Zoe Geiger was a dance intern in Ecuador from January to March, 2017. While there she kept a blog that is frankly one of the best we’ve ever seen from a participant. If you want to know more about the…
Use your dance abilities to engage communities in Quito by exploring rich dance traditions of Ecuador and the Andes region or sharing your knowledge with special needs youth and adults. We work with two main dance organizations in Quito. One is focused on preserving and broadcasting Andean culture through ethno-contemporary and pre-Hispanic choreographic interpretations. The other focuses on providing services to youth and adults with special needs and using the arts for therapeutic and educational purposes. Volunteers live with homestay families and receive 2 meals a day, and a basic level of Spanish is strongly recommended.
Volunteer placement requires at least ten hours a week for a minimum of two weeks. For more specific information about a typical day on this program, please see the “Host Group” tab.
“I was extremely pleased to be able to use dance in working with people with disabilities in Quito. The one-on-one classes were invaluable to my learning and cultural immersion. My family was welcoming and respectful. I was appreciative to have times on the weekends to travel around the country. All in all, this program was great. I felt safe, supported and that I had a remarkably unique experience unattainable without PAA.”
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 one of those destinations where you can experience natural beauty, rich history, and diverse and vibrant cultures in one small area. Sitting on the Equator in the upper corner of South America, much of the country remains untouched by surveyors and developers. Performing arts has been central to Ecuadorian life for centuries, telling stories of the people, their struggles, and their successes. The capital city Quito is home to the several dance companies that specialize in folkloric dance, the Teatro Nacional, a national symphony, and many other notable performing arts groups. Ecuador is within a territory of 120,000 square miles where one can travel from sea level to 12,000 feet of altitude within a six-hour drive, visit a fishing town and see a highland village 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 volunteers staying with them at a time, and most volunteers 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 volunteers 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 surrounded by the beauty of the landscape and people of Ecuador. 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 volunteer placement, 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 volunteers 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 volunteers 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 volunteer placement.
A Typical Day
After the weekend, you will be accompanied to your volunteer 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 Site Director 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, dancers will be placed with one of several groups. Two of our primary placements are described here:
We also work with a project connected to a Foundation with 20 years of experience providing care to children and young people who have some kind of disability. They have determined different programs according to the skills and abilities of their students and prospective students. One of these is an art program, which provides stimulation and dance education for children and young adults. Volunteers will be able to assist with academic programs, dance therapy, and day care programming.
This non-profit cultural dance and arts organization was created in 1992 and is a group that interprets traditional manifestations of Ecuador and the Andes through creative choreography. Their work reflects ethno-contemporary content and pre-Hispanic interpretations. They 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 integration into their internal activities such as classes, rehearsals, workshops, ceremonies and ancestral cultural production. Volunteers will have the opportunity to learn cultural dance, participate in performances and festivals, and help the group broadcast themselves to local and foreign publics.
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.
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.
“The family I stayed with for the 3 months were wonderful and very patient with me and my Spanish. My placement was great; I was doing music with special needs which is exactly what i’d wanted to do. I also got to see some amazing places in Ecuador, including the Galapagos Islands and the Rainforest. I had a really great 3 months and I wish I could go back and do it again!”
“Working with the students in Ecuador through PAA was incredible. My spanish wasn’t the best, and their English wasn’t great either, but through music we could communicate and grow.”
“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.”
From the blog
I chose to volunteer in Ecuador simply because I had never been to South America before. I had no idea what to expect about the culture or my experience abroad. Driving to the airport as the sun rose on a…
Check out Chris’ life changing adventure in Quito, Ecuador as a music intern (and his amazing pictures!) My time spent in Ecuador turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life! Everything from interacting with the people…
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…
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.