News / Arts & Entertainment

Dance Offers Path to Education for Street Children, Orphans

Dance Offers Path to Education for Street Children, Orphansi
X
February 18, 2014 5:15 PM
An American dance company has an unusual mission: to teach the art and discipline of dance to orphans and street children in Rwanda, Guinea and Bosnia-Herzegovina, as the first step toward furthering the children's education. VOA's Carolyn Weaver reports.
Dance Offers Path to Education for Street Children, Orphans
Carolyn Weaver
Dancer LaMar Baylor can most often be found in New York performing in The Lion King musical on Broadway.

However, since 2011, he's also spent weeks in Kigali, Rwanda, teaching dance to boys living on the street, as part of an effort by the Rebecca Davis Dance Company.
 
"These children, their lives are nothing we can begin to even fathom," Baylor said. "They have been through things that no one should ever have to go through. They are genocide survivors. A lot of them have been incarcerated, they have been prostituted, they are street children, they have lost all of their family."
 
Dance lessons offer the children structured learning and self-expression they've never experienced before.

"You learn self-discipline, you learn how to conduct yourself in a classroom setting, you are able to express emotions through the choreography," he explained. "These things don’t just apply in a physical aspect. They also apply mentally and emotionally."

Off the street
 
Founder and director Rebecca Davis conceived the idea for the project after visiting Rwanda in 2008.

"I met a whole bunch of street kids who were dancing, doing exactly what I love to do," she said.  

It occurred to Davis that dance could be used to get the children off the street and into a safe center that could be used as a springboard for further education.
Rebecca Davis and LaMar Baylor (seated left in white) teach ballet to street children in Kigali, Rwanda. (Courtesy Rebecca Davis Dance Company)Rebecca Davis and LaMar Baylor (seated left in white) teach ballet to street children in Kigali, Rwanda. (Courtesy Rebecca Davis Dance Company)
"When you start to play music in Rwanda, these kids come out of nowhere and they enter the center," she said. "And it's because of dance that they have a way of exchanging their physicality, their survival skills that they learn on the street, and their strength, into something that's actually artistic and aesthetic, and that starts them on the path toward mental development."

Educational opportunities
 
Once a child masters the basics of attending class and following instruction, the student is enrolled in information and technology classes.
 
"Then, after we see the IT skills develop in the children, we find sponsors for the most successful, so they can go to boarding school and reenter the formal education system," Davis said.
 
All of the students in Rwanda are boysfew girls live freely on the street there, according to Davis. Those who win scholarshipsabout 30 so farare sent to the Sonrise Boarding School in Musanze, about two hours from Kigali.

Reaching more children
 
While the largest program is in Rwanda, Davis has also set up programs in Guinea, where relations among ethnic groups are tense, and through an orphanage in Bosnia-Herzegovinaanother country recovering from genocide.

"I was amazed to find that dance was once again a way of bringing together different groups, in this case, Bosnian, Serb and Croat," Davis said. "All of a sudden, your language, your religion, your ethnic background has nothing to do with the fact that we’re doing pliés and pirouettes and sauts de chat."

Students in Guinea and Bosnia-Herzegovina, both boys and girls, also take English language classes, with the goal of making them more employable.

In all, about 2,000 children in the three countries have been enrolled since the program began in 2010.
 
LaMar Baylor knows from his own experience how the discipline and self-expression of dance can be the springboard to a better life. He is from Camden, New Jersey, one of the poorest, most violent cities in the United States.
 
"Growing up there, if I did not have dance, I'm really not sure what I would have become," he said. "I was a child who took a long time to find out what exactly was for me. And when I found dance, it honestly saved my life."

You May Like

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Soul Lounge

"Soul Lounge" host Shawna Renee catches up with soul singer and songwriter Russell Taylor to hear what he’s been up to since winning the VH1 "You Oughta Know" title in 2013. She also convinces him to share a few songs from his album "War of Hearts."