By Suzanne Jenkins and Paola Sofía Galarreta Espinoza-Dabbs
The dance company Angeles D1 is a space where artists of diverse origins and trajectories come together, from 8-year-old children who travel nearly two hours every day to reach the school to professional dancers from the USA and Finland. All of them feel a strong drive to express themselves through stage arts such as break dance, hip-hop, acrobatics, jazz, juggling, and other disciplines. Perhaps the most distinguishing members of the company are the children from poor and marginal sectors of Lima, who mostly were invited to participate after demonstrating their skills on the streets in a type of ambulatory work.
The precarious economic situation in which these young artists’ families live lead them to work in the streets from a young age. The “employment options” in the informal market in Lima are varied, from begging to the illegal commerce network in which many minors are exploited. In the midst of this hardly encouraging panorama, there are youth such as those who have joined Angeles D1 who voluntarily opt to dedicate their time to developing acrobatic and stage skills in order to perform in the city’s busiest street intersections in exchange for coins, as a type of itinerant theater.
The dance company transforms these youth from a social problem in the streets to a cultural and economic asset and provides access to new sectors of society. International celebrities, national entertainment professionals, and wealthy classes admire their performances. Many of the youth have been interviewed by the media as models of success or taught classes and led workshops on leadership and self-improvement in schools and private companies. Angeles D1 has harnessed some of these activities to make profit for the organization as well as contribute to the nonprofit mission by breaking down social barriers and gaining public recognition and compensation for the youths’ positive talents.
The Angeles D1 company was originally created with the goal of bringing the talent of these youth street artists to the formal theaters, giving them the opportunity to increase their economic income and perfect their artistic skills through constant training with national and international professionals in the stage arts. Nearly three years after its founding, Angeles D1 faces the challenge and urgency of providing sustainability to a project that requires expansion in order to remedy the multiple needs of these young artists, such as better nutritional habits and medical attention, academic and career advising, and more.
Suzanne Jenkins (Harvard College ’03) is Program Officer at ArtCorps (www.artcorp.org), a nonprofit that empowers developing communities and the NGOs serving them to work interdependently using participatory art, and a contemporary dancer.
Paola Sofía Galarreta Espinoza-Dabbs es una antropóloga peruana de la Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú.