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Shake your rump in the Reap

So you think you can’t dance? Ariel Reyes begs to differ, and he’s running private and group classes in Siem Reap to show that anybody can dance – even white people.

“Everyone can dance,” he declares. “Dance and choreography are a wonderful way to bring everyone together. It’s something we all have in common.”

His expertise is in swing and salsa lessons for all levels of ability, but he can also turn his hand, and your feet, to hip-hop, R&B, and classic dances such as the tango or the waltz.

The energetic dance instructor, who is also a registered nurse, arrived in Siem Reap a month ago but is no stranger to Cambodia. He spent four years teaching at international schools in Phnom Penh until he left for China to teach dance and PE at the Shanghai International Community School.

At $5 an hour, the sessions are cheaper than a trip to the gym, and Reyes is keen to emphasise the benefits it can bring. “It’s a basic form of aerobics,” he enthuses. “You’ve just got to go for it and dance your arse off.”

Desperately unfit, I could feel the burn after only 20 minutes of continuous salsa moves. I have hips that like to move entirely independently of the rest of me. For some reason, this is good when you’re 23 but somewhat unseemly more than a decade later.

With a great deal of patience, in one short session Ariel managed to get those unruly bodily elements of mine to move with some semblance of order.

He was even fantastically good-natured about my rather frustrating tendency to try to lead.

Ariel has worked with children and adults, and laughs about how kids always prefer modern dance like hip-hop, dismissing classic dances such as swing as “so old”. But, he notes: “That’s until they get to the bit where they dip the girl. Then they get it.”

He learned his art back home in the Philippines, and got through university studying nursing on a dance scholarship. He was also on the dance varsity team and was a weekly backing dancer on Filipino television shows. Since then, he has moved into instructing and has often found it easier to find work teaching dance than as a nurse.

Classes are by appointment and held at the Angkor Gym, between Boomerang Guest House and My Home. Contact Ariel Reyes on 089 419 752.

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