Meet 12 Ballet Students From Transformacion Ballet in Solola, Guatemala

Transformación Ballet is located in a rural area in the highlands of Guatemala; a dance ministry with the goal to create discipline, community and share the love of Christ through dance. 

“Our program is very unique because aside from dance, we offer English classes, workshops on health and faith, provide academic support to numerous students and distribute food due to the COVID-19 impact locally.”

Transformacion offers their program at no cost and runs on a donation basis, allowing children from all socioeconomic status the opportunity to learn and grow together. They partner with two local orphanages, allowing these children to integrate into their traditional dance program as well!

 transformacion ballet student in guatemala

Photo Credit: Christine Tjahjadi-Lopez


Meet the Founder, Christine Tjahjadi-Lopez

My mother is from Puerto Rico and my father is from Indonesia. I began ballet at 2 years old and at age 19 stopped dancing ballet because of a dance-related injury. 

Due to my father's job, I moved around a lot as a child and my dance training includes various local dance studios and two serious ballet training programs with Milwaukee Ballet School and American Academy of Ballet Buffalo. As I moved, the three consistent things in my life were always family, God and dance classes. By the grace of God I received full scholarships to pursue both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in International Trade with a focus on Latin America and development at the University at Buffalo. 

As I was completing my Master's thesis in Guatemala, I began to teach ballet to a small group of 5 students in my living room. This began to grow swiftly and organically into the ministry God made it to be today! 

I never thought that coming down to Guatemala to study indigenous artisan weavers would lead to Transformación Ballet! I wake up everyday thankful and excited to get to work and show children from all walks of life that they are loved and that they can achieve great things.

Photo Credit: Christine Tjahjadi-Lopez

What do you enjoy most about running Transformacion?

My favorite part about my ballet ministry are the connections I make with the children. I love motivating them inside and outside of ballet class towards their dreams and goals. I also love doing photography with the students, in-class or out-of-class for special dance photoshoots. 

Many times situations of lower income are not captured with much dignity and hope. In my photography, I focus on the joy and beauty in all situations. Society focuses so much on the superficial. It is important to remind us that beneath all of that, we are all beautifully created individuals.

Photo Credit: Christine Tjahjadi-Lopez

How can people get involved with Transformacion from a distance?

Internships (grant writing or teaching), becoming a ballet godparent (financially supporting and mentoring the student), partnering as a business or organization (financially) or volunteer teaching virtually or in-person!

How old are you?

Mila: 2 years old

Jade: 3 years old

Mia: 4 years old

Jaylen: 5 years old

Ixkoq: 8 years old

Mana: 9 years old

Darlin: 10 years old

Zeidy: 10 years old

Fatima: 11 years old

Nancy: 11 years old

Ana Paola: 11 years old

Ruby: 12 years old

Photo Credit: Christine Tjahjadi-Lopez

Does your name mean anything special?

Mila: Pure and cared miracle of God

Jade: I am not sure. Mom:[Precious Stone of the Mayan culture]

Mia: It is very special. [Mia is for the virgin Mary, it is for for Maria]

Ixkoq: It means rainbow in Kakchiquel [an indigenous Mayan language my family speaks].

Mana: Yes: MA means strong and NA means nice.

Darlin: My name means happiness and love.

Zeidy: Love of the Father

Fatima: I am named after Our Lady of Fátima, the virgin Mary who appeared in Fatima, Portugal.

Ana Paola: My first name means the name of the mother of the virgin and also the name of the mother of my mother (my grandmother) and my second Name means the name of my great grandfather (bisabuelo) Paulino.

Ruby: A precious gem, my name is very special to my mom.

Photo Credit: Christine Tjahjadi-Lopez

What do your parents do for a living?

Mila: My mom is a teacher and my dad is a carpenter [and volunteer firefighter].

Mia: My dad is a sales manager.

Ixkoq: My mom makes artisan candles.

Mana: My mom has a restaurant and my dad works in Japan in the summer.

Darlin: My dad is a janitor and my mom is mom of the house [and sells jewelry at the market].

