Isa Amaro Varas ’23 awarded distinguished Watson Fellowship
Mixing hip-hop with other urban and traditional styles of dance, 50 at-risk youths in El Salvador pushed back against gang violence and raised the spirits of their community with a public performance this May.
The performance, held in a public park where gangs are known to operate, was the culmination of a weeklong workshop led by Dance Professor David Dorfman ’81 and his critically acclaimed dance company, David Dorfman Dance, as part of a United States Agency for International Development effort to provide youths with safe and enriching activities.
While El Salvador has been plagued by gang violence, it’s also “a robust, super-active country with a lot of great people and great art,” Dorfman told The Day, which published an article about the efforts of Dorfman and New London resident Adam Schmidt, who has been working with USAID for several years and helped organize the dance workshop.
“In a place like El Salvador, where the gangs control territory, it’s really a challenge to ensure that you can retake public space, secure it and put on a presentation like this,” Schmidt told The Day. “I think that was an important message that was sent … It’s terrific that David Dorfman Dance and others would take part in that—be pioneers, to a degree, in working with us.”
Dorfman and his company have taken part in similar programs in Turkey, Armenia and Tajikistan.
“What we’re doing is we’re providing activities that might fill a void and create interest and create understanding through the body,” Dorfman told The Day.
“I call it kinetic diplomacy.”