Justin Perez is trying to change lives. A native of New York, raised in Orlando, Perez is the founder and creative director of Change Through Dance (CTD), a Miami-based, non-profit organization that promotes social change through the power of dance. He’s currently pursuing a B.F.A. in dance at the New World School of the Arts.
We caught up with Perez before the first rehearsal for Flash Mob Downtown, an alternative dance event co-sponsored by CTD and Switchboard Miami, with the aim of creating awareness of crisis counseling and other social services provided by Switchboard.
The Flash Mob event starts at 5:00 p.m. sharp on Thursday, Feb. 17, at Government Center — just in time for evening rush hour.
Artburst: How important is dance in creating social change? And where does this power come from?
Perez: Dance allows people to fully and freely express themselves. This allows the individual to speak and act with no fear, and to love themselves as well as to express it to others. The essence of dance teaches a dancer how to motivate oneself to move forward. Dance teaches self-discipline, body-awareness, and the ultimate self-discovery. The power comes from within the dancer and the exploration through trial and error.
What is your goal for Flash Mob Downtown?
The goal of the Flash Mob is to bring community awareness to Switchboard Miami, which offers the most comprehensive telephone crisis counseling, suicide prevention information, and referral services available. They also provide individual and family counseling services, and prevention programs for at-risk youth and their families. Since Switchboard Miami and CTD’s visions run parallel, this Flash Mob opportunity will serve to create heightened community awareness and offers a fun way to be a part of this organization.
Without dance, the world would be…?
Without dance society would be deprived of the richness of other cultures and the awareness of social events and human feelings would be suppressed or non-existent. Dance offers people freedom of self-expression. It allows us to keep our traditions alive — from the history of folk dances to the repertory of local dance companies. Without dance the world would not have true freedom nor would we have an appreciation of our cultural differences and our evolution as a community.
What motivates you to do what you do?
I wanted to create a place where artists, students, and underprivileged children can come together to simply create art and express themselves with no judgment — in an atmosphere of acceptance and encouragement. CTD was created to be a safe haven for all artists of all ages and backgrounds within our community. Since I started dancing later in life and was given the opportunity at my college to dance, I want to offer this opportunity to other young people and introduce them to another way of living, and thinking; not only through the mind but also through the body.
I enjoy the works of all dance styles, from the strength of Graham to the beautiful lines of ballet. In my choreography, I like to incorporate a little of all styles to offer the dancer a variety of movement and partnering.
What’s your next project?
CTD Contemporary and the Miami-Dade College ICC Program will partner together to bring you “Clean up Downtown.” We start at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, April 23 and end at 1:00 p.m. We will pick up trash, paint, and plant all over Downtown Miami. Volunteers will receive a complementary ticket to the CTD show Re-Cycle — an homage to Earth Day and everything in the production is made of recycled and earth friendly materials.
Flash Mob Downtown, 5:00 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 17. Location: Government Center in downtown Miami. For more information on either of these nonprofit organizations, visit them at changethroughdance.org and switchboardmiami.org; email: email@example.com.