Who we are - Heartdancers
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We are a charity organisation based in Sydney that advances Cultural Diversity in the Arts through Music, Dance, Storytelling and Visual Arts and making the benefits of the Arts more widely available and accessible to everyone in the community. We create events, programs and platforms that enhance social cohesion and increase health, wellbeing, education and learning outcomes.





What is

Heartdancers?

We use the arts to empower communities to create change. We deliver art-based projects that bring together people from diverse cultural backgrounds to co-create positive experiences, express themselves, share stories and learn about each other, raise awareness about social issues, build skills, and celebrate diversity. Our projects also aim to break the employment gap by providing employment and professional development opportunities to First Nations, refugees, asylum seekers and CALD artists and cultural educators in delivering our artistic projects.



Heartdancers charity was founded as a result of a project undertaken in 2010 at Villawood Immigration Detention Centre, where music, dance, yoga and meditation were used as an effective bridge for asylum seekers to connect with their creativity, spirituality and life purpose.


On the other hand, and through a partnership with settlement services international (SSI) arts & culture program, we are fostering the participation of artists from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds in the Sydney arts scene, providing those artists, along with First Nation and CALD artists, with an opportunity to professionally showcase their talents to the wider community and to bring the healing power of the arts to disadvantaged communities.

Welcome to HEARTDANCERS.


Heartdancers Board of Directors


Sandra Morales

Executive Director and Co-Founder


Sandra is a culturally diverse arts manager, community engagement and cultural leader. She has developed and managed a wide range of arts, culture and community programs and initiatives in Australia, designing employment opportunities and engagement to over 65 First Nations, refugee and CALD artists and cultural educators. She is a successful cross-cultural leader with a strong background in strategic management, finance, human resources and governance. She has over 12 years of extensive international business management and project leadership experience, operating in multinational environments and cultures across Australia, Singapore, Chile and Colombia managing projects for over $5M.

Patricio Lara

Co-Founder and Mindfulness Champion


Patricio is a musician, songwriter, producer and sound engineer born in Australia to Chilean parents. In 2012 after a year in Chile, recording and producing his first musical project, he released his first album called “Travesia” (Journey). 2014 began to record and produce his second album named “Raices” (Roots). As part of his international career, Pato has been featured at some of the most renowned music venues/festivals across Chile, Australia, Mexico and Indonesia. In 2013, Pato produced his first video clip from his single “Enamorado de la Vida” (In-loved with Life). Pato received the Viva Fiesta Award by Darling Harbour – Fiesta, Sydney in January 2014, in recognition of his contribution to multicultural arts and long standing artistic contribution to the community. With each year and each successive album, Pato's contemplation and adoration of the Great Mother deepens. Interwoven into the fabric of his art are themes of Indigenous wisdom, the call to respect and protect nature, human rights, unity and spiritual awakening. "My dream is to contribute joy and promote unity through my art; to share and celebrate life with people from all cultures and all corners of the planet"

Manuel Re

Public Officer & VP of Marketing


Manuel is passionate about human rights, diversity and always ready to bring people together to learn from new experience and culture. He has worked in the IT sector since the early stage, and he has always pushed to engage diversity in digital and marketing. He believes that only through active listening and servant leadership, the world can become a better place. He is bringing a wealth of experience in IT, Marketing and sales. He has worked with some of the largest media and finance group, and he is always on the lookout for the latest technology that can engage with people and make them understand the world from a different point of view. He believes that greatness is achieved through people working together and believing in a shared dream.

Lei Chen

President


Lei is motivated by making positive impact to the health and wellbeing of members of our culturally rich and diverse society. Lei’s core values are authenticity, empathy and pragmatism. Lei holds the view that the best design solution to any complex problem needs be founded on the principles of strength-based approach, human-centred design and evidence based design. Lei has a background in design and project management and has recently completed a Graduate Certificate in Ageing at the University of Melbourne. Lei has extensive experience working with older adults through organising arts and cultural exchange events, providing referral and translation services as well as running IT workshops. Lei also works as a project manager with an award-winning Retirement Village operator. Lei is the co-founder of Heartdancers’ Rhythm of Life program, aimed at transforming the lives of older people through the power of dance, rhythm, music, and creativity. Lei uses his design thinking and empathetic observation / listening skills in the program development, and his project management skills in stakeholders engagement, project planning and delivery.

