In all my travels across the world, I had the most amazing experience in my dance life at my final stop, Siem Reap, Cambodia. After three days of exploring Angkor Wat, I finally hit bottom. Six months of world exploration had me feeling overwhelmed. During the preceding months, I saw things that I thought “nothing could top this,” but to my surprise, I just kept discovering amazing things. Although Angkor Wat was utterly incredible, the experience I will remember most about Cambodia and this trip was The Cambodian Children’s House of Peace.

I learned of the orphanage / school from my friends Amanda and Tyler who had volunteered there almost year prior to our visit. They told me the children perform traditional Khmer dances every Sunday at 7pm at school. I thought since we were there, why not go see the show and have another post for my blog. I’m so glad I took their advice because this little orphanage and their twenty some children opened my heart and soul and confirmed that my path in life will always be sharing my love of dance.

My husband and I arrived for their performance about ten minutes early. We were greeted by a handful of children, the dog, the director, and a volunteer. I looked down and saw a huge smile on face of one of the littlest boys as he presented us with a plate of tea and cookies, welcoming us to the show. Then the director and volunteer gave us a tour and answered our questions about the orphanage. Minutes before the show began, we took front row seats next to the volunteer, the littlest boy, and the dog.

Nearly half of my dance career I’ve taught. I know what it takes to put together a show, and this small orphanage in the middle of Cambodia amazed me. To my surprise, I learned the students produced the entire show. I couldn’t believe that the elder students taught the incredibly specific dances to the younger ones. Every step, formation, character, and specific eyes, head, hand, and foot articulation was coached by a student nearly 14 years old. When the lights dimmed the music started, and the children entered from stage right and left to meet in the center. Once all of them were in place, they all kneeled together and took their opening pose. Every movement was performed with such professionalism, I was speechless and in awe by the children’s love of dance.

The kids, both boys and girls, performed four dances. Their eyes smiled with joy in every piece they danced, and their happiness continued from dance to dance. At the end of the show, the audience was asked to join the dancers on stage to learn a few moves. I immediately jumped on stage and a teenage boy began teaching me the foot work. The students swarmed around me with excitement. Another girl taught me how to move my hands and head, while the younger kids smiled, encourage, and praised my dancing skills. Then the DJ switched from the traditional Khmer music to none other than Pit Bull! That’s when the dance party started and all the kids started to bust their best hip hop moves. I joined in doing a few waves and robot like moves. Haha! It was so much fun, and it seems you can travel anywhere in the world and everyone loves Pit Bull.

Following the performance, a young girl approached me and thanked me for coming and told me I was a really good dancer. That’s when I told her I was a dancer and a teacher too. I then told her about my project and showed her my camera with pictures of me dancing. Her face lit up and she told me her biggest wish was to be a ballerina, but she’s never taken a class. She told me she had a collection of pictures and one ballet book and then she showed me a few of her favorite moves. This girl was a natural! That’s when I realized writing, teaching, dancing, and sharing my love of dance was exactly what I was put on this earth to do. Not only does it give me joy, but I realized it gives everyone around me happiness too. I love seeing a new dancer slide across the floor for the first time, seeing a student succeed at a complicated combination, and even seeing them take the stage for the first time. Everyone should have a chance to dance, and that’s why I’m going to continue doing what I do.

I’m so grateful for what the children taught me, and I hope someday I can return to The Cambodian Children’s House of Peace and teach them too. Until then, you can bet I’ll be sending them books, magazines, and anything that I can find to help them continue their love of dance! Cambodia is a world away, but if you make it there, please visit the kids and watch their show. I can guarantee it will be a life changing experience. To learn more about The Cambodian Children’s House of Peace, CLICK HERE!