Last spring, Assistant Professor Juan Carlos Claudio realized a longtime goal of taking modern dance out of the studio and into the international community. Partnering with Anna Pasternak, director of Movement Exchange, a dance service organization based in Panama City, Professor Claudio launched an International Community Service Learning Program that allowed modern dance students to use their art form to meaningfully engage with another culture.
Building on content in Prof. Claudio’s courses, Dance in Culture, Service Learning: Modern Dance, and Dance in Community, eight students from the Department traveled to Panama City for a weeklong residency that emphasized teaching, community engagement and intercultural exchange. Envisioned as a sort of “dance without borders,” the Movement Exchange provides underserved populations with meaningful arts experiences that foster the cultivation of teamwork, self-confidence and trust, while offering college students an opportunity to augment their teaching and service experience.
U students attended and taught classes at the University of Panama and The National School of Dance and conducted dance workshops for hundreds of at-risk youth in orphanages and elementary schools, putting in twelve-hour days. But, rather than coming home run-down from their exhausting schedule, the dancers returned with a vigor and passion that infused the Department over the remaining weeks of the spring semester. They inspired everyone around them with stories of their amazing experience. Encouraged by this success, Prof. Claudio will return to Panama for another exchange this spring with over double the number of students accompanying him.