Zeidy: My mom weaves "fajas" (belts for the traditional Mayan outfit for women) and my dad gives Spanish classes to tourists.

Fatima: My mom is a teacher and my dad is a chauffeur for tourist buses.

Nancy: My dad sells tacos and my mom sells artisan weavings on the street

Ana Paola: We have a restaurant and a toast shop (toasted tortillas), my mother works in the restaurant and my dad works in the toast shop and on a small farm that we have.

Ruby: My mom is a teacher. My dad is a construction worker.


Photo Credit: Christine Tjahjadi-Lopez

How do you/did you get to and from the studio before Covid?

Mila: In a moto

Mia: Mototaxi

Ixkoq: Walking then in a bus

Mana: Walking

Darlin: On a motorcycle or mototaxi.

Fatima: the back of a pick-up truck

Ana Paola: Walking or in a taxi, sometimes in my daddy's car.

Photo Credit: Christine Tjahjadi-Lopez

Can you share one of your favorite Guatemalan recipes with us? If not, just your favorite Guatemalan foods!

Mila: Popcorn

Mia: Lasagna and patín

Jaylen: Mole (a chocolate chili sauce for chicken)

Ixkoq: mushroom soup and grilled beef

Mana: I like pepian. Recipe: Toast sesame seeds, pepitoria (similar to pumpkin), chile guaque, chile pasa and tomato, and grind it together. Add that to chicken soup with vegetables and eat it with tortillas. It is very yummy!

Darlin: Chicken soup and crab with lemon.

Zeidy: I love soup, but I don't know the recipe!

Fatima: Pulique: 1) cook chicken, tomato, chopped up onion, herbs and salt for 30 minutes, 2) blend tomato, achiote and corn dough, 3) add that to the chicken and there you have it!

Nancy: Fried Fish with seasoning and onion

Ana Paola: I really like Pulique, it is very rich. Pulique is made with corn dough. When the meat is being made separately, with water or chicken broth, the corn dough is made with salt, and especially the achiote, which gives it an incredible flavor. It boils and it is very tasty. AND THAT'S THE PULIQUE!

Ruby: Los rellenitos (plantains with bean inside), los tamales (corn dough outside with chicken and tomato sauce inside), las enchiladas (a fried tortilla with radish and other toppings)

Photo Credit: Christine Tjahjadi-Lopez

Do you have any pets or animals at home?

Mia: Butterflies. We rescue butterflies that have broken wings or can't walk or fly and we bring them home until they are better and can fly again.

Mana: Si, 2 cats and a bunny.

Darlin: yes, I have three dogs and a cat.

Fatima: Yes, a bunny, a chicken, a turtle and a hen.

Nancy: No pets, but we have chickens - which are not pets!

Ana Paola: Yes, in my house, I have 2 puppies, and 2 goat babies.

Ruby: A cat named Petula.

Photo Credit: Christine Tjahjadi-Lopez

What do you love to do for fun?

Mila: Play with my cousins, listen to music and dance.

Mia: A game called caperucita.

Mana: Hang out with my neighbor, Iris.

Darlin: I like to invent kitchen games and adventure games.

Zeidy: I love to sing and dance and weave

Fatima: Play with animals and sew clothes for my dolls.

Nancy: I like to sell artisan handicrafts in the street or by the lake to the tourists

Ana Paola: Play the piano , dance, paint in pictures, play soccer, sing, stretch and draw and many other things.

Ruby: To draw and sew dresses for my dolls

Photo Credit: Christine Tjahjadi-Lopez

What chores do you and/or your siblings do at home?

Mila: Hang my clothes to dry and sweep

Mia: I put away dishes and pick up my toys

Ixkoq: sweep, mop, help make the string for my mom's candle workshop, and play with my little sister

Mana: Help cook.

Jaylen: I help my mom clean the house, I make my bed, I sweep and take the dirty plates to the pila (a Guatemalan outside sink made of concrete).

Darlin: Clean my room, wash dishes, wash clothes by hand and fold laundry.

