MS. CHRISTINE: Founding Director & Dance Teacher
Founder and New York native, Christine Tjahjadi-Lopez has 17 years of dance training, with her main focus in ballet. Her training includes various local studios throughout the United States and two years at the pre-professional ballet school, Milwaukee Ballet and one year at the American Academy of Ballet of WNY. She has taught dance with Arena y Esteras in Lima, Peru and has several years of experience in recreational swing dance and latin dance. In university, she was active in research and community outreach. She was a Truman Scholar finalist and founded a reoccurring conference for inner-city youth, Girl's Day, funded by the winnings from a modeling contest. This conference which focused on inner, God-given beauty and self-worth is the foundation of Transformación Ballet's teaching approach.
Christine initially came to Guatemala to conduct interviews with Mayan weavers for her Master's project with the University at Buffalo when she began teaching ballet classes on the side. She aimed to graduate and work with Latin American artisan goods. However, God opened and closed doors and she ended up teaching ballet to a small group of kids in her living room which organically grew to include children from situations of extreme poverty and local orphanages which was recognized by America Ballet Theater's Project Plie. Christine now teaches classes between five towns. Christine says, "Living in Guatemala, is growing my soul as I see God move and work like I have never seen Him do before through these children and even funding! I'm learning trust and how to surrender to God and just be and serve. Through this process I see God transforming the lives of my students and their families alongside my own.” She attests all she is to God and says that support from her family, university experiences and incredible university advisers prepared her with the tools and knowledge to run Transformación Ballet from a critical yet loving leadership position.
Christine is certified as a “Trauma Competent Caregiver” through Trauma Free World via Back 2Back Ministries and in "Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI)" through Texas Christian University's Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development.
MISS. LIGIA: Assistant Director
Ligia Bernabela Méndez Juracán studied to become a teacher at the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala in Guatemala. She found her vocation in education and realized how it could be used to transform the future of her community in Sololá, Guatemala. Ligia has 4 years of work experience as a school teacher at a small, private school and initially volunteered teaching baby ballet with Transformación Ballet in 2018. She now teaches pre-ballet classes and is our program tutor and academic coordinator. She manages all aspects of our scholarship program, tutoring program, cultural and English exchange programs, workshops on health and experiential learning trips for our students in most need. Through this program, Ligia says, "I have been able to contribute to my community through education by creating creative and personalized strategies to raise the educational quality and comprehensive training of the students in most need." Two of her main goals as coordinator of the academic program are to help each child realize a bright, option-filled future and to see all students finish middle school and graduate high school.
Ligia is certified as a “Trauma Competent Caregiver” through Trauma Free World via Back 2Back Ministries and in "Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI)" through Texas Christian University's Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development.
MR. Nestor: Hip-hop Teacher
Nestor Rodriguez shares with us 13 years of international dance training in various dance styles including Latin, urban, African styles and contemporary dance. He has taken classes in Guatemala, Costa Rica, Salvador, Nicaragua, Mexico, Holland, Germany, Portugal and Colombia in various dance styles. Nestor is currently the director of Bakanos Dance Studio and volunteers with Transformación Ballet. He is very passionate about the power of dance and shares, “My vision with dance is not to make a profit, it is to share the culture of dance with everyone who wants to fall in love with it. I want to bring dance to rural communities and share the world of dance with children and young people can have options for healthy and wholesome entertainment so they don’t have to choose bad paths. God put dance in my path and I follow His will since He has given me the opportunity to create community through dance.” One of his favorite phrases is, “Dance is life and life is good!”
Nestor is certified as a "Trauma Competent Caregiver" through Trauma Free World via Back2Back Ministries.
Mr. Elmer: English Teacher
Since Elmer Velásquez was little he had a passion for learning. As a child, the thing that made him wanted to learn English the most was hearing foreign doctors talk to each other in English. He was amazed and that's when he decided he wanted to learn “for real.” At a young age he had the opportunity to work with foreigners. Elmer improved his English through conversation and asking questions about language and culture. It was then that he realized the importance of education and the impact it can have on individual’s futures, especially children. He formally studied English at the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala to be able to have a tool to teach others. Since teaching English with Transformacion Ballet, Elmer says, “I can't describe how wonderful it is to teach the children. It confirmed what I thought about education and I realized how much I love what I do.”
