Bopha Chiang Mai 2010

Right, how did I end up teaching a ballroom dance class in Chiang Mai?


Well, the Mekong ICT Camp introduced a segment on ‘Unconferences‘. We were encouraged to choose a topic that was not our primary skill or occupation. Sunil chose palmistry. (Hugely popular).  Michael chose yoga. I raised my hand for ‘Ballroom Dancing in 10 Minutes’.

(Above/below pix courtesy Aimeng Pattanaiem)


In all honesty this was ‘Look Like You’re Ballroom Dancing in 10 Minutes’. I taught the attendees (1) the basic posture, (2) how to do a spin, and (3) how to ‘dip’ their partner at the end of the song to look cool. Simple.


By the end of the sessions Michael had booked a yoga class for 6:30 AM the next day, and I had agreed to teach a longer class at 8pm that evening. My experience? Some training in middle school, and a few weeks hanging with the Phnom Penh Swing group. I’m not exactly an expert.

Justin loaned me his IPod with some swing classics, but even those were a tad fast. I was looking for slow songs with a basic 4/4 beat. Really slow, to start out with. So I went for the classics:  Sin Si Simuth. People drifted into the conference room and we went through a few basics.

And what should come on as the third or fourth number? ‘Bopha Chiang Mai’, about a Khmer man who falls in love with a Thai woman.

By this time Tharum had shown up. He had been waiting for an opportunity all week to share Laura Mam‘s version of the same song. We ended up unplugging my Ipod and holding a microphone next to Tharum’s laptop speakers.

It was really fun to encourage people to loosen up. Southeast Asian dancing is not terribly ‘hands on’ so it was fun to see Burmese, Khmer, Lao and Thai folks try something different, resulting in a lot of joking and smiles.

(Last photo courtesy Dan Meredith)

By that time enough people had joined that it was getting tricky to manage. Different skill levels, different languages. We ended the class after an hour with a track from ‘Cambodian Rocks‘.


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