Laure Thirion has traveled around the world to meet and give dance classes to underpriviledged children. She tells WDCD about it.
“This trip was a challenge thrown at myself. I have always loved to travel, discover new cultures, speak other languages, try to understand the ways of life and mentalities of other peoples on the other side of the plant. My curiosity was to fill a void. In my daily routine, dancing helped me to find the right balance, I lived for it. I found some true meanings which helped me to outgrow all physical difficulties associated to it. It was a passion much bigger than me, something that was driving me and that I could feel and I had to listen to and follow. So, the idea to mix dancing and travelling was born. All I had to figure out was which pathway this adventure would take and I decided to share my dancing skills with the children and young people in underprivileged areas of my chosen countries.
In Brazil I settled in in Rio. I arrived at the Santos Anjos Custodios orphanage in a northern suburb of Rio – a 40-minute ride on the Underground and a 20-minute walk. At that instant, to be very sincere, I was asking myself into what kind of grind I had slid into until I arrived in front of the orphanage, where the name and date of birth of the founder was inscribed. At this moment a strange wave came over me – the date of birth was the same as mine. I saw a sign and entered. I was totally enraptured by all the children’s drawings on the wall – my welcome had been prepared and also the meeting with Fabiena and Bruna and all the other smiling children. We were getting to know each other, to trust each other and we danced together.
Most of these children were love deprived and could not follow any basic simple instructions. I could feel anger, sadness. Some children were aggressive with others out of jealousy or frustration. I tried to fend these emotions off by way of games and conversations. Slowly but surely they settled down and their efforts were rewarded. Their state of mind changed, their concentration improved. They were much more precise, more attentive, more gelled and they blossomed. This is when I understood that dancing had a real additional value, much more than just to dance. Dancing could be a marvellous tool to get to know one another, to make peace with our dark sides. Dancing could also transmit the taste of effort, the impact and the solidarity.
I knew, I would not change the lives of the children; but I could feel some changes in them. I saw them being proud of themselves, I could feel them being much more confident and more open, much happier at that moment.
For my second ‘dancing trip’ I wanted to go to South Africa. I had always been passionate about the history of Nelson Mandela and I dreamt of stomping on this territory.
I contacted the dancing association Dance For All in the townships of the Cap, who welcomed me with open arms. One of the members of the association accompanies us in the car – it is dangerous to go by yourself – the gang violence in these suburbs is a real menace. I met Philip Boyd, founder of Dance For All, a former professional dancer, who several times risked his life trying to set up his dancing school. I also met Allison, Hope, Lorraine, and Bruno – magicians, miracle makers, men and women who truly deserve Nobel prices and honour medals. At their side, I feel totally inspired. Strong messages of selfesteem, joy and trust are transmitted through dancing. All dancing lessons are free of charge in the townships. There are no bars, no mirrors, no material to work with but still some scholars rise to be professionals, they are part of foreign dance companies and they come back to teach in their own country.
Meeting these children is again an enriching experience. My group grows day by day, I feel their engagement, their desire to do well, their joy to dance, to work and progress. I learn of their courage, their energy, their smiles and every time I get more, than I first gave to them. This new experience re-enforces my conviction, that dancing has the power to transform not only the body, but also the mental attitude, the mindset, the mental constitution and the worldly presence. To leave the children is heartbreaking, but I cherish all the smiles, the good humour and the little changes I feel growing in them and also in me.
Change of continent – this time on the way to Asia. India – a country full of contrasts, very colourful and harrowing in its traditions, in its spirituality, in its culture. Certainly one of my emotionally deepest experience. I decide to head to Rajasthan, north of India and I choose to collaborate with the Street Children association, located in Jaipur. Charu, the founder of this association, who is devoted to the street children, guides me to the “villages” which turn out to be shanty towns. I assist the female teachers at the school in the morning and after we dance. There are so many children, all excited, that it is difficult for me to keep their over bubbleing under control. We dance outside in the stifling heat – there is no appropriate place but the enthusiasm of the children is so energetic and touching, that I adapt to the situation as best as I can. Sometimes I think I am in a book or a film, and I realise the chance to relive all these moments of unison and humanity. The children do not speak English and I don’t speak Hindi, but the gestures and the music are a universal language , we can communicate, we can largely understand and spontaneously
I get bursts of love from these children from their littles offerings, their small presents, their drawings and their prayers.
Why engage in precarious environments? I have chosen to share some moments with under privileged children, because I liked to idea to “erase” for just a short moment the insecurity or the poverty like a failed drawing. It wasn’t as if it didn’t exist anymore, put just didn’t weigh heavily and did not hinder us to be happy and to enjoy ourselves. To dance is to be here at this very moment and to honour what this special moment has to offer. And I would experience the before and after feeling during the dance courses. The child, who lives in difficult circumstances, comes with a heavy mental burden which he leaves behind during the lessons. After that he departs with a totally different energy, music in his head and in his body, an encounter with others. And these little repetitive moments may just influence him, give him the craving and desire to build a different life. Dancing creates a desire and without desire, nothing happens.
To dance can be a bridge to one’s inner self or to others. For me dancing is not just a pastime nor just living art, but a bridge to oneself and to others.
To chaperone the children through all these adventures, I measured their potential, their adaptation capacities, their courage, their efforts, how they put their heart into simple gestures. There was something so bright in this experience. The child is the grown-up who will change the world. To inspire children to create their real desires is the most beautiful gift we can give them, and also the best service rendered. To accompany children in their development, teach them to respect their body, their self-esteem and to watch them smile, to watch them reveal themselves is just priceless.
A journey to my inner self
I stayed approx. 2-3 weeks in each country. I could not stay any longer, as I held a paid job. But these experiences have enriched my life much more than I thought. To meet all these children and dance with them was also a journey to my inner self. These shared experiences have given me a true sense to my life. Today, I have left me paid job and I have created a dancing project. I use this beautiful tool to accompany women who are in professional or personal transition, so that they can realise their true wish and reinvest new forces into their bodies. I also offer my services to Montessori Schools. And I do count on continuing my travels and dance with the children of the world.”
Translated from French by Françoise Liechti-Ruchet