“I love you,” says one of my students, Aun, as I try to teach them how to “spot” while turning (a classic lesson for any dancer). I respond with a laugh, knowing that her motive for repeating this and other sweet little English phrases, e.g. “I miss you,” is more likely to amuse herself than to bolster my self esteem. Once and a while, I decide not to leave her expressed sentiments unrequited and respond sincerely that I love her too, causing a burst of giggles to break out amongst the girls as they dutifully follow me in our routine sun salutations.
So far we have still been working on basic technique and experimenting with different themes, such as “pathways in space” and “levels and shapes.” Every class teaches me something new about the ways in which the girls learn and dance best, what interests and excites them, and even what makes them flat-out bored. I wish that I could have more time with them in order to continue this process of mutual learning, but our workshops go quickly and we only have 4 scheduled classes left before their performance. That is likely to change, however, because last night the girls eagerly suggested that we add Fridays and Sundays to our schedule; I assented to this, happy to see that they were so motivated and interested though a bit sad to give up such opportune days of rest.
The choreography and concept for their final performance is still being formed in my imagination. I’m working off of some movement that we have made together in class and trying to incorporate aspects of their stylistic preferences, which challenges me to choreograph in ways that I wouldn’t have expected. I look back to the grant proposals that I wrote months ago for
Princeton, in which I spoke of creating fusions of Thai classical and folk dance and Modern (western) dance with my students, and here I am with 10 teenage girls whose main dance experience and interest is Thai break-dancing. Fortunately, I’ve forgotten most expectations about what this whole experience “should be” and have happily embraced the flow of life and creativity here in Chiang Mai.