Zoe Geiger is a Kinesiology and Dance student at Western Washington University. She completed not one, but two PAA programs in 2016, and the Dance Internship in Quito, Ecuador program was the second one. Within minutes of landing in Quito, I…
Contribute to the operation of a dance organization in Quito while also enhancing your dance knowledge and performance skills. You will have the option to intern for four weeks or more with a cultural organization striving to maintain traditional dance of Ecuador and the Andes region, or a foundation using dance and the arts as methods of providing therapy and education to youth and adults with disabilities. A basic knowledge of Spanish is helpful but not required, and you will receive Spanish instruction from a private tutor for 6 hours per week throughout the program. For housing, you will stay in a homestay and receive two meals per day.
Performing Arts Abroad intern abroad participants are strongly encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity to take on a self-driven capstone project to complement their internship experience. This is a unique opportunity for you to complete a project of your own design and choosing with the guidance of a PAA advisor, and up to $100 in funding. In the end, you’ll feel a deeper connection to your international internship experience, and you’ll produce something that demonstrates your professional aptitude, what you have learned, and what you have contributed to your host organization.
“Performing Arts Abroad (PAA) is a wonderful organization that allows you to gain valuable work experience, contribute to a new community, develop lasting relationships, travel and (in my case) learn a new language. PAA creates a comfortable experience abroad with their assistance and support.”
Performing Arts Points of Interest
Ecuadorian Chamber Ballet
The Ecuadorian Chamber Ballet was created by six dancers specializing in classical and neoclassical dance in 1980. The ensemble sparked the development of the artistic movement in Ecuador as their professionalism grew. The company current offers contemporary, metropolitan, and urban styles of ballet.
National Folkloric Ballet Jacchigua
The National Folkloric Ballet Jacchigua is an event held every Wednesday evening at the Theater Demetiro Aguilera Malta. This 3-hour performance highlights Ecuadorian history through dance and music. The word “jacchigua” derives from the quichua language which meant the social gathering of food, drink, dance, and music that landlords would organize for their workers after harvesting grain throughout the day.
National Dance Group
The National Dance Group, known as the Frente Nacional de Danza, houses a theatre and offers dance classes.
PAA Home Base
About the Location
Ecuador is a stunning country where you can experience natural beauty, rich history, and diverse and vibrant cultures in one small space. Ecuador sits on the Equator in the upper west corner of South America, and much of the country remains untouched by surveyors and developers.
The performing arts have been integral to life in Ecuador for centuries, weaving stories of the people and their complex histories. The capital city of Quito houses several dance companies specializing in folkloric dance, the Teatro Nacional, a national symphony, and dozens of other performing arts organizations. Ecuador is within an area of 120,000 square miles where you can travel from sea level to 12,000 feet in a six-hour drive, visit a fishing village and see a highland town, all in the same day!
You will stay with a host family in a middle class home located in lovely neighborhoods throughout the city with your own private room in most cases, depending on availability. We work with many families in Quito, all of whom are carefully vetted based on interviews, background checks, family income level, safety of the area where they live, and previous experience hosting international visitors. In addition to building relationships with your family, you will receive breakfast and dinner daily, and laundry service once per week while living in your home stay. Many interns create lasting relationships with their homestay families, and stay in touch long after the program ends.
Most homestays have multiple interns staying with them at a time, and most interns have their own private room during the program unless you are traveling with a friend or family member and request to stay in the same room. In the case of shared rooms, your roommate will be another participant of the same sex around the same age. The participants on our program range widely in age, but the most common age group is between 18 and 25. In the fall and spring, PAA usually has between 1 and 5 participants onsite at one time who join with a handful of other volunteers and interns in collaboration with our onsite partners. The summer brings closer to ten PAA interns joining another couple of dozen volunteers and interns in other fields.
A Day in the Life
The Participant Experience
From the moment you step off the plane, you will be enveloped in the beauty of the Ecuadorian landscape and people. Your sense of time will likely change as you adjust to a slower pace of life and a culture that takes more time to greet each other and express genuine interest in how the day is going. Our EcuaPals program will connect you with a local student who shares interests with you, and you will meet up with that person regularly during your time during the country to learn each other’s language and culture. In your internship, you will join a second family of artists seeking to use dance to better the community, and raise awareness both locally and globally of the unique and vibrant culture that infuses every aspect of life in Quito. Your weekends will be free for exploring the vast array of landscapes throughout the country, and even a trip to the Galapagos Islands if you choose. Throughout it all, our friendly staff will support you in whatever way you need, and encourage the inevitable transformation you will experience, both personally and in your artistic pursuits.
