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British dance company does outreach in the Philippines

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HOPE for Children Philippine representative Kevin Connolly; DanceAid founder and CEO Laura Wilson; Pangarap Shelter for Street Children resident Erick Soberano; Flava lead member Kyle Richardson; Big Dance Company founder Fiona Richardson; Pangarap Shelter for Street Children executive director Bro. Francisco Tanega. IGE RAMOS

Big Dance Company (BDC), based in Cornwall, England, sent a delegation to Manila for outreach and interaction activities with three charity groups that assist street children.

The group spent a day visiting the Philippine Community Fund (PCF) School in Tondo; Childhope Asia Philippines in Paco; and Pangarap Shelter for Street Children in Pasay.

The group gave workshops, performances, and danced with the children.

BDC founder Fiona Richardson said: “We can’t save the world with our dance outreach, but we can help get rid of a lot of ignorance, we can help build compassion.”

Reaching out

BDC first visited the country in 2010 upon the invitation of Shirley Halili Cruz, whom the group met at the Dance Excellence festival for young dancers in Los Angeles in 2009, to participate in the annual Dance Xchange Philippine International Dance Festival.

BDC brought over its most popular dance group, Flava, a hip-hop group which was a semifinalist in “Britain’s Got Talent” in 2008.

BDC visited children on the Smokey Mountain dumpsite in Tondo for an outreach with Philippine Community Fund, a charity group founded by British national Jane Walker.  BDC has returned annually since to conduct outreach activities at the site.

Flava has won competitions and represented the UK at the World Hip-Hop Championships. Last year it performed with Halili Cruz Ballet Company in Cornwall.

BDC works with young people in the UK to tackle antisocial behavior and gun and knife crime.

This year

This year BDC brought over a group of younger dancers.

“Some of the Flava dancers came, but we included dancers from Tricky Crew, our under-14 group, and Sweet Flava, our girl group.  The youngest in our group this year is 11 years old.  It’s important to let young people see what’s going on in the world,” said Richardson.

With BCD this year is UK-based DanceAid, a charity group that raises funds for charities through dance-related activities such as performances.

Laura Wilson, founder and CEO of DanceAid, said: “BDC is one of the many dance schools working with DanceAid to raise the UK to its feet to dance to make a difference for suffering children in the UK, Africa and Asia.”

“[Laura] knew we would be performing in Manila, and thought that we might want to help them out, and we have been ever since,” said Richardson.  “I am hoping to plan a big project next year with these charities to help more and get these talented young people on a stage with a captive audience.”

Ongoing aid

Wilson, who has a master’s degree in Conflict, Governance and Development from the University of York, founded DanceAid as a way to bring together her passions in developmental work and dance.

“We were inspired by the work being done by another charity we work alongside, Hope for Children,” said Wilson.

Among other projects for Manila charities, Hope for Children collects donations for PCF’s school (built from recycled shipping containers), which gives free education to street children in the Smokey Mountain area; for Pangarap Shelter for Street Children, a shelter and recovery center for homeless and at-risk boys aged 8-17 years; and for Childhope Asia Philippines’ Street Education Program, where 20 full-time street educators are deployed to teach street children on-site.

Hope for Children’s projects in the Philippines are monitored by its representative Kevin Connolly, who has been living here since 1996.

This was Wilson’s first time in Manila.  She came over to help set up funding protocols from DanceAid to its Hope for Children Manila charities.

“We visited to see what the situation is here, and how DanceAid can help more and organize a DanceAid day for the children, who, we already know, love to dance!”


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