ValorArte teaches Juarez children about power of dance
The children congregate on stage for a last-minute rehearsal. The final preparations for what will be an elaborate musical production and as the anticipation builds, smiles start to spill over hundreds of young faces.
Then, it's showtime.
This is ValorArte, an ambitious artistic endeavor that hopes to expose the children of Ciudad Juarez to the redeeming power of dance.
“This is a great moment for them," said Maria Eugenia Parra, who is in charge of ValorArte.
Since 2010, this program has provided thousands of Juarez children with an opportunity to express their creativity through movement.
“You learn to use your body," said Parra. "You can stand and look at a big audience so that makes you confrortable. It’s a good experience for them.”
The participants range in age from 9 to 14 and they come from several schools all over Juarez. They leap across stage, yelling their name, as their parents and loved ones snap photos and videos.
“It’s very difficult to explain but I can say that we are helping to create a new generation of Juarez citizens," said Enrique Suarez, the executive director of FEMAP, which is the non-profit organization behind ValorArte. “They came together one day before the show and suddenly you see how they coordinate and act together as a whole.”
ValorArte was established by famed choreographer Jacques D'Ambroise. He introduced the concept to El Paso in 2004 as part of the Kids Excel Program.
“The beautiful thing about our border is when a program starts on one side that we think is a good idea, we’ll start it on the other," said Adair Margo, the executive director of the FEMAP Foundation, which raises money for FEMAP's programs in Juarez. Margo is also the first lady of El Paso. She along with her husband, El Paso Mayor Dee Margo, attended last week's performance at the Centro Cultural Paso Del Norte.
“And so it grew out of a relationship with El Paso, so Kids Excel multiplied to become ValorArte on the Juarez side," said Adair Margo. "So it shows that when you share on an international border it multiplies.”
The organizers said that performing in a beautiful theater in front of a capacity crowd creates a self esteem boost that simply can't be replicated.
“The impact that these kids have on their families is amazing,” said Suarez.
Ciudad Juarez remains one of the most violent cities in Mexico. But inside this theater - for one night at least - the focus was on the future and on the transformative nature of art. Synchronicity on stage and joy in the audience. A reason to celebrate in Ciudad Juarez.
“Happiness. We forgot happiness lately," said Parra. "And this brings all of us happiness.”