Elmer is certified as a “Trauma Competent Caregiver” through Trauma Free World via Back 2Back Ministries and in "Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI)" through Texas Christian University's Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development.
Miss. Loyda: Orphanage Dance Teacher
Loyda Prado graduated in Contemporary Dance and Environmental Engineering. She is a profesional cellist, modern, contemporary and folklore dancer as well as a dance teacher. She is currently the director for Dance Club at the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala and volunteers with Transformación Ballet's Orphanage Dance Program and Intensamente Arte and Sport. Loyda shares, “I see dance as a tool to be able to reach the hearts of the people who have contact with it. Part of my vision as an artist is to use it to share positive messages that can change lives. My passion for sharing my knowledge can be summed up in the following sentence: Give by grace what we have received by grace.”
Loyda is certified as a "Trauma Competent Caregiver" through Trauma Free World via Back2Back Ministries.
Ms. Ligia: Orphanage Dance Teacher
Ligia Salazar is a jazz, contemporary, modern, ballet and pilates teacher, director of the Dance Corps of Querido Arte Opera Dance Company as well as the director and founder of Mirror Ballet. She also volunteers with Intensamente Arte and Transformación Ballet's Orphanage Dance Program and community workshops. Ligia states, “Teaching dance is part of my life and essence as a human being. Teaching dance and art for me is teaching the soul how to heal, sharing a tool which ignites love and passion for life and teaching to be better humans.”
Ligia is certified as a "Trauma Competent Caregiver" through Trauma Free World via Back2Back Ministries.
Garrett: Young Men's Mentor
Garrett Elder has been dancing for 9 years with a focus on ballet, contemporary, and men’s dance at Christ in the Arts Dance Ministry in Texas. Garrett has been a part of Christ in the Arts Dance Ministry, Ballet Magnificat, and now Transformation Ballet. He dreams of sharing the love of Jesus Christ and the trinity through story telling with the art of dance. Garrett believes that, “our purpose on this Earth is to spread the word of God and the gospel with the nation and our neighbors. This is what I hope to do one day as a choreographer!” As a volunteer with Transformation Ballet, he hopes to share the glory and love of God with the boys as they transition to becoming young men. Garrett hopes to be an example to them as they pursue their passion for the arts and the Lord!
Favorite Bible Verse: “Let them praise His name in the dance; let them sing praises unto Him with the timbrel and harp.” - Psalm 150:4
Ester: Translator for Young Men's Class
Ester López is a graphic design student who finds passion in creating new things every day to improve her surroundings. From a young age, she had a great interest in learning and strengthening her talents, which she is convinced are acquired by the grace and spirit of God, as stated in Exodus 35:31-35. She started studying English at the age of nine and later at the age of 19, realizing the impact English could have on her life. Through her performance and dedication, she achieved a B2 level in the English language.
Currently, she uses the English language in her professional field to communicate between Guatemalan companies and foreign companies. This has sparked her desire to continue learning and acquiring even more knowledge.
For Ester, Transformación Ballet is a way to demonstrate God's love to people through her service.
Ms. Darinka: Psychologist
Darinka Cruz Cojulún is a psychologist and high school psychology teacher. She graduated from the University of San Carlos de Guatemala, is certified as a Caregiver Proficient in Trauma through Back2Back Ministries, with studies in auxiliary nursing and bachelor's degree in theology. Darinka has an extensive background in teaching the Bible with children and adolescents. She also has experience working with youth in theater, puppetry, vacation camps and working to adapt curriculum to teach university level courses with deaf students. Darink shares, “I trust that God's plans and purpose are absolutely perfect. I walk in obedience to Him, and putting in His hands all my experiences, knowledge and the skills that He has allowed me to develop to date. It is my desire is to serve and contribute to the Transformation Ballet team in comprehensive care for all those children and young people who join the program, extending the love of Christ to others."
Darinka is certified as a "Trauma Competent Caregiver" through Trauma Free World via Back2Back Ministries.