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Youth harness the power of dance

Youth harness the power of dance

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The role of the arts in effecting social and political change has long been recognised.

Nicky Sullivan/Phnom Penh Post
Kamuri Middleton leads a group of dancing kids in Siem Reap.

Whether it’s music, theatre, dance, writing, singing, poetry or any one of the myriad art forms, the power that creative expression gives to individuals, and from there to groups, can be formidable.

An Australian organisation plans to build on that power with a dance project that is being initiated with a tour of Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Kampong Cham and Takeo province.

Mayibuye began in Melbourne, Australia in January, 2009. Since then, it has set up six performance troupes in Melbourne and South Africa.

“A lot of young people feel that they can’t talk about things or express themselves, and this is a great way of getting them to do that,” said Kamuri Middleton, a former professional dancer and one of the organisation’s founders.

The Cambodia tour kicked off with a special workshop at ABCs & Rice in Siem Reap, and will finish at Sorya, a school in Takeo that provides free education to 300 children.  

The school asked Mayibuye to help develop a more creative curriculum, to help their students express themselves and their own ideas.

“The project builds confidence through creative expression, and the kids feel really proud because people are cheering for them,” Middleton says. “They start to feel valued and part of the community.

“We never expected it to get so big, so quickly. In South Africa, young people just came to find a safe place at first.

“Now they’re community leaders and peer educators.

“They’re engaged in healthy behaviours, and other young people can see that.”

“Dancing just fills you with joy,” says Zoë Condliffe, the 21-year-old Melbourne woman who will lead the dance project in Takeo.

“It can inspire and motivate you, and I hope the communities we work with will find the same thing.”

Condliffe has spent the past year developing the project after winning a scholarship to the Melbourne School for Social Entrepreneurs.

Her work led to her being recognised by Melbourne newspaper The Age as one of the city’s most influential, inspiring and creative people of 2011.

Middleton founded Mayi-buyi with three of her colleagues when her own professional dancing career was brutally ended after she contracted legionnaire’s disease while on tour.

She says the determination that helped her become a dancer has helped her to build up the organisation.

“People didn’t believe we could do it in the beginning; we were so young.”

It seems they are the living, dancing embodiment of their own ideals.

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