Movement Exchange: Adele Switzer

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By Ashley Baker

What exactly is Movement Exchange?

Movement Exchange is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that unites dance and service through our network of university chapters, international dance exchanges and year-round programs in underserved communities.

Our growing network of university chapters in the United States offers free dance education to their local communities, providing weekly or monthly dance classes at after-school programs, youth foundations, domestic violence shelters, nursing homes and more.

Dancers from the U.S. (who we like to call dance diplomats) also participate in week-long international dance exchanges to Panama during which they teach class to children in orphanages and youth foundations, learn from local dance professionals, collaborate with professional dance companies or dance majors in the university, and exchange culture and history through movement. The students from the University of Utah will be participating in an international dance exchange during their spring break! Finally, to support sustainable dance education, Movement Exchange operates year-round, locally staffed dance education programs in underserved communities.

This three-tiered system of university students, international dance exchanges and year-round dance education programs aims to use dance to facilitate individual and community transformation. We believe that dance nurtures individuals to become positive contributors to society and by making dance accessible to all, we hope to create a dance environment that emphasizes civic engagement and global perspectives.

What do you do for Movement Exchange?

I am the Panama Fellow for Movement Exchange, which means that I work alongside the Program Director in Panama. As the Panama Fellow, I serve a lot of roles in the national organization including marketing, outreach, strategic planning and overall management of the organization. I also serve as the link between our university chapters in the United States and our year-round programs in Panama, informing our program participants back in the United States of everything that is going on in our programs in Panama.

Who is involved with Movement Exchange?

Movement Exchange currently has 20 university chapters across the United States and all of these chapters have members who participate in our programs, whether that’s preparing for an international dance exchange or engaging in local dance service within their own communities. Each year, we have about 100 students from the United States participate in an international dance exchange during their winter, spring or summer breaks from college.

At Movement Exchange, we like to call our participants “dance diplomats.” A dance diplomat is:

(1) a person who uses their talent and passion for dance to influence positive social change, and

(2) one who encourages others to dance to allow for cognitive, creative, and social growth.

Since Movement Exchange’s start in 2010, 1,165 dance diplomats have participated in our programs. All of these dance diplomats are united in a passion for using dance to make the world a better place.

Who does Movement Exchange aim to help and how? 

Through our network of university chapters, international dance exchanges and year-round dance education programs, we strive to make dance education accessible to all and target individuals, groups or communities who might not have access to dance education.

Our university chapters in the United States often work with after-care programs, youth foundations such as the Boys and Girls Club or Girls, Inc., domestic violence shelters and refugee centers. The majority of the students our university chapters work with are ages 4-18 and most students have never taken a dance class before or do not have the means to go about taking a dance class. In 2015 alone, Movement Exchange university chapter completed over 3,700 volunteer hours of local dance service in their own communities.

In Panama, we currently work with three orphanages: Malambo Orphanage in Arraijan, Aldea SOS Orphanage in Panama City and Aldea SOS Orphanage in Colon. Movement Exchange provides free weekly dance classes at all three of these orphanages in ballet, contemporary dance and breaking. We provide approximately 300 dance classes per year at these partner locations and since our founding in 2010, over 12,000 youth in Panama have received free dance classes through Movement Exchange’s year-round dance education programs and international dance exchanges. Many of the students in our year-round dance programs come from marginalized populations in Panama. The majority of the students are Afro-Panamanian, indigenous, disabled and/or HIV positive and have suffered emotional, physical and/or sexual abuse.

Our goal in working with these students, both in the U.S. and Panama, is to use dance to instill the values of cross-cultural understanding, civic engagement, social equality and inclusion and creative expression in the students we work with in order to strengthen communities and empower the individual to be confident and creative members of their society.

How should students go about getting involved and what are some of the benefits?

Anyone is welcome to join Movement Exchange! Whether you’ve been dancing your entire life or have never taken a dance class, as long as you have a passion for movement and service, you are welcome within our network of dance diplomats. To get involved with Movement Exchange, email [email protected] to join an international dance exchange or a university chapter.

By becoming involved in Movement Exchange, you will gain invaluable leadership and community engagement skills, exchange dance and culture, positively impact your local community by providing accessible dance education and connect with a group of like-minded individuals who believe in the power of dance.

Anything else you’d like us to know?

If you aren’t able to attend an international dance exchange or become involved with a university chapter, you can participate in our Move to Change Day this October 21, 2017.

Move to Change Day is a global day of dance and service during which communities around the world come together to advocate for accessible dance education. By participating in Move to Change Day, you will be using dance to foster civic engagement and creative expression in your local community. We are moving to change because we believe that dance encourages community empowerment, creative expression and cross-cultural understanding. To organize a Move to Change Day event, email [email protected].