Janina Murta

Vice-President


Born and bred in Mozambique, of Portuguese background, Janina moved to Australia in 2007. A dance activist, Janina is passionate about demystifying dance and is dedicated to making its health and wellbeing benefits accessible to all. She is a trained therapeutic dance facilitator, and is the co-founder of Heartdancers’ Rhythm Is Life program, aimed at transforming lives through the power of dance, rhythm, music and creativity. She is also currently training to become a yoga therapist. A soul of many passions, Janina originally trained as an environmental engineer and has over 10 years of experience as a sustainability and international development research consultant. She brings a wealth of experience in project management, research, community engagement, participatory learning, and cross-cultural and multi-disciplinary teamwork.

Lina Saenz

Treasurer


With a degree in Finance and International Business and over 12 years experience as an Accountant in the private and NFP sectors, Lina has joined the team as the Treasurer with the purpose of guiding and supporting Heartdancers in all its financial affairs. Lina has had the privilege to witness all the amazing contributions that Heartdancers has given to the community over the years and feels honoured to be part of this whole-hearted family that shares and reciprocates her core values and passion for creating a safe space through the freedom of the arts, where love, respect and acceptance are the base of union and deeper connection. Lina is also a mother of two, a yoga teacher and a woman who loves dancing, going to the beach, playing fetch with her dog and having a fun karaoke night with friends.

Deepa Kartik

Secretary and Cultural Educator


Deepa, a passionate Bharatanatyam dancer and Nrityanjali Title awardee hails from Coimbatore, considered one of the traditional roots of India. She has always identified the art of dance as her companion, healer, and stress-buster. She has also explored the varied art forms including Odissi, Kathak, Salsa, Hip-hop, Zumba, Freestyle dance, Semi-classical Contemporary, body awareness Yoga and different folk dances of India. She has experienced the therapeutic nature of this gifted art form firsthand. Her love for art and the therapeutic effect of dance drew her close to know more about Heartdancers' ‘Rhythm Is Life’ program. From ‘Rhythm is Life’ participant to facilitating Rhythm Is Life sessions at Heartdancers is a huge learning curve. Deepa is also a veteran Software Engineer of 4 years. She is quite passionate about social causes and has volunteered for the Indian NGO ‘Make a Difference’ for 6 years. She is currently Heartdancers' secretary, cultural educator and has performed at various Heartdancers programs and events, including the children's online program developed as a responsive session during COVID-19.

Ana Maria Parada

Cultural Educator and Artists Board Advisor


Ana is a Muisca descendent with 7 traceable generations past from the Boyacá region of Colombia, who migrated to Australia in 2004. Ana is a trained political scientist and community worker who combines her art practice through different mediums such as music, visual arts and craft-making to explore and elevate consciousness on issues of race & identity, Indigenous rights, migration and international development. Ana studies the traditional line of Cumbia music, and interprets the Gaita/Chuana/Kuisi, a flute from the First Nations people of her country. She is also a DJ focused on supporting independent artists and preservation of traditional instruments from the world. Ana is also the founding director of Mami Watta Collections, a jewellery brand that provides employment to over 15 families of Indigenous artisans across Colombia. Ana is committed to sharing her story as a member of the cultural and linguistically diverse community, she is a board member of Heartdancers charity as well as a Cultural Educator. She is also a significant voice for her community, through her latest project 'Between Sacred Lands' a Podcast of Sangre Migrante, dedicated to sharing stories for the realities of Latin American diaspora people in Australia.

