Philly Dance Fitness brings international flavor to the dance floor in classes like Zumba, African Dance Revolution and Bollywood Blast, but our latest “Student in the Spotlight” is taking international dance to a whole new level! Christina Smith recently moved to Guatemala to head up a nonprofit dance program. Read on to hear about her inspiring adventures and how she’s bringing the joy of dancing to others.
PDF: We’re intrigued! Tell us more about what you’re doing in Guatemala.
CS: Sure! I moved to Guatemala toward the end of February, and I’m developing a project called Sonido del Movimiento (or Sound of Movement) that uses music and dance to help children build resiliency, engage with emotions and feel empowered. The children are 6-14 years old and live in unfavorable conditions in the Las Rosas section of Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. The project is designed to counter the effects of the surrounding poverty and violence. It officially kicks off March 31st and continues for eight weeks, with one class per week.
How did you get involved?
In 2014, I went on a mission trip with my church to an orphanage in Guatemala where we lived and volunteered for a week. During my time there, I was heartbroken to the point of action. I tried to process the reality of how the children were living in Guatemala, especially compared to how I lived in the U.S. I knew I needed to go back. It took a family crisis for me to see what I had to offer in service to these children, and that was the gift of music and dance.
How does the project incorporate dance?
Initially the project was only going to use music, because I wasn’t sure how I’d be able to incorporate dance without an extensive dance background. But after attending expressive arts therapy conferences and speaking more with my dancer friends, I knew that dance would make the project more effective. Not only is using one’s own body in expression cost effective in a poor country, but it also helps children who are storing trauma within their bodies. We’ll be using dance to intentionally express emotions through activities like dance emotion cue cards, and we’ll be fostering leadership skills through follow-the-leader dance games.
When did you get into dance?
I took my first dance class at 18 years old. It was an introduction to ballet class at Drexel University. From there I started taking classes periodically in both Philly and New York. I’ve taken ballet, belly dancing, African, hip-hop, salsa and modern, although I don’t think I’ve graduated from the beginner’s level in any of these techniques! I did start taking private lessons while living in New York, and I’m continuing to do so with a dancer here in Guatemala.
How long have you been going to Philly Dance Fitness classes, and what keeps you coming back?
I started going to Philly Dance Fitness in 2014 when visiting my parents. I really enjoy the environment because it’s consistent with my convictions regarding dance and music. Philly Dance Fitness is a place where dance is truly expressive without being overly intense. The classes are often comfortable while maintaining professionalism and respect for the art of dance.
What is your favorite PDF class?
I love Dance Party Boot Camp because of the mixture of dancing and aerobics. I also love Deborah! Her energy is inspiring. Moreover, this is a good class for people who get bored of traditional aerobics. I also think it’s good for building dance stamina while helping you become more aware of your body/body space.
Which class do you find the most challenging?
Ballet! I love it, but it really requires you to engage every muscle in your body. I feel like it’s very cerebral, which is also quite challenging.
How can we stay updated on your adventures in Guatemala?
Interview by multimedia marketing intern Lani Assaf
We’ll continue to highlight more students in the coming months, so if you’d like to nominate someone — or even yourself! — send a note to email@example.com.