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Program Overview

Share your passion for dance by volunteering with young people in Costa Rica’s capital, San Jose. We work with a variety of volunteer placements, including orphanages, day care centers, public schools, and after school programs. We also have relationships with several dance studios throughout the city for those volunteers interested in working with higher-level dancers. In addition to your time volunteering, you will learn Spanish at an internationally-acclaimed language school, enjoy Latin dance and Costa Rican cooking classes, and have free time to explore the breathtaking landscapes of one of the most biologically diverse countries on the planet.

This opportunity allowed me to appreciate what I have, to learn a new language, travel an amazing country and most importantly understand the power of dance across the globe to breakdown cultural and language barriers.

Performing Arts Points of Interest

Mirador Ram Luna

Many restaurants have dance and musical performances most nights of the week in San José. Your first stop should be the restaurant Mirador Ram Luna where you can experience traditional Costa Rican dishes while overlooking the city. Some performances even include an interactive masquerade with the performers!

Step Up Dance Studio

The dance style the cumbia which originated in Colombia is popular in Costa Rica now with a special twist. San José has many dance studios including Step Up Dance Studio in the Guayabos neighborhood of San José.

National Theatre of Costa Rica

The National Theatre of Costa Rica, or El Teatro Nacional, is located in the heart of San José and houses plays, music, and dance performances year-round. The National Theatre opened in October of 1897 and is a historical site for the country of Costa Rica. National and international artists alike perform at the theatre throughout the year. MimoNólogo, a pantomime influenced performance, won the National Prize of Culture of Best Performance of the year in 2015. Evening and afternoon, or “mediodía,”  performances are available.

PAA Home Base

PAA’s headquarters in San Jose are at the Costa Rican Language Academy, an internationally-acclaimed language school. Our friendly staff will welcome you to the center on your first day, and helpers at the front desk are available every day to help with independent travel plans for the weekend to rainforests, beaches, volcanoes, and more. The center has a cafe that serves a delicious lunch every day, as well as a dance studio where you can participate in free daily Latin dance classes, a kitchen with weekly Costa Rican cooking classes, a beautiful courtyard for relaxing and studying your Spanish, and secure luggage storage. As a bonus, there is always plenty of free (delicious) coffee and fresh juice available!

About the Location

Immerse yourself in the diverse culture of one of Central America’s most interesting and thrilling destinations. Ballet, opera, theater, and classical music are flourishing in the cultural center of San José, home to the National Dance Workshop, National Theatre, and National Symphony Orchestra. The folk dance Punto Guanacaste is the official national dance of Costa Rica and uses heel-and-toe stomping to tell the tale of enchanted lovers. Guanacaste dances are based on the Spanish paseo, with maidens wearing dazzlingly bright skirts circled by men in white suits and cowboy hats.

Dance and music are an integral part of everyday life with calypso and reggae, a maypole dance called the cuadrille, and an annual music festival. Costa Rica’s arts scene infuses every aspect of the country, such as the influence of Afro-Caribbean rhythms to pre-Columbian dances to traditionally Spanish dance.

Beyond the performing arts, this breathtaking destination leaves no shortage of activities to satisfy your appetite for delicious food, thrilling adventure, or unique activities. Cloud forests, beaches, baby sloths, and rainforests are just hours away in one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world.

Housing

You will take your understanding of Costa Rican culture and the Spanish language to the next level by living with a host family for the duration of your volunteer project. Located in lovely neighborhoods throughout the city, you will stay in a middle class home with your own private room. We work with dozens of families in San Jose, 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. Most of our homestay families have been hosting volunteers for more than ten years. In addition to building relationships with your family, you will be provided with breakfast and dinner daily, and laundry service once per week while living in your home stay. Many volunteers create lasting relationships with their homestay families, and stay in touch long after the program ends.

Roommates

Most of our 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. During the summers, we sometimes have ten or more PAA volunteers on the program at one time, joining over a hundred other volunteers and Spanish language students pursuing similar projects.

