Colegio del Cuerpo: Viable alternative for talented Colombian dancers

January 2008 -

The choreography of the performance is modern. The musical rhythms and supple, jerking movements clearly betray the dancers' Caribbean background. The Colegio del Cuerpo – Body College – of Cartagena de Los Indios presented fragments from its recent choreographies during a tour through five Latin American countries in the fall of 2007.


Photo: Mauricio Moreno

"Contemporary dance in Colombia has only just come into being as a profession and a type of expression", explains Alvaro Restrepo, who leads the Colegio del Cuerpo together with Marie France Deiuevin. "Until about ten years ago, you could only develop as a professional dancer outside the country. Early in the 1990s, when I was the director of the art academy of Bogotá, our dance students studied dancing in France via a bilateral agreement. This grant system in cooperation with the Centre National de Danse Contemporaine in Angers was so successful that most of the dancers subsequently remained in Europe. Thus we decided to create an integral, full-length dance training programme in Colombia, offering talented dancers a viable alternative."

Many of the students following the programme come from the peripheral areas of Cartagena de Los Indios. Most foreigners recognise this city from the tourist brochures, but nearly three-quarters of the population must struggle to survive under the poverty level nevertheless. Restrepo: "That was a conscious choice at the time. Colombia is complex and torn, with enormous differences between rich and poor and deep-rooted racism. Thus the Colegio del Cuerpo wants to offer not only dance training, but also a place for mental development. And dealing with what is often a problematic background on the professional level."

These efforts are beginning to bear fruit. Thanks to an agreement initiated by the Colegio del Cuerpo between the Ministry of Culture and two Colombian universities, a group of twelve of its earliest students will soon be graduating with pedagogy degrees.