NEW YORK—Performing an absurd-looking twirl and falling to the ground, Luis Salgado yelled, “Falling is fun,” at the opening of the Dare to Go Beyond (D2GB) Children’s Performing Arts Camp July 16.
Speaking above a clamor of giggles, Salgado promoted the message that “falling” is a positive learning process before success.
“The process of getting back up is beautiful,” Salgado said. His jokes and group exercises may be somewhat unconventional, but there is a distinct sincerity in his voice.
In addition to being the assistant choreographer for the Broadway musical “In the Heights,” and an actor in the “Step up 2: The Streets,” Salgado is the co-founder of R.Evolución Latina, a nonprofit organization that hosts the five day D2GB performing arts camp.
Running in eight countries and two U.S. cities, R.Evolución Latina aims to empower the Latino community through education and the arts.
For five years, the camp has been giving free voice, theater, dance, Mexican folklore, and flamenco classes to children ages 7 to 17. Since all the activities are free, many low-income children get in touch with a world they might not have had access to otherwise.
Although the camp is only five days long, it may have had a profound impact on a boy named Dillon Cove, an 11-year-old who was raised by a single mother.
Many children looked bashful when Salgado was asking for their interpretation of what respect and commitment means, but Dylan frequently stood up to share his ideas, despite speaking softly and showing signs of being introverted.
When Dillon first joined the camp a few years ago, he could not concentrate or sit still, Salgado said.
“He is already thinking differently, behaving differently, he is empowering the other kids around him—that is the goal of this organization,” Salgado said.
The free camp provides classes for 200 children. The programs are funded by the Herman Goldman Foundation.
“We teach a curriculum for life,” Salgado said. “Whether children choose a career in the arts or move on to become lawyers … or entrepreneurs, they will carry life-transforming lessons about team work, perseverance, and self-awareness.”
A range of Broadway and international artists, such as cast members of “The Lion King,” “Mamma Mia,” and “Ghost,” volunteer at the camp.
One particularly inspirational volunteer is Judah Bellamy, 13, who plays Simba in the Broadway production of “The Lion King.”
At age 5, Bellamy memorized Simba’s entire script for fun. “When he was 5 he declared he was going to be Simba on Broadway. … I had a speech prepared to give him the bad news but I never got a chance to give it,” joked Judah’s father, Avon Bellamy.Judah’s unusual maturity for his age helps inspire the camp members to work hard and commit to their goals.
Judah’s adult perception of life landed him a role in a recent psychological film “Home,”—about the complex relationship between a mentally ill father and his son, who is played by Judah.
The message Judah hopes to get across to the children at D2GB, “Don’t ever be discouraged—a merchandise guy could turn out to be the most famous director in the world.”
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