September 2, 2011
After a few days living in the exquisitely beautiful city of Mostar, it is easy to see why people would want to stay here forever. It is truly a remarkable place: serene aqua-blue rivers weaving through lush hills surrounding a city full of modern amenities. It appears that everything one could want is right in this spot. And yet, in my early meetings with youth, I hear a common goal that suggests the contrary: “I have to leave Mostar if I want to be successful in the future.”
It is remarkable and encouraging to find a young, highly educated population that is often bilingual or trilingual. However, it is discouraging to hear that many of these bright minds are primarily focused on leaving this city and the country in general. While sitting at one of the local cafes with my “Nes”, I think back on my friends in the United States, many of whom are Russian or African, and how frequently I hear them tell me, “I wish I was back in my own country. Here, in the USA, I cannot be myself.” If these young people do indeed leave Mostar and travel to the United States or elsewhere, will they develop a similar opinion? Or, will their dreams of a “better life” actually be achieved?
The program that RINGO and Rebecca Davis Dance Company (RDDC) will launch on September 5th, 2011, will address the issue of city pride and future possibilities. Using a unique method that integrates dance training with social discussion and expression, the five-week program will culminate in a public performance where youth present their thoughts about Mostar and their ambitions for the future through dance and other creative media. Art can be a powerful tool for people to channel their emotions and impressions, and in this case, it will be an exploration of the positive attributes of Mostar, Herzegovina, BiH and youth.
As an outsider, I am anxious to learn how these young people express themselves and what they would like others to know about Mostar. Then, when I travel back to my country, or to RDDC’s other programs in Africa, I hope to accurately articulate the message these youth share with me.
In order to achieve a diversity of expression, RINGO and RDDC decided to partner with several other local organizations, including: Nesto Vise, Egipatsko Selo and International SOS. I will be joined by the Mostar-based hip hop dancer Boris Zovko as we travel to various locations around the city to teach jazz, ballet and hip hop classes. Our participants will join together on Saturdays to prepare the final choreographic presentation, celebrating the remarkable city of Mostar through multiple forms of creative expression.
Although I have only been here a few days, I guess I must have a different perspective than lots of young people here…because if I lived here in Mostar, I would want to stay!