Pablo Gatica walked up to our Founder and Executive Director at Harding School in Santa Barbara in 2006 when he was ten years old and said, “I can dance to that song! Tell me when you’re teaching, ‘cuz I’m so there.” Pablo was one of the first students we recruited to our performance dance troupe in 2009 for 20 especially dedicated and talented EDN! youth. Over the years, he’s participated in EDN!’s master classes with Tommy and the Hip-Hop Clowns (2008) and America’s Best Dance Crew’s Season 5 Champions, Poreotix (2010). Now a high school junior, Pablo has grown into a beautiful dancer but also extraordinary person - and he’s become a chapter leader for EDN! Santa Barbara, giving back so that other students like Pablo have opportunities to dance.
We were absolutely thrilled when one of our donors from the Kirby-Jones Foundation was moved this summer to create a scholarship in Pablo’s name, to be used for college visits and application fees. Pablo will be the first recipient of the scholarship this year, before other juniors and seniors in EDN! are eligible in the future. We caught up with Pablo for an interview to learn more about what this means to him, and about his EDN! experiences more generally.
Jackie: What does this scholarship mean to you?
Pablo: To me, it really means that someone out there actually believes in me and knows that if I put my mind to something, I will be able to accomplish it.
J: What has been your favorite Everybody Dance Now! memory so far?
P: My favorite memory would probably have to be becoming an EDN! chapter leader [after being a student] and feeling so involved, knowing all the people who are leaders. It’s great to have such a special bond with them and know that we’re all such good friends. I’ve been one of the kids who EDN! has helped, and it’s such an honor to know that I’m giving back.
J: What about your favorite memory as a student?
P: I think my favorite memory as a student would probably be the second Breakdance Project that we did at Peabody School when we all got to perform together. Getting a solo in the dance was such an honor, and working all together and having those Sunday classes where EDN! leaders would come over and we’d have the teacher and the performance troupe there was so much fun!
J: How has dance affected your life?
P: Dance is my savior. It really is. I feel that if I weren’t dancing, I would have done something stupid already or gotten in trouble – but dance means that if I’m happy or not happy, it’s such a great way to express myself and who I am. I can get everything out that I have bottled up. I really feel that if I wasn’t dancing, I don’t know what I would be doing with my life. It’s such an amazing form of communication. You can get your feelings across in a different way. It’s an art – you tell a story with your body and facial expressions, and it’s just so passionate when you do it.
J: What does it mean for your family that you have free dance opportunities, or what tradeoffs would they otherwise be making to support you in dance?
P: The tradeoffs for my family are really hard. What otherwise happens is that I go into a studio and work several hours a week in order to get classes. They’re usually half off, but it’s still pretty pricey - $40 instead of $90. But for someone like my family, $40 is still really expensive. If I don’t pay that $40, it’s the difference of me dancing or not dancing.
Having an experience like Everybody Dance Now! in which you don’t have to pay for classes and everything is free is just such a blessing, because you’re getting the exact same training that you would get at a studio, and you’re getting in an environment in which it’s either a small group of 5, or a group of 5-15. Everyone gets the individual training that they need, and the same atmosphere that you would at a studio… It’s helped me lose my fear – whenever I take class, I feel like I fit in with everyone else there, and that I’m there for the exact same reason that they are.
J: What are your goals for the future?
P: My goals for the future are to go to a four-year college right after high school. I want to major in Dance and Psychology, and after my four years in a university, I want to go into grad school and further my education more. After that, I want to travel the world and do the same thing that EDN! is doing by helping underprivileged kids with dance or in any form of arts they can get, and just really impact the world with the same kind of mission that Everybody Dance Now! has. Then, hopefully, after that, I can just give back as much as I can with whoever I am with.
J: Is there anything else you want to share with EDN! supporters or people who are learning about your story?
P: Just to believe in yourself and really reach high, because I’ve made it so far with the help of amazing people. I don’t have any words to say thank you. I don’t know how to pay them back for so much help that they’ve given me. I feel like if you really look, there is always going to be someone there who is trying to give you help, or who believes in your dreams and who will be there every step of the way to help you accomplish your goals. Just never stop believing, and always dream big.