If you know me well, you’ll know that I love dancing and find any excuse to boogie, shake or shuffle in daily situations. I love dancing because you don’t have to be good at it to find joy in it, it allows you to embrace your individuality and most of all, dancing is universal.
In all my travels, dancing has been a common string that’s weaved each continent together, whether it be shaking it in a conga line to give an offering at a church in Ghana, celebrating community with a night-long dance party in East Timor, or embracing the loud and vibrant culture of the Carioca in Brazil, dance brings joy to communities worldwide, and Cambodia was certainly no different.
One experience inked in my mind from Cambodia is an impromptu dance party organised by our fantastic tour guides from Buffalo Tours (travelling through Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos? Couldn’t recommend Buffalo more!), in a rural village near our first home-stay and building project. A village with limited access to electricity, where only the wealthy using generators, a mega sound-system was wheeled in on a tractor, Cambodian style. After enjoying our final lunch at the home-stay, the music started and slowly but surely children began shyly emerging from their homes, from behind trees, or running up from their daily work on the rice paddies, curious at what was probably a more bizarre spectacle for them than it was for us. A bunch of Australians in a somewhat inaccessible community, blasting music from a sound system so large it would make Ministry of Sound jealous.
As we beckoned the children from their hiding places, more and more cheeky grins emerged from surrounding homes, and families passing by stopped to take in the scene. After a few brave dancers established that we were safe and enjoyed dancing as much as they clearly did, the dance party began – three hours of swaying, twirling, clapping and dancing around in a circle to traditional Cambodian musical, with interludes of Western beats prompting crumping and shuffling from some very suave 8-year-old boys. Each hour our crowd would grow bigger as young and old gave into the rhythm that pulsed through their bodies, and the community pulled them in.
Our experience in Cambodia showed us that for the Khmer people, dancing is about community, about different people coming together over a shared celebration, about appreciating the joy that music can trickle into your bones. Dancing broke down the social and language barriers that stood between us and allowed us to fully immerse ourselves in village life and again taught us a lesson about community which I wish could be a part of Australian culture. Too often we’re ashamed of how we may look when we dance, too proud to let our guard down or maybe just too damn serious but if I’ve learnt anything yet in 2013 it’s to dance like no one is watching. Is this a metaphor for something you’re too afraid to do? Reward yourself and try it this week…
I truly hope I can return to the Kien Sangker community one day and pick up the party where we left off… Maybe we’ll film our own version of Harlem Shake together