Using the Power of Arts as a Tool to Create Social Changes: From Conflict to Creativity

I am constantly amazed by the ability of the arts to focus the human heart in matters of importance. I am honored to be a White House Champion of Change, especially because I am living proof that foreign aid work accomplishes its goals at its core. At the age of twelve I was a beneficiary of an arts program for disadvantaged children founded by USAID in El Salvador, and since then I knew I wanted to help people in the same way I was being helped.

I believe that the arts are a powerful vehicle for communication, a way to express visions that are beyond the capacity of words, and a medium for cultural enlightenment. Knowledge of the arts is an indispensable foundation for enlightened citizenship in our increasingly complicated world. Art does not solve problems, but makes us aware of their existence. Arts education, on the other hand, does solve problems. Years of research show that it is closely linked to almost everything that we as a nation say we want for our children and demand from our schools - academic achievement, social and emotional development, civic engagement, and equitable opportunity.

While growing up in rural El Salvador during the height of a civil war, traveling through the world to pursue a professional dance career seemed a nearly impossible dream. Yet amidst the violence, death, and despair, dance training and arts education sheltered me from the corrosive conditions and gave me the courage to keep striving towards my goals. It provided me with a proactive point of view about society. Realizing the transformative power of dance and the unyielding hope it inspires is the reason I dedicate my work to ensuring that the next generation of young people learn and experience the power of dance and music.

In 2005 I founded Ballet Teatro Internacional, a non-profit organization created under a social entrepreneur model that generates transformational dance training programs in the U.S and in Central America. I designed a curriculum for dance training that can include a conversation between the teacher and the students, a medium of self-expression, and a class plan that will teach them life skills. I gathered other dance teachers and performers with an interest in working with disadvantaged children in Latin America.

Our mission is to transform the lives of youth. We aim to inspire neglected, low-income and under-educated youth to enhance their health, aspirations, achievements, skills and life chances, deterring them from a life of drugs, violence and other anti-social behavior by creating transformational Dance training programs as the they tap into their power to believe in themselves. We do this by partnering with other youth development organizations to ensure that youths in the U.S and Latin American countries have access to long-term dance programs, dance workshops and seminars. A primary focus is placed on obtaining behavioral changes through dance training.

BTI transformational programs have been executed in six countries, and our performances have been seen by more than 15,000 people in Latin America. Our dance training programs for youth and adults have reached over 4,000 people in Central America and in the US.

Our mission is fueled by the belief that dance artists have the ability to reach across geographic, linguistic, and cultural borders, to inspire one another, and to advance tolerance and understanding among members of their communities.

Alvaro Maldonado Director of Ballet Teatro Internacional

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