Heartdancers Operations and Creatives


Carlos Agamez

Visual Art Educator and Coordinator


Carlos is a Colombian interdisciplinary performance artist. His art reflects the exploration of themes around the idea of home, cultural displacement, the perception of our surroundings, and how one constructs a memory of a space. Carlos strives to make his art relevant to current social issues of identity. Working for Heartdancers for a number of years as an art educator, and coordinating the art activities has given him a wide understanding of the arts and social issues in Australia related with refugees and immigrants. For Carlos, art is a crucial tool for raising awareness of those topics and making them accessible to a larger audience. His performances are inclusive and immersive experiences. Carlos’ works span sculpture, installation, performance and video. Not limited to the confines of the gallery, his practice engages the broader public sphere through arts education, interventions in urban space, and communities with issues of identity. His work has been deeply inspired by Jungian psychology and his childhood in the Caribbean coast of Colombia.

Charlotte Kench

Content Creator and Writer


Charlotte Kench is a writer, translator and content creator with a passion for music and creative storytelling. From her time in Lisbon editing independent artist-activist magazine PANTA and falling in love with the Portuguese language, to spinning funky Brazilian tunes as 1/4 of Zandoli Paradisco Arts Collective back in her hometown of Sydney on the Gadigal lands of the Eora nation, Charlotte (aka ‘DJ Charlotiinha’) can usually be found dancing Samba steps irregardless of what music is playing or reading way too many books at the same time.

Bruno Marion

Digital Creative Director


Bruno Marion is an Audio-Visual Consultant & Designer based in Sydney. He holds a master’s degree in Acoustics and Lighting Design. Bruno is passionate about creating, capturing and enhancing artistic experiences in visual art and sound. As a musician, Bruno’s love of music led to the running of Disc0rdant Studios in 2012 - a live event and corporate video production company. Bruno has led consultancy projects in room acoustics, measurement and design for clients such as Deus ex Machina, ARUP & IDS. In 2016, his love of photography and video production led to commissioned work in portraiture, events and music festivals as well as volunteering of video production and teaching services for Heartdancers Charity. During the COVID-19 pandemic - which has had devastating effects on the arts industry - Bruno worked with Loud Island, a live events and production company in Sydney’s Inner West. As the Director of Photography, Bruno directed a production team in delivering live-streamed music performances and assist musicians to continue to work and perform shows previously intended for international tours.

Gabriel Newman

Music Director Children Orchestra


Gabriel began his studies in classical guitar and violoncello in both the Superior School of Music José Angel lamas and the Conservatory of the National Youth Orchestra of Venezuela. Later becoming the principal cellist of the Youth Orchestra of Los Teques, the capital of the Miranda State, and later, the principal cellist of the Youth Orchestra of Caracas, D.F. Maestro José Antonio Abreu, Director and Founder of the National Youth and Children Orchestras of Venezuela (El Sistema), entrusted Gabriel to found, direct and conduct a branch that would become the José María Vargas Youth and Children’s Orchestra in Vargas State. For his achievements as a conductor and contributions on behalf of the Children and Youth of the State, Gabriel received the medal of excellence from the State Premier. He was invited in 1990, as a guest conductor for the Summer Series Concert by the D.C. Youth Orchestra program in Washington D.C. Upon his return to Venezuela, Maestro Newman became the Founder and Musical Director of the Western Chamber Orchestra.

Carolina Cuenca

Early Childhood Music Teacher


Carolina received a BA in Music Education (Major in Viola) from the Universidad del Valle in Colombia and a BSc in Biology from the same university. She has performed in numerous orchestras nationally and internationally. These include the Heriot Watt and Napier Universities in Scotland, the Oost-Vlaams Symfonisch Orkest (OVSO) in Belgium, the East Sydney Chamber Orchestra (ESCO) in Australia and the Camerata Alferez Real in Colombia. Carolina’s passion for music has allowed her to share her talents with young children and adults and her interest in the positive effects of music led her to create a cycle of concerts called ‘Meditation In Sound’, which she performed at local libraries, nurseries and hospitals. She has taught music to children of different ages and participated as a teacher of the music organization BATUTA foundation of the Presidency of Colombia, which aims to teach music to children, especially children at risk. She also has been awarded and recognized by the Colombian Minister of Culture for developing creative music workshops in Colombia.
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