Costa Rica

Blood, Sweat, and Tears: Dance with Jimmy Ortiz

My two weeks in spent in San Jose, Costa Rica, were beyond amazing.  I can’t really even put it into words — all the positive adjectives that exist can be applied to my experience.  When I first arrived to San Jose, I didn’t have the slightest idea of what I was getting myself into.

On the first Saturday of the trip, I met the choreographer that we were going to be working with, Jimmy Ortiz, and his assistant/translator, GrEivin QuezAc.  Jimmy was a visiting choreographer at OSU last fall.  I wasn’t in his class or his choreography, but I had classmates in both.  I gathered from them that he was an extremely physical mover, specializing in a type of dance called “flying low.”  My classmates and I spent the first weekend of our stay in Costa Rica with Jimmy and GrEi, touring San Jose and visiting one of the country’s inactive volcanos, Volcan Irazu.  On Monday, we started dancing.

Day One: I cried. I was totally physically and mentally unprepared for the class that Jimmy gave us.  I felt so weak and completely out of my league.  In the weeks and months before the trip, I should have been running and lifting weights and doing push ups and conditioning. On Day One with Jimmy, I learned that physical fitness should always be a priority, even as a dancer.  We have to be prepared for anything.  We had several guest teachers while we were studying at Promenade, all students of Jimmy’s, each with their own unique style of movement, and all completely different from anything that I’ve ever done.  But my body surprised me; Day Two with Jimmy was much better, and I didn’t feel like such a complete failure.  The following days were never easy, but I didn’t allow myself to give up.

The physical challenge of dancing was actually incredibly rewarding.  I craved the the intensity.  Some days, I had to talk myself through the class, but it was always worth it.  I am totally aware that I wasn’t always (or often) successful in achieving the aesthetic or movements for which our teachers were asking, but I tried to always do my best and give it my fullest effort.

While dancing at Promenade, I got to know several of the dancers with whom Jimmy is currently working.  There were all phenomenal individuals and supremely talented movers.  Part of what made me love dancing at Promenade was being surrounded by so many people that exuded this raw, organic passion for dance.  Watching them take class and perform had a huge impact on me and how I approach dance now.  I would love to stay and continue to learn from them.

I hope to return to San Jose (or wherever Jimmy is) and dance some more.  I have so much that that I can still learn and experience to better myself and grow as a dancer.  I experienced a great deal of personal growth in only two short weeks.  Lord willing, I still have many years of dance left ahead of me and many more opportunities such as this one.

No Habla Espanol

So… the national language in Costa Rica is Spanish.  Which happens to be the language that I decided not to take during my sophomore year of high school because I wanted to take a math before I took the PSAT, and taking Spanish would not allow me to do so.  I fell in love with the French language in 10th grade and continued to study through four levels in the three years that I had left in high school.  During my second semester at Ohio State, I officially declared a French minor and am continuing my studies in college.

In the months leading up to the trip, I was super busy with rehearsals and a full course load so I didn’t really have time to learn any Spanish. I knew we would be staying with host families that have had experience housing American students before, so I expected to find that they spoke some English at a minimum.  My surprise to learn that the organization that was responsible for choosing host families looked for families that specifically did not speak English quickly turned into a serious concern.  Literally, I do not speak Spanish.  Thats basically the extent of all I know how to say confidently.  I was extremely worried when I found that my family really spoke very little English.

That being said, communication was extremely difficult for me.  I understood very little of what was being said to me most of the time, and even when I did, my responses were very limited.  I found that my family didn’t believe that I understood because of my face didn’t often express complete understanding.  Towards the end of trip, I found myself becoming increasingly frustrated with my inability to communicate.  I kept thinking about how I if I was in a French speaking country, I would be perfectly fine.  I felt lost in a culture where I didn’t even have a reliable life boat.

Considering the fact that I entered the country with little to no Spanish knowledge, I actually learned a great deal.  I can now communicate on the basic level of  a 2 year old learning to speak.  I do think that being thrown into a situation that I was clearly not comfortable with caused me to learn quickly — it was either sink or swim.  I chose to swim… or at least stay afloat.  I have developed an appreciation and interest in the Spanish language and would like to continue to grow in my speaking capabilities as I would like to return to Costa Rica in the future and often.  After all, being multilingual is one of my life goals.  🙂

Costa Rica Bound

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In less than 24 hours, I will be in a new country, surrounded by a brand new culture and language.  Tomorrow morning, I am headed to the Central American country of Costa Rica.  I am going on a study abroad trip to dance with world-renowned choreographer, Jimmy Ortiz. Myself and twenty-three other undergraduate dancers from the Department of Dance here at OSU will be collaborating with Ortiz and his dancers at the Centro de Artes Promenade in San Jose for two weeks.  At the end of our stay, we will be performing in an informal public showing in San Jose.

In addition to all the dancing that we will be doing, we are also going to be taking advantage of the fantastic ecotourism that Costa Rica has to offer.  We will be exploring the city with our friends and host families in addition to visiting two active volcanos and Manuel Antonio National Park.  We also get to spend a lovely day at the beach that Manuel Antonio has to offer.

I first heard  about this opportunity towards the middle of my first semester.  I immediately knew that I wanted to take advantage of it because it is one of the few programs that allows me to study dance abroad while earning credit towards my BFA degree in dance.  I have always known I wanted to study abroad, but I wasn’t sure if there would be many programs such as this one that would fit into my degree program.

I have never been out of the country before except to Jamaica on a short cruise and Canada several times.  Even though I don’t really speak any Spanish, I am extremely excited to be going.  All of the pre-departure things and arrangements have been stressing me out since January when I was accepted into the program, but I am expecting all of the hard work to pay off in a major way.  I think this trip will help to shape my thoughts and opinions as an artist; I want to learn more about choreography and collaboration — a new found interest of mine.

Here’s to Costa Rica and all it has to offer! Thanks for all your prayers and well wishes. 🙂