State Magazine April 2014 : Page 16

The U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa early this year wanted to offer Hondurans cultural programming underscoring the importance of social inclusion, so it brought 21 members of the acclaimed Dance Theatre of Harlem to Honduras for a series of activities coinciding with the embassy’s celebration of Black History Month. The dance company’s tour, its first visit to Central America, ran Jan. 31-Feb. 6, under the auspices of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ Arts Envoy Program. Given the importance of social inclusion to democratic stability, Embassy Tegucigalpa has encouraged recognition of the past and potential contributions of disadvantaged and marginalized groups in Honduras, and highlighted America’s progress on promoting equality and respect for the contributions of its ethnic and racial groups. Harlem to Honduras Dancers’ tour promotes social inclusion By Adaeze J. Igwe, cultural affairs officer, U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa, Honduras For Black History Month, the embassy sought to highlight specifically the contributions of African Americans. It worked with Dance Theatre of Harlem to offer a series of performances and workshops aimed at underserved communities that include youths of different racial, ethnic and economic groups. Dance Theatre of Harlem, an iconic African American institution, fuses European and African influences, and its dancers come from many ethnic and international backgrounds. As Ambassador Lisa Kubiske put it, “Dance Theatre of Harlem … illustrates the importance of social inclusion and collaboration between individuals of different backgrounds.” Dance Theatre of Harlem Artistic Director Virginia Johnson said, “It is a powerful message to see a stage full of dancers of many hues working in unison to create an extraordinary experience of art. I would like to think that the impact of Dance Theatre of Harlem and the diversity it embodies goes beyond the world of dance and can be perceived as a model for other art forms and professions.” The dance company, which trains young people in classical ballet and the allied arts and does community outreach, was chosen, Kubiske said, “because we believe it is important that Honduran youth see examples of excellence, as exemplified by this amazingly talented group of young people.” Dance Theatre of Harlem offered 10 young Honduran ballerinas the opportunity to be part of its performances in Tegucigalpa. The lucky 10 were picked during two-day auditions held prior to the group’s arrival by volunteer dance experts from within the embassy community. More than 80 young ballerinas from public and private dance schools participated. They were from different cities and ethnic and social backgrounds, but were encouraged to work together and bond during their time with each other. Some girls traveled a long distance and many came from families of limited financial resources, but as the mother of one said, “I made an investment in my child. It is all going to be worth it.” Left : Nayara Lopes and Sam Wilson of Dance Theatre of Harlem captivate with their performance of the Black Swan at Tegucigalpa’s Manuel Bonilla National Theater; Opposite top : Jenelle Figgins leaps during a performance; Right : Dance Theatre of Harlem and Honduran ballerinas take bows after performing at Manuel Bonilla National Theater. Photos by Daniel A. Durazo 14 STATE MAGAZINE // APRIL 2014

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