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Animated Edition - Spring 2005
Dance of hope
Choreographer and teacher Tamara McLorg and musician Barry Ganberg on The Dance of Hope project - working with young people in Lima, Peru
Tamara's Impressions
Arriving at Lima airport, full of excitement and trepidation, we breathed in the warm air, surrounded by a vibrancy that extended our anticipation. The taxi journey across Lima was terrifying as we dodged from lane to lane, hooting of horns, conductors on buses yelling 'Arriba! Arriba!', decaying wonderful Spanish architecture, music floating from the distance. I felt myself drawn into a world that was fascinating and breathtaking - and so began my love affair with Peru.

In April 2004 we were invited by Vera Stastny, director of Ballet San Marcos to make a new work for the company. I travelled with composer Barry Ganberg, funded from The Lisa Ullman Travelling Scholarship Fund, Sally Anne Donaldson who came as my assistant on an Dance UK (Gulbenkian) Assistant Award and Pete Ayres, Lighting Designer, who with myself had received funding from Middlesex University for the trip. During two weeks we worked with Ballet San Marcos and Barry worked with local musicians creating Respiro, culminating with an informal sharing in Ballet San Marcos' studio.

As a result of that initial visit we were invited to return and collaborate on The Dance of Hope Project, an arts programme for social development that seeks to change negative attitudes and promote the talent of children and young people at risk in one of the most economically disadvantaged areas of Lima. Royston Maldoom and Dance United originally initiated the project in partnership with Ballet San Marcos and The British Council in 2003. In July 2004 Barry and I returned to Lima. Our brief consisted of training dancers from Ballet San Marcos and local musicians in community arts and to create a new work with 65 young people from the Los Olivos district of Lima.

From the comfortable studios of Ballet San Marcos we travelled through the sprawl of Lima, (yes, in those hell-raising taxis), to the Municipality of Los Olivos. The dry arid mountains ahead of us, the busy bustling centre surrounding us, we went to meet the young people with whom we would be working. Joining us was Juan Salas, dancer with Ballet San Marcos, who had been teaching the young people since Royston's earlier project. Acting as our translator and possessing knowledge of the young people he was invaluable. Mariela Durand, Maria Elena Riera, Miguel Huaman and Luis Valdivia, from Ballet San Marcos, who were also training to be part of the Community Outreach Team joined us.

The team were crucial in advising us on cultural issues as experience has taught us to listen to the hosts regarding custom, tradition and cultural issues. We always ask the hosts to be as honest as possible and communicate to us any cultural issues or matters that are important or that may arise. Arriving at Los Olivos and meeting the young people was an extraordinary experience. They have a beauty and a gentleness that warms one towards them immediately. They were full of excitement, very noisy, full of energy, curious, and in the Peruvian way always greeted us with a kiss and a hug.

The rehearsal space was a large white room with tiled flooring and just enough space for us all to fit in. The acoustics was equivalent to our local swimming pools. There was a large balcony with windows overlooking the square, which constantly had ceremonies of one kind or another happening. Weddings, traditional dance festivals, stalls selling goods and food, keep fit events etc. The noise from these events would permeate into our rehearsals in a never-ending flow of distant sound. The rehearsal room also seemed to be used as a reception room for children's parties, weddings (lots of weddings), sewing classes, people came through regardless that there were 65 children jumping and dancing around!

The creative process with the group was slow to begin with. They had little confidence in their own creative source and their concentration was limited, but as the work developed and they gained more self esteem they began to feel they were able to contribute to the piece and as their individuality became more apparent their concentration made a massive leap as did their sensitivity to each other and the group. In eight days a 30 minute piece, Fruitiyala, was created, with a new score by Barry and his musicians. An informal sharing was held for the children's families and the Mayor of Los Olivos. My heart was swelling with pride as they walked out ready to perform, head held high with the knowledge that they were special.

The project has had immense support from The British Council, The Municipality of Los Olivos and Ballet San Marcos. The young people were always taken into consideration: two sets of tracksuits were made for rehearsals to helped give them an identity. Food was available, either a two-course lunch when they were rehearsing all day (yes, I did put on weight - so delicious!) or hot chocolate and a roll when we were working in the evening.

