Peace Corps Volunteer Teaches Ballet to Help Girls in Costa Rica Build Self-Confidence

December 22, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C., Dec. 22, 2014 – Peace Corps volunteer Eve Solomon of Ross, California, is helping girls in her small Costa Rican community develop self-confidence and healthy lifestyle habits by introducing them to ballet. Solomon, who studied dance for more than 13 years prior to her service, has been teaching after-school ballet classes to 24 of her elementary school students, and eight of them were recently selected to dance in a holiday performance of The Nutcracker in San José.

PCV Eve Solomon taught girls in her Costa Rican community ballet Enlarge image
“When word got out that I had studied ballet and was thinking of giving classes, there was so much interest that I had no choice but to follow through with the idea,” said Solomon, a graduate of Barnard College who has been teaching English in Costa Rica since 2013.

Solomon started teaching ballet classes last October after noticing a lack of extracurricular activities available to girls in her village. Students attend school for only 4 ½ hours each day, and girls are often expected to return home to care for their younger siblings. After receiving donated leotards, tights and slippers from Marin Ballet, her ballet academy in the U.S., Solomon was able to offer classes to girls who couldn’t afford to buy the appropriate attire. Before she knew it, she was teaching nearly one-third of the girls at her school.

PCV teaches girls in her community ballet techniques Enlarge image
During a ballet field trip, Solomon’s students met with the director of Escuela de Ballet Clásico Ruso – a renowned ballet school in the capital city – who was so impressed by their enthusiasm for ballet that she invited them to audition for their upcoming performance of The Nutcracker. Solomon held tryouts to select which students would go to the auditions.

“I wish they could have all gone, but because of space, I held an in-town audition and sent eight of the most dedicated students to San José,” she said. “When all eight were chosen for The Nutcracker, we were so excited! It was an opportunity nobody ever imagined these girls would have.”

With the help of funds from the Peace Corps Partnership Program (PCPP), Solomon chartered a bus to take the performers and two chaperones to weekly rehearsals at Escuela de Ballet Clásico Ruso, and to cover hotel costs for the girls and their parents during the week of the performance. She also worked with students’ parents and the local development association to update their practice studio with ballet barres and a much-needed coat of paint.
Another scene from The NutcrackerEnlarge image
“After months of waking up as early as 3:00 a.m. to attend rehearsals in San José, the girls finally had their on-stage debut in front of a packed house, including more than 60 community members who came from our town to see them perform,” Solomon said. “Everyone was so proud, and because parents were the drivers of this project and involved in every step of the process, they now have their foot in the door with a professional ballet school so they can collaborate on future projects without my assistance.”
Solomon has already seen self-confidence and ambition among her students grow. She plans to continue teaching ballet classes throughout the remainder of her service and has identified a teacher to take over when she leaves. Solomon hopes her example will influence others in the community to offer more extracurricular activities for girls.
“These young girls have gained so many skills and learned that through perseverance and dedication, they can achieve their dreams,” she said. “They’ve shown their community that through hard work and a little bit of faith, the seemingly impossible can become a reality.”
PCV Eve Solomon poses with some of her ballet students Enlarge image
About Peace Corps/Costa Rica: There are currently 120 volunteers in Costa Rica working in the areas of youth and community development and English education. During their service in Costa Rica, volunteers learn to speak Spanish. More than 3,500 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Costa Rica since the program was established in 1963.
About the Peace Corps: The Peace Corps sends the best and brightest Americans abroad on behalf of the United States to tackle the most pressing needs of people around the world. Volunteers work at the grassroots level to develop sustainable solutions that address challenges in education, health, economic development, agriculture, environment and youth development. Through their service, volunteers gain a unique cultural understanding and a life-long commitment to service that positions them to succeed in today’s global economy. Since President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961, nearly 220,000 Americans of all ages have served in 140 countries worldwide. For more information, visit www.peacecorps.gov and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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