The last few weeks have been very busy as we saw the arrival of the first of our impact teams to The Pink House; The EIC Dance Theatre from London comprised of Sara, Nicola and Emma – a very talented trio that each specialise in different styles of dance and are very passionate about using it as a tool to engage young people. The two weeks they were here seemingly passed in the blink of an eye which is testament to how enjoyable the time they spent here was, yet as I try to summarise the events of the past few weeks it becomes apparent how much they achieved with the girls in such a short space of time.
The EIC girls lead a range of classes, teaching the girls new dance styles and choreography that was to be performed in the second week of their stay.
Nicola taught the youngest girls Ballet…
Sara was teaching jazz…
and Emma taught the girls Charleston and streetdance…
As you can imagine the girls had never had the opportunity to try these styles of dance so there was a buzz of curiosity and excitement throughout the Pink House, it was extremely encouraging to see the girls embracing what the EIC girls had taught them despite being completely out of their comfort zone. New styles of dance pose new challenges but we were all very pleased with the progress everyone made and very proud of the girls for managing to learn new dance routines in just 4 days which they performed the following week.
Week 1 was a huge success, our girls were very welcoming to EIC and enjoyed participating in all their classes. As I wasn’t teaching the classes it gave me an opportunity to observe the girls from a new standpoint and really take in how far they’d come over the last few months, the most noticeable improvements were in their ability to focus and their self confidence. For a number of the girls I saw the sessions with EIC as a watershed moment when they came to the realisation that when faced with a difficult task they were capable of rising to the challenge and giving a good account of themselves.
By the end of the week it was clear to see that many of the girls felt a sense of pride and achievement from learning the dances so quickly and as I watched their final rehearsal before a full week of public performances, I found myself unable to hold back tears of pride.
We then had a little silly moment to lighten my mood…
After a very hectic and challenging week we were very grateful for the arrival of the weekend and the opportunity to get some well deserved rest, but being gluten for punishment we decided to have an early start on Sunday morning and climb a mountain…
This week was amongst he busiest weeks in The Pink House I’ve been a part of since being here as we had public performances scheduled almost every day in schools and neighbouring towns. The week prior the girls had just 4 days to learn new routines with EIC so as you can imagine nerves were high but as always the girls were really excited to perform.
The week of performances started with a morning and afternoon performance at a local school that some of the girls attend, understandably many of them found the prospect of performing in front of their peers and teachers extremely nerve-racking. When we arrived I was very surprised by the amount of people that were in the audience as it was much larger than I anticipated and was easily the biggest audience the girls had been faced with. The dances were received very well and the performances were capped by a commendation from the head teacher who praised the work we do at the Pink House and declared she wanted her school to be a project partner.
Tuesday – General Dutra
General Dutra is a small town that poses the same potential pitfalls for young girls that are present in Medina, Rita (the project co ordinator of the Pink House) established a relationship with the project co ordinator of an NGO in the town and arranged a joint event. The town is situated a half an hour drive away from Medina so using the local school bus we got 25 of the girls together and set off on our first road trip. This was the first time the girls had performed outside of Medina so many of them were very excited about representing their town and The Pink House to some unfamiliar faces. We arrived in the town to be welcomed by a large crowd of young people and adults who were very enthusiastic about the planned performances and entered a jam packed venue with only standing space remaining.
The girls performed a moving piece of theatre about sexual abuse which was quite explicit and had an underlying message that it was important to talk to someone if you were being sexually exploited. It was unfortunate to see that some of the men in the audience seemed quite threatened by this message and tried to intimidate some of the girls performing. It was very heartening to see that despite this the girls maintained their focus, continued to perform and made sure that all in attendance heard their collective voice and message loud and clear which is testament to the fantastic theatrical work that Cristina does with them. The theatre was followed by a number of dance performances which included some of the routines the girls had learnt with EIC and some they had learnt with me.
Again it was evident how much the girls have progressed over the last few months as they appeared skilled and confident performing a wide range of dance styles. This audience were by far the liveliest and most encouraging the girls had performed for with many of the young people in the audience clapping and cheering loudly as the girls performed which only spurred them on to dance with more confidence.
Towards the end of the evening the director of the NGO based in the town spoke very positively about the performances and said she hoped one day Meninadança would come to General Dutra to set up a similar project, to hear these messages of support was a fitting end to a fantastic evening.
Wednesday – Itaobim
The following day saw the arrival of another public performance alongside an NGO so again 25 girls boarded the school bus for another road trip to the nearby town of Itaobim.
The venue was within the grounds of an NGO that specialises in Capoeira so we were welcome by a crowd of young people that attended the NGO along with their friends and families. The evening commenced with a performance of capoeira from the youngest children who looked unbelievably cute performing their flips and moves.
Emma, Sara and Nicola performed a fantastic original dance piece that was the perfect bridge between the Capoeira and dance performances by the girls which went down extremely well with the locals who cheered and applauded.
Our girls performed and did really well and some of our youngest girls performed for the first time without the assistance of the older girls which was a landmark moment. The audience really enjoyed our performances so much so that after every dance our girls performed the children in the audience were shouting 1 more dance, 1 more dance!
As the evening drew to a close we were presented with little gifts the children attending the NGO had made for us which were decorated boxes that were filled with sweets and chocolate.
Each child gave 1 box to each of our girls and staff which I thought was a very kind and thoughtful gesture to cap off what was a great event that went a long way to establishing a fruitful relationship between the two NGOs.
Friday – Comercinho
As well as being the final performance of the week this was also the last opportunity some of the girls got to say goodbye to Nicola, Sara and Emma from EIC so we decided to finish off with somewhat of a Pink House extravaganza which included 8 different dances, a theater performance and included all 50 girls. In addition to our performances some young people from Comercinho also treated us to some theatrical and dance performances. This was the only performance of the week that was done in the main square of the town which presented a different type of atmosphere and also meant we had a number of passers by being drawn to spectate as the girls performed.
As the final dance was about to begin the host of the evening demanded I got up and performed with the girls which was completely unexpected and quite embarrassing but I took him up on his offer and closed the evening dancing with our girls. This is the first time I’ve performed in public with the girls and although I was initially hesitant I really enjoyed it.
Its been wonderful to be so well received by the people we visited this week who expressed their appreciation and support for the work we’re doing and I hope this is the start of some long lasting relationships with other NGOs. The girls did us all ever so proud in representing Meninadança with their performances and behaviour and most importantly they represented themselves impeccably and demonstrated how capable they are.
It was an amazing 2 weeks with EIC who had a very positive impact on the Pink House and will be greatly missed by the staff as well as the girls. There were a lot of tears the day Emma, Sara and Nicola left who were admittedly surprised by how quickly the girls had got attached to them and also how attached they’d become to the girls in such a short space of time, I think it’s fair to say that this experience has made a lasting impressions on them that will ensure they continue to be involved with Meninadança and Casa Rosa.
Thank You to Emma, Sara and Nicola for the time you spent with us, it has been our pleasure to have you and we’ll look forward to you returning in the VERY near future -we hope!
If you want to know more about the work of EIC dance check out their website here.