Strengthening Vulnerable African Youth in Zambia
By Princess Mhoon, Director
Princess Mhoon Dance Institute
This August I am headed to Lusaka, Zambia in Southern African for one week to teach and perform at the 9th Annual Barefeet Theatre Festival. Funded by UNICEF and the Zambian government, I was invited as one of 36 international artists who use art as a catalyst for personal and artistic development. Representing the Princess Mhoon Dance Institute and my work as a choreographer and performer, I will lead workshops, conduct dance classes, choreograph, and perform for over 2,000 youth. My focus is on how dance and physical mastery can empower and subsequently increase advocacy throughout the region.
Barefeet Theatre is a non-governmental organization (NGO) that uses play, creativity, and empowerment to give vulnerable children in Zambia a chance at a better life. Barefeet, under the direction of Adam McGuigan, was founded by former street children in response to the plight of young people living on Zambian streets. Through the power of performance, educational workshops, and more, they develop these young people into physically healthy, cognitively, and socially competent citizens.
This opportunity came about through the introduction of the festival to me by Brooke Ciardelli, an award winning director and producer who recently worked with Barefeet in 2014. According to Brooke the experience was life changing. Not only was she able to share by creating a new theatre work on the performers, but what she took away was much more enriching than she could have ever predicted.
"Barefeet Theatre in Zambia, Africa was working in an entirely foreign environment compared to my previous experiences. It challenged me to create work that speaks to the human condition, to find the common ground between diverse people and cultures and to make art which speaks across language, cultural and economic barriers. The experience caused me to make more demands on the work I create, and not settle for the idea of ‘art changing lives’ but to actually make work that does change lives."
Similar to the work we do at the Princess Mhoon Dance Institute, Barefeet has found a way to redirect the trajectory of so many young lives by using theatre to help children self-actualize. With the training techniques of theatre, song, and dance one discovers their own power by developing skills that will enable them to navigate the many challenges of the human condition. The goal is to not only create artist and art enthusiasts, but to foster to the growth of dynamic contributing members of society.
In truth, this is my story. I am an inner city girl, born in Chicago, Illinois to a teenage mother and father killed at the hand of gun violence during my formative years – I found my truth and power through art. Discovering dance gave me the opportunity to latch onto something outside of my world and enabled me to transcend my reality, focus on the future, and realize my highest potential.
As I set my sights on heading to Zambia, I am reminded of the task I have been charged. On a daily basis I strengthen my community one dancer at a time. I am now expanding my reach to the global community paying forward by helping more young artists find their power…one dance step at a time.
Princess Mhoon is the mother of 3, an artist, scholar and entrepreneur in the Nation’s Capital. She is the Founder and Director of the Princess Mhoon Dance Institute, an internationally acclaimed choreographer, and published writer. She holds a BFA in Dance and an MA in Public History from Howard University.
For more information visit:
Princess Mhoon Dance Institute
Classes, Camps, In-School Programs
Princess Mhoon, Artistic Director & Choreographer
Brooke Ciardelli, Producer & Director