Why Hello There 2016!

Happy New Year! 

               I’m so excited for 2016 and look forward to what this year has in store. I took a long hiatus from my blog but I’m back and ready to continue posting about my dance journey. This year I would like to take more dance classes (more ballet, musical theater, hip-hop, contemporary and of course dance forms from different cultures), choreograph, have more performance opportunities and teach dance more! I would also like to travel 🙂

2015 Recap

  1.  Traveled abroad for the first time to Panama with Movement Exchange
At the University of Panama 

Check out previous posts from the exchange!

     2.   Performed for the first time on stage with Ajna Dance

I participated in the Bollywood and Bhangra and Semi-Classical Performance Intensives

     3.    Volunteered with Dance to Unite (<<<check out this cool video)

            And went to an amazing Around the World Benefit for Dance to Unite last June (where we ended with a cypher !!)


Professional Ballroom dancer and Dance to Unite teacher Monica, performing with her partner for the benefit.
 Professional Kathak dancer and Dance to Unite Teacher Vaishali, performing for the benefit.
Anh-Tuyet, President of the Board, speaking to the crowd

Board of Directors

Dance to Unite volunteers

     4.   Becoming a dance major at Hunter College and starting Ballet!

I’ve always held on that it’s not too late for me starting dance later in life. There are a lot of negative, misguiding messages in the world that tell people how to think about themselves and their lives, and I think it’s important to realize that your own thoughts about yourself and your life outweigh those of others…because in the end, no one can live your life except you. It’s personal power to decide if you want to live by other people’s definitions and/or ideas of possibility or your own.

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”

Eric Roth


Movement Exchange 6 Part Series: Part 5

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Day 5

This morning we took an awesome Aerial class! Aerial is NO joke. If you ever watch an Aerial performance and it looks easy to you, it’s not!!

Much respect for Aerialists and for our teacher who was very encouraging!

I loved this class because it was challenging like the Contemporary class. I pushed myself to do many of the movements and succeeded in most. But, DAMN, I had no idea the upper body strength needed for Aerial.


My partner Kourtney! She had a tough time doing some of the movements and I could see at some point she felt like giving up, but in the end she conquered the difficulty of the movements! Fall down seven times, stand up eight 🙂
Hayley kicking ass
I’m very grateful that I got to take an Aerial class with this beautiful group of women.

Last Day at Aldea SOS Panamá

One of the kids showing Caeli, Kim and Hayley a dance move perhaps?!
playing the name/movement game!
across the floor practicing different motor skills

Performance Time!

The older group performing!
The younger group performing!

After the performance, one of the older girls asks if we can do the Bollywood dance again. I am really surprised that she, along with some of the older kids want to do it again. I put on Balam Pichkari (the song used for the choreography) and we bust out the moves one last time!

Group photos are the best!
Packing up and giving last minute hugs 🙂

Movement Exchange (NOW 6) Part Series: Part 4

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Day 3

Starting the morning by hiking to the top of Ancon Hill :D
Started the morning by hiking to the top of Ancon Hill (which overlooks Panama City) 😀
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Then we make our way over to the University of Panamá; Kim leads warm-up.
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Kim and Olivia lead a combination!
Olivia starts teaching this bad-ass choreography


Everyone loved the class!
After we eat lunch, we drive to Aldea SOS Panamá. It’s been a long day already, but I’m loving every moment of it!
Around twenty minutes after arriving, it’s time to dance! After Kim leads a warm-up, Ruby leads across the floor!
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 I’m teach a Bollywood piece that I learned from Dance to Unite Teacher, Vaishali


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End of first day at Aldea SOS Panamá!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Day 4

Contemporary class that was very fun and challenging!


Folkloric class at the University of Panamá


Last day at Malambo! We start off by working with the little kids first. Hayley and Olivia lead the class!
Meanwhile, the other group works with the older girls. Jenn is leading warm-up!
I had a chance to teach Bellydance choreo that I learned from Dance to Unite Teacher, Nooshi
The other group switched over to work with the little ones. Here is Ruby and Jenn!

Lessons Learned

     1. Accepting that I’m a beginner dancer and I may not catch onto choreography as quickly as more advanced dancers. As Olivia said one time, “everyone has their own dance journey”.

2. Be more confident when I teach.

3. Sometimes letting the kids lead dance activities helps them stay more engaged.

4. Asking kids what they want to listen to may motivate them to participate more. One of the little girls was persistent in letting me know she wanted to listen to Don Omar’s “Zumba”. I played the song and she kept asking me to play it over and over again. So I learned that making dance classes really student-centered can change the dynamic.

