations around the world. Founder Anna Pasternak began dreaming of dancers making a difference at age 25. In 2010 she launched a global community of like minded dancers passionate about social justice and service.
Movement Exchange has three kinds of programs. The first is a University Chapter program that commits to year-round service work and community service. The second is an international dance exchange where students travel to Panama for eight days and exchange styles. There they teach classes, share culture and learn about service. The program also recently launched an exchange to India in 2015. The U is currently participating in the Panama exchange program. During the summer these exchanges are open to any high school student, undergraduate or even professional dancer looking to connect. The third program builds underserved communities from within by hiring locals to teach classes. As Switzer said, “dance connects individuals across linguistic, cultural and social boundaries.”
Panama was Pasternak’s first exchange location, and it was there she realized the importance of dance and vowed to keep the program running.
Adele Switzer is the Panama Fellow. This means she is the correspondent between the U.S. universities and the year-round program. Switzer clearly values dance. “Dance is so much more than movement,” she said.
U students taught three classes during their time in Panama in three different locations, Aldea SOS Orphanage in Panama City, Malambo Orphanage and The National Dance School. These students had to come up with their own lesson plans for each, working from their own expertise to create educational and enjoyable classes for those that attended.
Each location was different. The first orphanage had about 40 students in the workshop, and was located in Panama City. The second orphanage was all girls and has been partnered with Movement Exchange since it began. The third was a preprofessional school. Many of these students take ballet, contemporary and hip hop year round from Panamanian instructors employed by Movement Exchange.
Switzer “had been dancing for 17 years on [her] first exchange… but [she] didn’t realize what impact it could really make on others,” she said, until Movement Exchange changed that for her.
Switzer added, “everyone has a body, everyone can dance.”