In 2016 in Copenhagen, a group of people of different nationalities seeking asylum in Denmark were provided with a stage and some dancers, musicians and costumes. The dance company Corpus asked them to create a performance out of their situation, life and hopes for their future. Nayzar, a former asylum seeker from Myanmar, was part of this dance performance, called “Uropa”. During the show, she shared her story with the audience.
Many of us do not know what her people, the Rohingyas, have been going through.
International media and human rights organizations describe Rohingyas as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world. According to the United Nations, the human rights violations against Rohingyas could be termed as “crimes against humanity”. Nayzar’s family managed to escape the country, after several of her relatives were sentenced to imprisonment. Nayzar was still studying in Malaysia back then. When she came back to her country to visit her ill grand-mother, Nayzar got arrested and threaten to be imprisoned. She then escaped the country with a small backpack; spent a year in an asylum centre in Denmark where she now lives, studies and reunites with her family.
The What Dance Can Do Project met Nayzar and Alex, a Royal Danish Ballet dancer who was part of Uropa as well.
Nayzar told us about her experience.
“I grew up having to make myself small.
At school for instance, I was discriminated against. I was never able to sit in the front rows. Because of the way I look. Because of my skin colour. Because of my religion. I always had to stay on the side and be discreet about who I am. My life story has made me a very guarded person.
At the same time, I had to put on a strong face. I could not afford to look vulnerable.
Share my story with an audience was a huge step out of my comfort zone. My vulnerability would be exposed and I would be the centre of attention of hundreds of people, even if only for a few minutes each night.
At first, I was terrified. Then, confidence grew a little at a time. At the contact of the dancers and the musician, the other asylum seekers, the choreographers and the director. We were a team; I felt comfortable around them.
Then, before the first show, I lost my voice. We had to use a voice over for the first evening.
According to the doctor, I was not supposed to speak for a full week. The reaction of the audience made me find my voice already after three days again.
There was such a warm connection. People did not judge me.
When we were performing, I first tried not to look at the audience. I was concerned about their reaction. Would it be pity? I always had imagined it would be a scary thing to look at people’s reaction. Maybe they would stare in shock. Maybe they could not understand and sympathize.
When I found the courage, I looked at them. I realized it was not that scary. I realized I did not have to be so concerned about how the world looks at me. I realized I did not need to always be so guarded.
This experience, although very scary at first, was the most rewarding experience I ever had. I think about it all the time. Whenever I have my friends around, I speak about it.
One of my most intense memory is of the last performance. I sometimes get emotional, but always try to keep very composed. On that last night, I cried in front of the audience.
It made me realize it is not so hard to open up and share your deepest fears. And even if you feel vulnerable to the point of crying, it is still ok and offers relief.”
– Nayzar Hla Tin