A Day in the Life



The Participant Experience

The moment you step off the plane, the “pura vida” lifestyle of Costa Rica will wash over you. The pace of life will immediately slow down, and worrying about the little things will cease. You will find more time to forge meaningful relationships with the people you meet, and will place more importance on the communal nature of meals. Our onsite staff will be there to greet you at the airport and help you adjust to this way of life that is often quite different for those of us accustomed to a constant hustle bustle. You may come to Costa Rica hoping to change the lives of those you encounter, but you will quickly find that it is you who are changing, and we hope you will use that transformation to improve your own community when you return home.

Regarding your volunteer work, most of our placements fall into three categories:

  • Teaching as a guest artist in the public school system where dance and the arts have been cut from the curriculum in some areas. Performing Arts Abroad believes that dance education is essential to childhood development, and you will be joining others who share our mission.
  • Bringing dance into placements such as an orphanage, after school program, or day care center. We have many opportunities like this throughout San Jose, and will match you with the one that best fits your goals and interests.
  • Joining a dance studio as an assistant teacher. We have connections with several dance studios throughout San Jose. These placements have limited availability, and may require an audition to gauge your level before acceptance.

On Arrival

You will book a flight to arrive in San Jose’s Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) on a Sunday and will be greeted at the airport by a driver who holds a sign with your name and the PAA logo on it. The driver will take you to your homestay, where you will spend the remainder of the day meeting your homestay family, unpacking, settling in, and exploring the neighborhood you will call home.

On Monday, someone from your homestay family will take you to our headquarters at a renowned language school where you will take a quick oral Spanish placement exam to determine your level. You will then have your first Spanish class with a small group of others at your level who have arrived on the same day. After your class, you will eat lunch, then attend an orientation about Costa Rica cultural norms and customs, the city of San Jose, health and safety, and basic instructions like where to find the nearest coffee shop and ATM.

Following your orientation, you will have the option to begin your volunteer project right away, or wait until your second week of the program (you will indicate this preference on an enrollment form once you have been accepted). One of our volunteer coordinators will accompany you on your first day to introduce you to your supervisor and make sure you know how to travel between your homestay, our headquarters at the language school, and your placement. You will make a plan for your volunteer hours, and discuss the nature of your volunteering and specific needs of the placement.

A Typical Day

After your first few days, the typical day will include: waking up and having breakfast with your host family, going to the language school for Spanish classes (first week only unless you choose to continue for an extra $175/wk), volunteering at your placement, and enjoying free Latin dance and Costa Rican cooking classes at our headquarters. In the evening you are free to do what you please: see the sights, bond with your host family, hang out with other volunteers, explore San Jose, etc. Many volunteers travel on the weekends to enjoy the many rainforests, tropical beaches, and laid back towns Costa Rica has to offer. Pura Vida!

Host Group

This is a customized volunteer abroad opportunity in dance. We work with several dance organizations in and around San Jose, and you will be placed based on your interests and background, and the availability of the placements during your time on the program. When you apply, we will conduct a Skype interview with you in which you will describe what you are willing and NOT willing to do during your volunteer project. We will then use that information to make our acceptance decision and place you with the organization that best fits your goals and interests.

Support Staff

Support Staff

Support Staff

Support Staff

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Testimonials

“PAA equipped me with everything I needed to know before I departed for Costa Rica. I was confident, empowered, and prepared for my trip. They did an excellent job finding me a placement that was meaningful and catered to my strengths. Thank you!”

“The in-country staff were incredibly friendly and helpful and supportive. Just great!”

Costa Rica was such an incredible and beautiful place! I met some awesome people and was fully immersed in the Costa Rican lifestyle. I would definitely go back to the country to do more traveling as there is so much more to see.

“It was a great experience! Dance volunteering with children meant more than I expected. PAA had organized locations, home stay, the schools I worked and etc. before I arrived so everything was quite easy. Also Costa Rica was a wonderful country with wonderful people that I enjoyed so much. My host family was very kind and helpful like the staff. I have many memories and great moments now that I can’t forget!”

“What an incredible experience – volunteering as a dance teacher in Costa Rica is something that you just HAVE to do! Not only is the country beautiful, the people so welcoming, and the food delicious, but the project will be one that you will never, ever forget!”

From the blog

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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.

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