|Since 1996, Roca’s Essencia Latina has been nurturing and showcasing the artistic talents of high risk young people from
the communities of Chelsea, Revere and East Boston: transforming their energies into the directions of positivism, cultural
inclusion, self-respect, and physical, mental and emotional health. The entirety of the program, from direction, to
choreography, to touring performances, is led by young people for young people. Essencia Latina demonstrates the
power of expressive art to facilitate hope, dedication, accountability and positive change.
Essencia Latina consists of four initiatives: a nationally-recognized, touring dance troupe; beginner, intermediate and
advanced dance art classes; emerging-teacher trainings; and, community outreach. Through Latin dance, infused with
pan-global elements of African, hip-hop, and modern styles, the diversity of youth and young adult participants in
Essencia Latina find common ground, nurture positive team work and self expression, and hone life-skills of dedication,
accountability, respect for others, and self-respect. The core, touring troupe of Essencia Latina consists of 25 committed
members between the ages of 9-26. They practice 3-4 hours a day, four days a week. Participants with Essencia Latina
have come to understand that they are the “essence” the core hope and spirit to keeping cultural identity alive in their
communities, and keeping themselves alive.
Essencia Latina is a doorway through which young people, who might not be contemplating making positive changes in
their lives, begin to engage in meaningful work and learning through cultural and expressive arts. As these young people
show up more, and establish relationships with Roca Youth Workers, they garner internal and external support to begin
thinking about, and enacting, change in their lives, enriching their commitment to academic, artistic and life goals.