Reaching out from the US with dance

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Yay! My article on a group of US-based dancers who will come to the Philippines for an outreach later this year was published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer in its April 30, 2012 issue.
Reaching out from the US with dance
By Walter Ang

Workshop done during Project Philippines 2008.
A group of dancers and artists from the US is coming to the Philippines in June to teach students in Northern Samar and Manila.

The group is led by dancers Kendra Samson, the first Filipina recipient of a full scholarship to the Julliard School's dance program, and Chelsea Ainsworth, also an alumnus of Julliard.

"I initially organized 'Project Philippines' with my Filipino dance colleague from Juilliard, Norbert de la Cruz.  The project brought five Juilliard dancers to the Philippines in 2008 for an outreach," says Samson.

Samson hails from Angono, Rizal and is a grandniece of Carlos "Botong" Francisco and Lucio San Pedro, National Artists for Painting and Music, respectively.

She trained at the Cultural Center of the Philippines Dance School and Philippine High School for the Arts.  She was accepted to Julliard in 2004 and received her permanent resident card for the US last year, however, she emphatically says, "The Philippines is still my home.  And so is New York. I love them both on different levels.  With this 'artreach' project, I feel as if I am having a different relationship with the Philippines where I lived in for 17 years. It's more than just a home this time."

Coming back
Kendra Samson
"I know that Filipinos feel passionately on the arts and it's culturally natural for us to want to dance to the beat, to sing, and to admire actresses and actors. One of our main goals is to make the arts relevant in the daily lives of the communities we encounter.

"The arts doesn't have to be a separate entity that only exists in the tube and theaters. It is around us and relevant to all our human experiences."

Naming this year's outreach effort as "Project Philippines 2012," the group will teach in the same places it visited in 2008: San Isidro and Bobon Central Elementary School in Northern Samar;  Philippine High School for the Arts in Laguna; and the Ayala Museum and Ballet Philippines in Manila.  The group will conduct workshops and hold recitals and performances.

"Project Philippines 2012 is inspired by our interest to teach and expand upon our art forms, specifically movement, music, and visual arts. We hope to learn from the Filipino culture as well as create meaningful exchange," says Ainsworth.

"The idea is to 'empower discipline and self-confidence' in Filipino children, to spread hope and a positive vision for our arts and our lives. After such a successful trip and in response to strong requests, [we were] inspired and excited to return in 2012."

Chelsea Ainsworth
"Most of the original group has already graduated from school and are individually pursuing their careers in different parts of the world," says Samson. "I've also been establishing my dance career in New York and became excited at the prospects of reviving the outreach and reinventing it as well to involve other art mediums."

"This year brings a broader scope of team members.  Not all are Juilliard-trained, but all are exceptional artists in their respective fields."

Samson recruited another Filipino dancer, Leonides Arpon, to join the group.  Born and raised in Israel and a former member of Bat-Dor Dance Company, he relocated to New York in 1999 and is currently a member of Armitage Gone! Dance Company.

"He has been like a brother to me throughout my stay in NY and his passion and determinations in life inspire me."

Music and visual arts will be added to the program, to be taught by visual artist Kyle Netzeband, and musicians Brian Gnojek and Midori Samson (currently a sophomore at Juilliard, major in bassoon).

Raising funds
Leonides Arpon
When the group came to the country in 2008, they worked under a grant from Julliard.  This time around, they've been raising funds on their own since last year through workshops, shows and, on April 30, a fundraising show supported by the Philippine Consulate in New York.

They also started an account on, a "crowd funding" website that allows the public to donate to the projects listed.

However, the website dictates that if the target minimum amount of funds to be raised is not met by the set deadline of May 16, 2012, all pledges are forfeited and no funds will be collected.  "This is why we chose a lesser amount of USD2,500 as our target in the website although our real goal is to raise USD5,000."

"Art for a Cause: Project Philippines 2012" fundraising show runs April 30 7:30 pm at Kalayaan Hall, Philippine Center, 556 Fifth Ave., New York City.  For details, email or visit

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