Zeidy: I help my mom set the bed, wash dishes and sweep

Fatima: Sweep, mop, wash dishes, cook, and organize my room.

Nancy: Washing my clothes by hand and cleaning my bedroom

Ana Paola: We clean the house because my parents are very busy and we also take care of our animals.

Ruby: Wash dishes, make my bed and cook

Photo Credit: Christine Tjahjadi-Lopez

What do you enjoy most about ballet/dance?

Mila: Chasses and jumping

Ixkoq: the performances

Mana: The music, the moves and the tranquility.

Darlin: I like to do new dances.

Zeidy: I enjoy ballet because it is fun and I learn new skills.

Fatima: I can express my feelings when I dance.

Nancy: I like that when I dance I feel free.

Ana Paola: I really enjoy making people happy when I dance and making me happy too.

Ruby: I love to dance, relax and connect to another world

Photo Credit: Christine Tjahjadi-Lopez

What has dance taught you?

Mila: To have fun.

Ixkoq: make new friends, stretch myself, meet new teachers

Darlin: Discipline and to never give up.

Zeidy: Discipline...and it helps me to reach my goals!

Nancy: I learned to respect teachers and my peers.

Ana Paola: Ballet is teaching me to be disciplined to strive for what I want: pointe shoes!

Ruby: I have achieved goals I have set for myself and I have become more disciplined. I am also very friendly and have made new friends too.

Photo Credit: Christine Tjahjadi-Lopez

How did you meet Miss Christine?

Mila: Other foreigners who are my mom's friends.

Zeidy: I met Miss Christine through a weaving group my mom is a part of.

Fatima: Through a teacher from my school. 

Nancy: She was my neighbor!

Ana Paola: My mom knows Miss Christine, I don't remember how, but Miss Christine came to our restaurant and was talking with us.

Ruby: I had a neighbor named Tatiana who I miss a lot. She introduced me to Miss Christine and I had the opportunity to dance ballet through a scholarship.

Photo Credit: Christine Tjahjadi-Lopez

What do you like most about Miss Christine?

Ixkoq: She is patient when she teaches.

Darlin: I like that she teaches us new moves and that she motivates us every time to advance and get better.

Nancy: She likes to spend time with us as a teacher and as a friend.

Ana Paola: What I like the most about Miss Christine is that God gave her the gift of helping and making us happy. She came to Guatemala to open our minds. 

Ruby: She is so fun and I think she is beautiful overall, she is a spectacular teacher.

Photo Credit: Christine Tjahjadi-Lopez

What would you like to be when you grow up and why?

Mila: Firefighter like my dad

Mia: A princess

Ixkoq: A chef because I like to discover new recipes and make candles.

Mana: I would like to be a ballet dancer, painter and horseback rider.

Darlin: I would like to be a ballet teacher because I like the moves and rhythm of the music and the experience of when we dance.

Zeidy: I would like to be a ballet dancer, a pastry chef and a stylist.

Fatima: I want to be a teacher or ballet dancer.

Ana Paola: I want to be a ballet teacher, a pianist, an artist, an architect and a businesswoman. I want to be a pianist because I love music, a ballet teacher because I want to be like Miss Christine. An architect because I love to draw and design. An entrepreneur because I want to be a millionaire to help others to give them work and that they, like me, are happy and help others.

Ruby: I want to be a big fashion designer because I love to design and doing this I express my feelings and imagination.

Photo Credit: Christine Tjahjadi-Lopez

Bring the experience of pointe to a handful of these girls in the highlands of Guatemala! We have a pre-pointe training program and our girls have been working very hard. We are excited to announce that our first group of girls are ready to start pointe! However, the cost of one pair of pointe shoes is equivalent to an entire month's income for many of our students' families. Due to this socio-economic situation, the majority of our students do not have the means to acquire pointe shoes. When our girls go on pointe, they will be the first group of girls to go on pointe together in our province of Sololá, Guatemala.

Be part of the solution and help us make history!

Send us your new or lightly used pointe shoes, clean pointe shoe accessories and therabands.
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