5. I need to listen to more music from Central and Latin America!

I found Remezcla, a website dedicated to Latin culture and music!

Movement Exchange 5 Part Series: Part 3

Monday, June 8, 2015

Day 3

Today we are at the University of Panamá!

Olivia and I
Olivia and I

Before Hayley and Kate teach a class we go on a tour of the university. I love that there is so much beautiful and cool art on the walls!









Outside the dance studio we see a board describing Black Ethnicity Month


Soon class starts, and after a brief warm-up, Hayley begins with a Brain Dance exercise involving three partners. Then we do an awesome combination across the floor called “Running Man”. Shout out to Hayley for helping me, because I had a hard time catching on!


 Then Kate leads a really cool activity where we have a balloon and we have to keep it in the air while dancing. We do this solo and then with partners. I love the activity because it makes me think how to use my body creatively!


 Then Hayley continues the class with some awesome choreography. It is really hard for me to catch on quickly, but I try not to be hard on myself because I started dancing last year.


Class goes by so fast! For the most part I am present during the whole session, there are a couple of moments when I become really self-conscious. I have a chance to briefly talk to one student! I wish we could have a pre-session where we do community building activities and get to know each other first. But, it was SO cool dancing together 😀



Post dance class we go to the cafeteria and have lunch (rice, lentil beans and meatballs with passion fruit juice…mmmMMMm)!

Afterward we head over to Malamabo, an all girls orphanage outside of Panamá City. When we arrive we go on a tour of the orphanage, stopping in the baby and toddler wing and then each house arranged by age.

We split into our teaching groups. Hayley and Olivia lead the name game and warm-up ( I love introductions!) and Kim leads across the floor!


 I teach the Bellydance choreography I learned in the Dance to Unite class I assisted this past year with teacher, Nooshi. I am really nervous and mess up a little, but Tinna and Olivia help me by translating. The girls learn the choreography quickly and ask for more. I’m really happy they like it! They ask me to perform for them and at first I’m really nervous and feel awkward, like I’m taking up time that should be used for something else. But, they keep asking so I do the whole dance. Afterward, one of the girls asks me questions about Bellydance, about the music I played and if she can see a photo of Nooshi. I think, how cool it is that girls in another part of the world are learning the same dance students in our Dance to Unite Bronx class learned! I’m very grateful for the opportunity to be here, to teach and learn from the other volunteers 🙂

I feel like the girls wanted to see more because maybe they have not seen Bellydance or heard Arabic music before. The moment I was performing I felt like Dance to Unite was shining through me because they were being exposed to a dance form they possibly (because I don’t know) had not seen before. Being exposed to another culture through dance can cause people to become curious and want to learn more about that culture.

During NYC Dance Week, I took a Classical Japanese dance class at RESOBOX in Queens!


Just taking one Classical Japanese dance class has encouraged me to learn more about Japanese culture and history, and connect with Japanese people.

 I’ve had friends from many different backgrounds, but I haven’t had many Asian friends (from Korea, China, Japan). As a kid I didn’t learn about any Asian cultures (and that’s why I am a strong advocate for multicultural music, art, literature and general education during early childhood) and so I grew up being around Asian kids in class but I did not know anything about their culture. I grew up in disconnection, whether disconnected from knowledge, disconnected from interaction and even just plain exposure. It wasn’t until recently that I started asking why is that? For example, I’m obsessed with traveling, but I initially shied away from traveling to some Asian countries. I asked myself why, and I think it’s because I was never exposed to different Asian cultures in school, home or saw images of Asians on television and movies. Now that I recognize this, I want to travel to different countries in Asia (and find media outlets that focus on different Asian communities)! But, even before that happens, there’s plenty to learn here in New York City! I want to continue to take Classical Japanese classes and visit the Japanese Society this summer.

Cheers to Dance to Unite and Movement Exchange!


Movement Exchange 5 Part Series: Part 2

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Day 2


We travel an hour and a half from Panamá City to Portobelo, Colón, a region of Panamá with a large Afro-Panamanian community.


Here we are on a boat ride!


We later stop at a market with crafts created by the Kuna people, an ethnic group in Panamá. Above is a photo of a woman selling molas.

Afterward, we head to Aldea SOS Colón!

When we arrive, our bus pulls inside what reminds of a gated community. What I would come to learn with all the other orphanages is that there are little houses where the kids stay based on age. In each house (at this particular orphanage) there is a living room, small kitchen, dining table,  a certain number of rooms where the kids sleep and a bathroom.


  Before we start dancing, the Tias of the house cook a meal for us! We all talk about how delicious the food is, especially the rice which has been cooked in coconut water.

After we clean up, we start dancing with the kids!

My group throughout the trip includes Olivia, Hayley and Kim.

We work with the older group first, beginning with a name game where a person says his or her name and compliments their name with a movement. Then everyone says the person’s name and copies the move.  Afterward we some more dance/movement activities.

My group doing mirror partner dancing with the older kids
My group and the older kids mirror dancing with partners
Kim and Olivia leading across the floor!

For rest of the time, we practice a very cool combination that Kim created.

Not too far away, the other group works with the little kids!

Ruby, Kourtney, Jenn, Chaeli and Kate dancing with the little ones
Ruby, Kourtney, Jenn, Caeli and Kate dancing with the little ones

When it’s our turn to work with the little ones, we play the name game again. But soon they became restless so we bring out the hula hoops, light up balls and drawing paper. I’m caught up in talking to one of the girls, she’s telling me to hold her light up ball so that no one takes it when it suddenly starts pouring. And I mean pour! There is no warning, no trickling of rain…it is like several clouds have been holding their bladders for way too long and just can’t handle it anymore.  Some of the volunteers and kids dance in the rain, others continue drawing or playing with the hula hoops. After a while we move to where the older kids are dancing and it becomes an all out dance party. First, each group performs the routines they learned and then we have a kick-ass cypher.



The memory of dancing in the rain with everyone will always be etched in my mind. I can hear the pouring rain now, I can see different people dancing in the circle and the moment Tinna and one of the girls have a mini dance off!

Good times!

We are having so much fun, it’s hard to leave. But, when we do say goodbye to the kids, I think to myself, “man I wish I had more time with them” (because you know haha, my Spanish was horrible and I really want to talk to them more!).

When we get back to Magnolia Inn, we take showers and get dressed to eat at a nearby cafe. I love walking through the streets in Casco Viejo ( the historic district where the hostel is located) and observing my surroundings. I feel like a tourist though, like I’m looking at everything through a snow globe or something. I’m very far away, where even though I’m close, I can’t see the details of Panamá, of the people. I know that spending more time here could erase some of that feeling, and hopefully (even though it’s only the second day) I can return to Panamá to really understand and learn about the country.  After we sit down and order food, Tinna officially welcomes us to Movement Exchange. Everyone goes around the table to talk about their apples and onions (our ups and downs during the day). My apple is of course, the whole day! My onion is the language barrier and having a hard time having a conversation without stumbling over words (I SHOULD HAVE LEARNED IN MIDDLE SCHOOL, HIGH SCHOOL, COLLEGE…hellooo Simone what were you doing all those years?!!).  Despite that onion,  I had so much fun!

Key Lessons Learned:

1. I’ll always remember the experience of dancing despite the down pour and applying this to the challenges in my life

2. I need to build my movement vocabulary

3. DEFINITELY need to work on my Spanish

Movement Exchange 5 Part Series : Part 1

movement exchange

What: Open Call Movement Exchange Trip with people from different parts of the United States

When: June 6-June 13, 2015

Where: Panamá

Why: To connect with and learn from others through dance and movement! To support personal growth and social change through dance!

Day 1

June 6, 2015

Departure: 3:55pm at Newark Liberty International Airport

Arrival: 8:15pm at Aeropuerto Internacional de Tocumen  

(source: geology.com)
(source: geology.com)

I can’t believe it. The airplane is taking off, up, up, up…I’m on my way to Panamá City. It’s my first time abroad and for a dance diplomacy/exchange trip no less. I don’t feel afraid, instead mostly curious and a little anxious about being prepared and getting off the plane alive (I love traveling, BUT I hate planes). I feel myself starting to get sick; stuffy nose, fever, tight lymph nodes. I hope it goes away. I sleep during the almost five hour flight. When I open my eyes, the plane is thirty minutes from landing. It’s a big deal for me to travel because I never thought I would get the chance to travel in my twenties. It was always a dream of mine that would happen someday. But, here I am, getting off the plane, going through customs and immigration. Here I am in another country.

I meet up with our group leader Tinna, who is much younger than I expected. We join the other Open Call Move-Ex group members; Olivia, Hayley, Kim, Jenn, Kourtney, Caeli, Kate and Ruby! Everyone welcomes me with a hug. We load on the bus and off we go to get something to eat.

 After dinner, we head to Magnolia Inn. There is a big room filled with twelve beds waiting for us. I choose bed 3 and end up near Tinna, Hayley and Kim. After we all get settled into our beds and lights are off, I lie there in the dark, tired with my stuffy nose slowly falling asleep, thinking “I can’t believe I’m in Panamá! “.