Mr Gonzales was the acting co-ordinator for the Los Olivos Municipality and we could not have asked for better support. One of the most extraordinary elements of this project was that Mr Gonzales had organised for a team that consisted of a social worker, psychologist, physiotherapist, doctor and a first aider who observed the whole process and have been monitoring each child to screen their development physically, psychologically, academically and relationships with their family. It is the first time that we have been involved with a project with such underlying research and we are waiting for the results of their findings.

Dance at present in Peru seems to exist in the realms of the cultural elite, and dancers and choreographers are isolated in the knowledge of new dance development. The most recognisable forms are classical ballet and an extremely strong presence of traditional dance. As well as Ballet San Marcos there are a small number of independent dancers/groups challenging the concepts of dance. Whilst training the dancers from Ballet San Marcos we also opened the sessions to other dancers. The training consisted of discussions on the philosophy of community arts, videos were shown of community projects from the UK, copies of Animated were given to them, and workshops were held on creative workshops involving both dance and music.

In November 2004 we returned with Pete Ayres and Sally Anne Donaldson to prepare Fruitiyala, Respiro, and a new musical work for performances in Los Olivos in a school playground and in Teatro Britannica with an audience of ambassadors, prospective funders and their families. We believe the success of the project is due to the unrelenting support, enthusiasm and efficiency of Christian Sanchez from The British Council - Peru, who attended rehearsals following the process, taking excellent photographs for an exhibition and Vera Stastny and her Administrator Fidencia Ariza who tirelessly have fought to sustain the project.

On returning to Lima the young people had grown not only in their dance but also in confidence and behaviour. When they danced with all their joy, honesty, gentleness and energy I knew I had definitely fallen in love with a nation whose culture, with so much richness, and so distant from my own had touched me deeply. It is with hope that we can inspire these young people into a better and more positive future.

Barry's impression
The musical element of the project, as with the dance, gave our young musicians a chance to explore their creative and expressive identity. We created an exciting and vibrant musical experience for participating professional musicians, youth musicians and dancers to take part in, using traditional instruments as well as African and Western instrumentation. The idea was to make a piece that related to Peruvian culture, incorporating traditional aspects while mixing musical styles from related cultures, such as Africa and North and South America, building toward an exciting fusion of sound. All of our young dancers as well as musicians participated in music workshops, which led to the dancers playing percussion and dancing percussive based material, which found its way into the choreography.

Of the sixty-five young people participating in the Dance of Hope Project, six preferred to concentrate on music, playing the traditional percussion instrument 'cajon' or box drum. They are also exploring the use of their voice, which will lead into the next phase of the project, where we hope to have the entire group singing as well as dancing. The use of ones voice can be extremely empowering and will be a good progression, helping to build confidence and self-esteem with a view toward helping these young people find their 'voice'.

Our young musicians have been working with two Peruvian professional musicians Luis Pareja Sedano (cajon) and Diego Sarmiento Herencia (vocal skills) who continue to build strong foundations for them as their coordination, concentration and overall technical abilities improve by leaps and bounds.

One of the highlights of our November Gala Performance was a composition created by Diego and Luis with which our young musicians took centre stage and performed to the packed out Britanica Theatre audience filled with members of their community along with ambassadors and many important prospective funders. The beauty that they displayed shone before our audience and as they proudly took their bows our hope was that a new generation of youth who - given an opportunity to shine - may carry on to grow and inspire others as their work and play continues.

This year we aim to begin handing over the project to our Peruvian artists and teachers as we continue to train and recommend what we see as the best way forward. We carry on helping to build upon their own tools, developing the creative and structural processes that they need. We look towards encouraging work that builds upon strong qualities of process as well as product in an environment of respect and teamwork leading toward all of the joy and fulfilment that the arts can bring.

For more information about the Dance of Hope project see www.britishcouncil.org/peru

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Animated: Spring 2005