My path as an ambassador for the arts

One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star”, said Friedrich Nietzsche and while chaos is a bit extreme and I wouldn’t exactly call myself a dancing star, this quote captures the uncertainty and self-discovery that has enriched my college career thus far and my latest stop on this journey: a member of a professional ballet/contemporary dance company. This quote also brings to mind my appreciation of the twists and turns that the universe has taken/ is taking me on, from a freshman year of pre-med/neurobiology to a sophomore year of government, in all of it’s broadness, to a post-sophomore summer exploring international development in my hometown of Bogotá, Colombia and my current semester off as a member of a professional ballet/contemporary dance company.


The “chaos” in myself/ the twists and turns of life:
I attended a performing arts high school, New World School of the Arts, with the dream of being a professional ballet dancer.. At the end of my junior year a senior was accepted to Columbia University and received the Gates Millennium scholarship. This brought me face to face with the possibility of pursuing higher education, a topic which was not brought up at home as my parents were always open to my sibling and I following our hearts as opposed to any established norm, and since they did not attend college. I spent that following summer in New York training with the Dance Theatre of Harlem while crafting my college and scholarship applications with the newfound mentality of being a Pediatric Neurosurgeon; medicine being the only path I knew would lead me to what I wanted to dedicate my life to which was helping those in need and building relationships with others.


Freshman year at Harvard, on a J-term trip to El Salvador with Harvard’s Habitat for Humanity, I connected to my Latino roots and to my passion for international development, helping underprivileged populations rise up and having a more global impact with my work. This led me to switch to a government concentration after a year with a pre-med/neurobiology state of mind. Sophomore year I was introduced to the concept of artistic social interventions through the class Cultural Agents when we explored the work of Antanas Mockus, the former mayor of Bogotá, Colombia. This concept combined two of my greatest passions, art and social change, and I felt a calling to travel to Bogotá to explore Mockus’ work that revitalized the city and to dive into social innovation, international development, work in a government agency, and to connect to my roots which I had not been fully connected to since my family and I left when I was five years old.


This ambition of mine was so magically nurtured by Harvard’s Institute of Politics and the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies and the summer internship they offered in Bogotá’s Center for Social Innovation, a branch of the National Agency to Overcome Extreme Poverty (ANSPE) of Colombia’s national government.


Always on the search to fill my life with metaphors and symbolism, I aspired to have my summer parallel the concept of artistic social interventions. This internship brought the “social intervention” aspect meaning that the “artistic” element was needed. Above this grandiose notion of making my decisions deeply symbolic, I yearned to envelop myself in dance, my greatest passion in life, and the “artistic” element of my summer was brought by my acceptance to American Ballet Theatre’s collegiate summer intensive program.


A dancing “star”/ my path as an ambassador for the arts:
Having attended an arts high school where I spent my summers training with ballet companies, art is one of my greatest passions and the reason I was so incredibly inspired when I learned of Antanas Mockus’ use of art in government as it brought two of my greatest interests together. Artistic social interventions immediately stood out as a possible thesis topic/ possible career path and I felt an urgency to spend a summer in Colombia and to explore this field further.


My internship experience at the Center for Social Innovation brought forth the realization that my heart lies in promoting and advancing the arts, such as through a government position. I envision using the arts and culture in innovative ways to help vulnerable populations and to enrich daily life, with the dream of making sure that the US government one day has a Department of Artistic and Cultural Affairs.


In harmony with this connection to my dance roots, I stumbled upon being one of the inaugural members of the “Compañia Colombiana de Danza” whose mission is to be the first national/professional ballet/contemporary dance company in Colombia. This company has been in the making for three years and the directors, with the right government funding and support from the Ministry of Culture, decided to launch the project this summer for which I was serendipitously here for and which I stumbled upon on the wonderful Facebook of "our triumphantly digitized contemporaneity" (John Green).


After high school and entering Harvard, I placed my dream of being a professional dancer on the shelf for other life ambitions and I am completely amazed by the workings of life that have made this possible. Being so fully enveloped in dance these days as the company trains Monday through Saturday and prepares for a couple of tours around Colombia that we have coming up, I frequently stop and think about the beauty and magic of it all.


Aside from being able to dedicate so much of myself to my form of mental and physical rejuvenation, I am fascinated by the company’s initiative to make a name for dance in the country and to bring dance, especially ballet and contemporary, to places where it has never been seen. The idea of being an ambassador for dance in my country gives me goose bumps because one of my missions in life is to live for the arts and to spread and share their power and beauty with the world.


This semester off has also been such an incredible opportunity to stop and reflect on my life and where I see myself heading, right in the middle of my time at Harvard. I am so inspired, grateful and in absolute appreciation for this time off and for the current continuation of my education through self-reflection, late-night conversations with my grandma, my Rosetta Stone Hindi subscription, my interactions with my Colombian people, the Edx online platform, my exploration of my country, my Kindle, and through dancing because as Nietzsche said: “Dancing in all its forms cannot be excluded from the curriculum of all noble education; dancing with the feet, with ideas, with words, and, need I add that one must also be able to dance with the pen?”


Wiritten by: Javier Felipe Aranzales Flechas '16 
Summer Internship Program Colombia
Internship site: Agencia Nacional para la Superación de la Pobreza Extrema (ANSPE)