COVID-19 Ignites MCB Dancer Eric Trope’s Altruistic Side
Dedicates time to expanding local nonprofit: Buddy System
Miami City Ballet corps de ballet dancer Eric Trope has long displayed the discipline, passion, and sheer determination necessary to become a professional dancer. When a dear friend called asking him to lend a helping hand at a newly established volunteer program, Eric showed us all just how far those attributes can take you when driven to help others. Eric graciously took time out of his busy schedule to tell us about his recent work with the rapidly growing Buddy System.
First, tell us, what is Buddy System?
Buddy System is a volunteer placement program formed in response to COVID-19 that helps the most vulnerable in our community. We initially began by pairing neighbors to deliver groceries and pick up prescriptions for those who are currently homebound: the elderly, immunocompromised or those without access to a car. We quickly received many calls from people who fell into these categories, but due to the circumstances of the pandemic, were also experiencing financial hardship. At this point, we teamed up with Crossbridge Brickell church, and began hosting our own food distributions. Every week for the last two months, over 70 of our volunteers have picked up a box of food and delivered it to an individual or family in need, serving over 350 people throughout South Florida. Buddy System continues to grow beyond what we ever imagined.
What motivated you to work with Buddy System and when did you begin working with them?
My close friend, Kristin Guerin contacted me about doing some volunteer administrative work for Buddy System a few weeks after its inception at the end of March. Being temporarily off from the ballet due to MCB’s unexpectedly shortened season and cooped up inside, I was eager to find a way to get involved. As each week passed, I began to take on more responsibilities, eventually helping run the organization alongside Kristin and her co-founder Jessica Gutierrez. This has included coordinating our large food distributions, teaching ballet classes on Zoom to raise grocery money for people in need, and making connections in the community that will help Buddy System continue to grow and evolve.
Have other members of the MCB family joined in support of Buddy System?
Yes. I get by with a little help from my friends! When I shared the work I was doing many MCB staff, from dancers to stage managers offered to volunteer. Many came to the church every Friday to pick up boxes of food to deliver while others who were not in Miami, helped make phone calls pairing up volunteers with neighbors in need. I am truly grateful for my MCB family coming together to support this organization and the community in which we all live and work.
Rumor has it you were recently granted an award, please tell us more:
Two weeks ago, we received our official nonprofit status as well as our first grant — the Community Resilience Prize from the Desai Sethi Foundation. Moving forward, we hope to continue to keep our volunteers engaged in the community by advocating and supplying sustainable resources for the most vulnerable members of Miami and beyond.
Why is it important for you to give back in this way? What have you gained from this experience?
This experience has enabled me to form new relationships with inspiring leaders and volunteers, become more involved with my community, and implement change on a grassroots level. It has also allowed me to explore new facets of myself separate from my identity as a dancer. I look forward to staying involved with Buddy System while continuing to dance with Miami City Ballet, bringing to the studio and stage all I have learned as an artist and a human.
Photo credits in order of appearance: Miami City Ballet dancer and Buddy System Co-founder Eric Trope and Buddy System Co-founder Jessica Gutierrez, Miami City Ballet dancer Alaina Andersen, Miami City Ballet dancers Emily Bromberg and Nathalia Arja, Miami City Ballet dancer Mayumi Enokibara, Carlton Ford and Miami City Ballet dancer Christina Spigner
Eric Trope in Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes, Choreography by Justin Peck. Photo © Daniel Azoulay