Monday, June 21, 2010

The Dancing Bolivianos!

I’ve been able to take part in two different cultural events so far, one a dance festival put on by groups of special education students and the other a costume contest where parents were competing for prizes for their children’s classroom by trying to make the best costume for the traditional dances using only recycled materials.
The special education festival was marvelous. Save the Children hosts it every year, and because the population of special education students is fairly small, they invite some of the high schools to send students to help support the event. They were excellent supporters, dancing in the stands and cheering for the groups dancing.

I was amazed not just by the beauty of the traditional dances but also by how very well they were performed by the different groups of students. I had never realized that I held an assumption that the many problems that accompany conditions like down syndrome would severely hamper the person’s ability to dance. I learned that day how wrong this assumption is. These kids were great!

The other wonderful thing was how space was made for all ability levels. It didn’t matter if soemone couldn’t walk or if a child was too young to follow complicated choreography. There was a role for everyone who wanted to take part and someone to accompany those who needed assistance.

It was beautiful to see these kids get a chance to show off their abilities and to take pride in their own culture while exploring cultures of other countries. There were dances from all over Latin America as well as from Africa and North America (particularly great North American dances included the can-can and “Thriller!”)

The costume contest was an awesome idea to both share Bolivian culture and spread the message about ecology and recycling, all in a celebratory and creative way. Among favorites were the Incas’ costumes made completely from aluminum cans (mostly beer), the colonial/republic era dress made entirely of newspapers, the Flintone’s characters decked out very accurately using only yogurt wrappers, and the dancing ears of corn.

I was ecstatic to combine my experience with crafting from recycled materials with my understanding of how to create a scale to judge the contestants as equally as possible. And I found myself inspired by many ideas of new recycled crafty ideas. Maybe I’ll even do a workshop with some of the kids while I’m here!

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