El Colegio del Cuerpo (Colombia)

El Colegio (Juan Diego Castillo) - 1

In 1997, two dancers founded El Colegio del Cuerpo (eCdC) and began a pedagogical process with children from INEM public school in Cartagena de Indias (Colombia). Álvaro Restrepo had been recognized as an avant-garde choreographer abroad with his own company Athanor Danza, before founding eCdC in this colonial-era city on the Caribbean coast. Marie-France Delieuvin was an eminent dancer, choreographer, pedagogue and director at the French Centre National de Danse Contemporainein Angers.

They chose 18 teenagers, as much for their desire as for their potential as dancers, who became part of the Pilot Experimental Group. Those young people became the foundation of a community dance project of exceptional importance. The actual members of the professional company—Compañía Cuerpo de Indias—some of whom have been formed at eCdC since they were children, besides performing, they teach the next generations.

More than 8.500 children and youngsters have participated in the programs developed through the strategies Education for Dance (professional dancers) and Education with Dance (development of artistic and human sensitivity, creativity and prevention of risks). El Colegio del Cuerpo, (The School of the Body) has a holistic vision that roots education in the body. In learning about dance physically, creatively and emotionally, children and young people also learn about art, culture, respect, peaceand society. At the heart of this work, which includes war refugees and children from disadvantaged populations,secure homes, is resistance to civil violence and education for peace. Through its conception of the Talent Stratum, the formation programs contribute to social inclusion and recognition of talent, independently of social strata in which Colombia is divided.

 The company has not just survived with little support in difficult conditions. It has grown immensely in artistic stature and educational maturity. Since 2000, it performs dance of the highest quality internationally and provides vital pathways to adulthood for hundreds of young people. What unites this work, and gives it power, is the moral integrity of artists whose defence of human rights is expressed in every gesture, from a quiet dance class to a huge performance in Bogotá, Colombia, the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa, where the company has performed. In a world where the body is so often abused, El Colegio del Cuerpo defends the sacred character of the embodied person.

On a rare visit to the UK in 2005 (photo François Matarasso)