Our bus ride to Skaramagas was full of hype music and good vibes, but as we got closer and closer to the camp, some questions and worries I had before flying to Greece came back into my mind. Why are we teaching? Are they interested? Who is this for? I was not sure whether our existence in the camp is going to helpful, or even, appropriate. I got off of the bus feeling like a complete outsider to this place. Mohammed, the manager of the camp, led us to a big container that was made into an arts classroom with piles of chairs, a piano, and a wooden floor. Six teenage girls were already dancing to the music they were playing. When I saw how they were enjoying themselves and making their own dance moves to the music, I finally felt a sense of familiarity. It reminds me of how I also just put on music and dance with my friends back home.
After entering the little room, we introduced ourselves in a round, did a hip-hop style warm up, and went directly into the teaching of our choreography. I stood in front of the group, knelt down, and showed them the first move, the “flower”. I explained it with simple English, and asked them to follow me. After teaching the first move and moving on to the next, I realized that two girls have pulled themselves out of the group and sat at the back. I was nervous because I thought they were uninterested in my teaching, and didn’t want to participate. However, when I asked them what was wrong, they told me that they think it is too hard and they are not able to do it. I did my best to encourage them, telling them that they can do it if they try, and teach them again step by step. At first I thought this whole process may be difficult. I thought they would soon find it boring or hard again and loose interest, but they completely surprised me with their passion. As we worked together, we became closer and more comfortable with each other. When they find a move difficult to do, they would stop me and ask me to explain it again. Whenever the music starts, everyone would suddenly get into the mode and give their best dance. Whenever I ask “Again?” after a run through, I would always receive a united shout of “Again!” from them. These moments reminds me of how I was teaching Chinese kids dance at a summer camp and leading a dance club in my high school before. We are not so different after all.
There was one thing from the teenagers that really surprised me. Sometimes when we are moving on to another dance or another exercise, they would stop us and say “we want to do this” and show us the “flower” move. They want to do the choreography we taught them, one that they really liked. I was surprised because compared to the other groups of people that I have bought dance to in the past, to those who have never told me that they would like to learn something else, they clearly know what they want. Not only that, they also speak out for themselves. I was so happy that they can tell us what they enjoy and prefer to do, because it actually makes me know that I am not teaching them just to satisfy myself and to complete “the task”, but actually sharing with them something that they do enjoy and appreciate. There were also times when the teenagers and the younger kids all brought music from their phones and tablets, saying that they have their own dance that they want to show us. From their dances, I did not see any worrying of “is our dance good enough?” or “am I as good as the others?” but only the pure joy of dancing. They just wanted to share with us, like we did with them, what they enjoy.
The three days of working with the teenagers went by very fast. We almost danced non-stop, practicing “the flower dance” and perfecting it. It was not hard to teach them the dance after all. Although new people came in to learn from time to time, the ones who were here for the first classes naturally helped the new ones with the harder moves. Every one was fully committed and all I remember was “Again?”, “Again!”, “with Music?”, “Music!” and “Continue?”, “Yes!” At the end of every session, we would do the dance for the last three times. We always said that the next one always have to be better, and the last one must be the best. We always ran a little bit over time for last questions from them to clarify certain moves or to say goodbye. We always said “see you tomorrow!” and “remember to practice at home!” We always leave so tired and sweaty, but also warm and fulfilled.
On the last day, we performed together in the market. Before performing, they gathered together by themselves to practice, and also grabbed me to go over it a couple more times with them. Although I could not see their final dances because I was standing in front to lead, I could feel their full energy and confidence. A girl asked me after the performance “are you going to come teach us again today?” I did not know how to response. “I wish I could,” I finally said. I told her that I could not go because I also need to go to school. “Oh yeah, I know,” she said, “why did you come only for three days?” I felt sad and sorry when she asked me this question because I saw how unfair this was. We came into their lives for three days, established a relationship, but then we leave them for us to live our own lives again, and for them to live theirs, again. What if they realized that these three days were just a class trip for us? What if we become just another “volunteer”, another “service project”, another passerby that just enter and exit their life so easily in a snip. And what if these beautiful human beings start to get use to how people simply come and go in their life? I did not know how to answer her questions. Why only three days, really. Was this just for our experience? When we were saying goodbye, none of the kids cried. I said goodbye with a big smile, watched them walk away, turned around, and started weeping. I really hope that these three days for them were just purely some fun dancing times with friends, not some volunteers from outside, not some strangers who came in, taught a dance, took some selfies with them, and left, and of course not outsiders that they would probably never see again. The only thing I hope that they will remember is the confidence, the energy, and the positivity that they had when we danced in the market.