March 3, 2014
As the Union College Dance Department was preparing for their Winter Dance Concert all the way in Schenectady, we were preparing for ours in Siem Reap. The students at The Global Child and I have rehearsed during every opportunity that we were given; during class breaks, lunch time, and our Saturday morning dance class for the past month. They practiced their Traditional Cambodian Dance, Bhangra, Salsa, Zumba, and Hip Hop. Every Tuesday they had a Traditional Cambodian Dance Class with their teacher Sokoan Lun who is also a student at the Performing Arts Center in Siem Reap. The Bhangra and Salsa dance I adapted from the Union College Zumba class and the Salsa and Hip Hop dances the students and I choreographed together. After several meetings, advertising, rehearsing, creating the program, and fundraising, we were just about ready!
Fifty chairs were arranged outside, in front of the school and a small stage was set up using blue tarp. A small group of expats came to watch this performance and all of our staff members from The Global Child and Joe to Go came to support our students. It was show time… AND WE GO! (as Miryam Moutillet, the Director of the Union College Dance Department, always says before every Union dance concert).
We had a brief introduction by Dara and me about the TGC mission statement and my dance class followed by Kontea, our student council president, who spoke about her love for dance. She was fantastic!
The Traditional Cambodian Dancers began with their traditional outfits. They wore special Cambodian pants with their hair in a high bun embellished with flowers. With the support from their teacher Sokoan, they were outstanding. This was the first time ever that they had the opportunity to perform this dance in front of others and they blew the crowd away. They held their fingers back, were perfectly in line, and had a wonderful costume. I was amazed at their talents and passion for their traditional dance.
In every dance, the students were so confident and poised. I could tell that they really enjoyed having an audience to showcase what they have learned and meet new people. During their bows, Dara and I surprised the dancers with a flower that each one of them could take home for their hard work. It was so great to see their smiling facing!
Though the dancing didn’t stop there- we had our students teach the audience how to dance. Phiron, one of our Wood House students, took the lead on this one. Phiron is known in the school for his ability to ‘pop and lock’ and his general goofiness and sense of humor. He taught the expats a Cambodian line dance and he was definitely the man for the job. He was a fantastic teacher! He taught the moves, step-by-step, and went very slowly so everyone understood. The students made sure to get all of the audience members involved, whether they were experienced dancers or not. Once all of the expats learned, all of the students clapped and joined in to dance with them- it was so nice to see them interact.
Even with a table of refreshments set up in the entrance room, the students were too busy dancing. We needed to make an announcement to take a break and eat some snacks and make sure to drink water (it was a very hot day).
During the break time and, to my surprise, the students began singing karaoke using the microphone! I had no idea they could sing too! And not just any song, I’m talking about belting out “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion. It was really adorable to see all of the students crowd around the computer screen looking at the lyrics as Kontea belted out in song. She was great!
And, again, the dancing continued… this time with the Cha Cha Slide, the Cupid Shuffle, the Macarena and Waka Waka. The students even got to ‘whip their hair back and forth’ and dance to their favorite songs from K-Pop. During their free dance time, Lyka, Grade 5, grabbed each person in the audience to join in and Rithy, Grade 5, danced as hard as he could- he impressed us with some flips too!
The students truly have a passion for dancing and it was incredible to see them perform and interact with some members from the expat community. They are all so talented. It was an absolutely amazing day filled with dancing, singing, smiles, and so much fun.
“Thank you for you teach us about dance my cuteful girl.” – A note from a student
Thank you to everyone who donated to support children’s education at The Global Child and special thank you to Upstairs Café for donating a cake for this event, and my wonderful friends Amanda Mitchell for creating the flyer and Jessica Barofsky for making a mash up of the songs for the hip hop dance!