You will book a flight to arrive in Quito’s Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO) on a Friday. Our on-site staff will meet you at the airport with a sign that has your name on it, and will take you to a hostel in the nicest part of Quito where you will stay with other interns who have just arrived for the first four nights of the program to have your own private space for adjusting to the crazy altitude! You will be given a quick orientation to your hostel and a tour of the neighborhood, then be given time to unpack, settle in, rest, and explore the immediate area with other interns for the rest of the day.
The following morning, a member of our on-site staff will pick you up at the hostel and do a full-day orientation, including a full tour of Quito and a cultural lunch. On Sunday, you will participate in a full-day excursion, usually to a volcano and crater lake, huge traditional crafts market, or a cloud forest with a visit to an organic chocolate factory. Monday will be a final day of engaging with the community and reflecting on adjusting to the new culture with our staff, and on Tuesday morning you will check out of your hostel and be taken to your homestay family where you will be staying the rest of your time in Ecuador. Tuesday is also the day you will begin working with your internship placement.
A Typical Day
On Tuesday, you will be accompanied to your internship placement by a member of our on-site staff, where you will meet your supervisor and review your hours and responsibilities. From that point forward, you will travel to and from your placement every day, and take one-on-one Spanish classes with a private tutor 6 hours per week (usually 2 hours per day 3 days per week). Every week, usually on Wednesdays, we host a cultural activity which you will be invited to join along with other participants who are there at the same time as you.
On your final day in Ecuador you will have a personal meeting over coffee with our lovely Site Director Diana to debrief about your experience, and will stay the final night in a hostel before being driven to the airport for your departure.
On this program, you will be placed with a group that fits your interests and goals. Two of our primary placements are described below:
This non-profit dance, arts, and cultural organization was founded in 1992 and interprets traditional manifestations of Ecuador and the Andes through creative choreography. They produce ethno-contemporary content and pre-Hispanic interpretations. In your work with the group, you would help develop cultural and social projects that include training, production and creation of performance pieces. Members of this organization believe that art can grow responsibly from the assessment, development and dissemination of their cultural traditions. They offer a friendly environment, and the chance for the intern to integrate into their internal activities such as classes, rehearsals, workshops, ceremonies and ancestral cultural production. Interns will have the opportunity to learn cultural dance, participate in performances and festivals, and help the group broadcast themselves to local and foreign publics. In addition, interns will contribute to the management and administration of the organization by assisting with marketing, fundraising, scheduling, and other relevant tasks.
The group rehearses Monday to Friday mornings starting around 8:00 a.m., and does performances every Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday evening in the La Ronda neighborhood, which is an unusual melting pot of both locals and tourists in a beautiful traditional part of Quito. There are usually 20-30 people involved, and they often rent a historic house that also has restaurants operating out of it.
Another project we work with regularly is connected to a Foundation with 20 years of experience providing care to children and young people with disabilities. They have different programs according to the skills and abilities of their students and prospective students. One of these is a dance program, which provides stimulation and dance education for children and young adults. You will be able to assist with academic programs, dance therapy, and day care programming, as well as the management and administration of the foundation through marketing, resource management, fundraising and other relevant tasks. For this placement, interns are asked to make a commitment of at least two months (8 weeks).
Founder and Executive Director
Reynolds graduated summa cum laude from Washington University in St. Louis in 2008 with a degree in Theater and African and African American Studies. For an honors thesis Reynolds filmed, edited, and produced a full-length documentary in Kenya with Haba na Haba, a group using performance for education and social change in the slums of Nairobi. This project earned him the Forum on Education Abroad Undergraduate Research Award. A year later, Reynolds organized a trip to bring Haba na Haba to the United States for a tour of St. Louis and Washington University. Immediately after graduation, Reynolds worked in Rwanda as a filmmaker for Millennium Congregations, an interfaith organization connecting communities of faith in the United States with development projects in Rwanda’s Bugesera District. Reynolds then served two years with Teach for America, teaching in the South Bronx and receiving a Masters Degree in Education from Hunter College. He completed a second graduate degree in African Studies from Indiana University in Bloomington, and his Masters thesis focused on the impact of donors on the creative process of Theatre for Development (TfD) groups in Kenya.
Reynolds has traveled extensively in Africa, spending time in Ghana, Sudan, South Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He also studied acting, voice, and movement at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London. Reynolds is a two-time Rhodes Scholarship finalist, the inaugural recipient of the Dred and Harriet Scott Award for the Advancement of Human Rights, and the winner of two research fellowships. He was also a Dialogue Fellow for the Xenia Institute, has twice served as the co-director for the Roosevelt Institution’s International Diplomacy Center (Washington University branch), and was president of the Graduate Students of African Studies (GSAS) at Indiana University.
Reynolds lives in Northampton, MA with his wife Julia who is a professional costume designer and his daughter Lily who is a cute baby. In his free time Reynolds likes to play his guitar, go hiking, act in local productions, hit the karaoke bars, sing with his dog Captain (the best doggy singer in the universe), and play various yard games such as KanJam, cornhole, “cups”, and Kubb.
Ecuador Site Director
Diana supports all participants on our (mainland) Ecuador programs, acting as the main point of contact throughout their stay in the country. She coordinates airport pickup, arranges housing by vetting homestay families and fostering relationships, leads cultural excursions, and manages the 24-hour onsite emergency phone.
Diana was born in Quito, the capital of Ecuador. Maybe this is why she loves so much the Andean landscapes and gets lost when there are not mountains around her! She is trilingual (Spanish, English and French) and has worked with people from all over the world for many years already. This has allowed her to see the world from a different perspective and be friends with people with different backgrounds, ideologies and cultures.
In high school, she studied five years at the Compañía Nacional de Danza. And, during her junior year of college (at the State of Indiana) she took a pottery class that made her fall completely in love with plastic arts and decided to get a minor in this area. After this time her life took a different path; she never lost the interest in ballet and although she doesn’t practice it anymore, she enjoys every piece she watches. And she is still involved in culture and art through a family business that runs an Ecuadorian magazine focused in these areas.
Diana has traveled extensively around Ecuador (a lot by foot and through the mountains since during her free time she practices trail running). She has also backpacked in Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Mexico and Venezuela and has run 50km ultratrails in Ecuador, Colombia and at the Argentinian Patagonia. She has also camped in some National Reserves in the US and Canada, and visited Spain, France, Italy, Belgium, Austria, among others, knowing she cannot die before diving at the Great Barrier Reef!
Diana is also an active volunteer of the United Nations World Tourism Organization and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Tourism Development and Hospitality (and a minor in plastic arts) and a Master’s degree in Social and Environmental studies. Her other hobbies, besides trail running, include other sports such as mountain biking and swimming, and, although she does not claim to be good, she loves photography.
“I truly believe my experience in Ecuador not only gave me life-long friends and memories, but it also gave me a much clearer picture of what I wanted to do and a huge boost into my career.”
“The spring before my senior year of college I learned that I had taken enough credits to graduate a semester early. I decided to look for experiences abroad and found an experience in Quito, Ecuador sponsored by Performing Arts Abroad. I spent two months in Quito, Ecuador volunteering at a school for people with mental disabilities. It was an excellent opportunity to gain experience teaching dance and also learning about a different culture. PAA arranged my accommodations and project. I never felt alone throughout my experience and I am grateful for all the support I received both from in country directors and directors in the United States. The Ecuadorians are very kind and curious, which makes for great conversations. I took Spanish in high school as well as in college and have been able to form sentences for a long time. After two months in Ecuador I have never felt so comfortable conversing in the language. I made friends at dance classes, my project and church from all over the world (Ecuador, England, Germany, Switzerland, the USA). Before departing, I had some expectations for my experience in Ecuador. I did not expect to have been this inspired by the people, and to have friends from all over the world. One expectation I had was to have a better sense of where I am going and who I want to become. After my two month experience, I have new goals for my future.”
My experience with PAA was incredible! I was able to learn so much that will apply to my music education career in the future. It will be an experience forever with me and I will definitely be back to visit. I quickly developed a whole separate life over there with a great family and local friends who welcomed me warmly. It’s a wonderful country to visit, especially for those involved in the arts.
From the blog
Hola! My name is Raine and I volunteer as an art therapist in Quito, Ecuador with Performing Arts Abroad. Ecuador is a stunning location full of various climates and cultural diversity, largely determined by the altitude. Ecuador’s three continental regions: La Sierra…
Becky Ward was a Music intern in Ecuador from January to May of 2015 It’s now been almost 4 months since I returned from my time in Ecuador earlier this year. Having done some volunteering abroad since then in Ghana,…
How it Works
The information on this page provides details for a sample group program. Note that every group is different, and we will work with you to cater the experience to your group. To connect with us and begin organizing a program for your group, please follow the “Get Started’ button below and submit an initial questionnaire. We will then contact you to set up a discovery call where we can go into more detail about your group’s needs and what we can offer.