LET’S DANCE: Shaking up Laos with Our Moves

Words by Yeo Li-Sha
GIFs by Sitwat Hashmi

In preparation for our flash mob and cultural night performances, we had dance practices for at least 3 months before our study trip. The theme of our dance was Korean and Bollywood, thus we used a remix of ‘Pick Me Up’ by Produce 101 and ‘Jaiho’ by the Pussycat Dolls.

This is the story of our dance journey:

Pre – Laos: Practice Time

The first few practice sessions were messy and chaotic as many struggled to sync their bodies with the beat. I was really worried that we would not be able to complete and perfect the dance in time to showcase a good performance. However, to my relief, the formation and choreography started to look like how I had imagined them to be. In fact, everybody’s performance turned out better than I had expected it to be. Everybody was in sync, in high spirits and energetic, moving to the beats of the music and most importantly, having fun. The highlight for me was seeing the huge transition of the team: From having two left feet to becoming dancing enthusiasts (sometimes maniacs) and faces turning from frowns into smiles.

Let’s get in formation – One of the many practice sessions back in Monash
Let’s get in formation – One of the many practice sessions back in Monash

Flash mob in Vientiane and Luang Prabang

Vientiane (Monday, 27th June 2016) 

Finally, after endless dance sessions, the time had finally arrived. After a session with Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE) Mekong, we headed for an empty area in the still-unopened night market. It was 4PM and the sun was scorching. But, we braved the heat and danced our hearts out. Since there was barely any bystanders, it felt more like a music video shoot than a flash mob. Our first attempt turned out badly because we were not used to the bigger space around us. Plus the music from our bluetooth speaker was drowned out by the noises of vehicles from the streets and our own laughters over our silly mistakes.

We danced for the second time before moving on to another location, this time settling on a massive set of stairs by the Mekong river which is said to be underwater during high tides. Dancing on the stairs added extra flavour to the choreography and made us feel like we were shooting on an actual Bollywood music video. It was around 5PM when we had our first audience: locals and tourists who were out exercising, waiting for the night market to begin its  or watching the spectacular sunset. People started gathering around us like ants around food. Some were dancing along while others were confused. We wrapped up our first ‘show’ at 6PM and headed out for dinner as our reward.

Pick me pick me pick me up – Our signature dance move
Pick me pick me pick me up – Our signature dance move

Luang Prabang (Saturday, 2nd July 2016)

This time, we successfully pulled off an actual flash mob in crowded night market. Norman and I first did a mini dance battle to Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” to hype up the crowd and attract patrons of the night market before transitioning into our rehearsed dance with the rest of the travellers. The crowd was amazing. They clapped and cheered, some even watched us from behind their phones as they recorded our performance. After our final pose, we casually ‘dispersed’ as if nothing happened, but you could see people talking about it, imitating our dance moves and even approaching us to praise our hard work. It was really heart-warming to know that people enjoyed and appreciated our show.

Besides the lucky strangers who witnessed our dance, we want to thank Andy, the owner of Manichan Guesthouse for bringing his family and friends along to support us. Also, we would like to thank the friends we made at Big Brother Mouse and Dr. Marie-Pierre Lissoir, and her friend from the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre, for dropping by that night. After the dance, we were all smiles, bobbing about, and asking when is the next flash mob, but our short attention span got distracted the moment Dr. Yeoh said : “Free fruit juice on the house!”.

FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT – Norman and I kicking off the flash mob with a dance battle
FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT – Norman and I kicking off the flash mob with a dance battle
Battle mode on!
Battle mode on!

Cultural Night in Luang Prabang (Sunday, 3rd July 2016)

It’s the night of all nights, Can’t back out now.

It’s the night of all dreams, Don’t freak out now.

It’s gonna be the night, To remember.

It’s gonna be the night, To last forever now.

Attendance of special guests  : Dr. Marie-Pierre Lissoir (from Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre)

                                                     : Mr. Jane Rosetti (French from the Kuang Si Butterfly Park)

                                                     : Ms. Sengchan and Ms. Viengkhone (from Ock Pop Tok)

                                                     : Chansouklee Vong (Chamoua) and Japor Thor (Champa) (from Big Brother Mouse)

We kick started the night where Norman, Xindy, Janice and I hyped up the crowd with a dance battle again. This time we were dancing to ‘Bang Bang Bang’ by Big Bang. Since it was our group’s final flash mob performance of the trip, instead of casual wear, it was compulsory for everyone to pair their Monash University T-shirt with a Laotian themed garment such as skirts and scarves with local motifs and prints. The team spirit was strong in this one.

Captain Monash
Captain Monash

We were not the only ones performing on that day – it was cultural night, after all. Next, we were treated to a Thai traditional dance with a K-pop twist by our lovely Thai student guides Parn, Pech, Mook and Bew. Their performance was exceptionally well prepared and had everybody cheering on their feet. It even won the hearts of the other customers in the restaurant, who actually stopped eating to watch their dance.

Wait for it…. BOOM – The sudden change in genre that caught the crowd by surprise
Wait for it…. BOOM – The sudden change in genre that caught the crowd by surprise

We also revealed a ‘secret’ dance that Xindy, Norman, Janice and I had been discreetly (not really) preparing over the week. We showcased our individual dance styles such as breakdancing, popping, girl-style and waacking with a quirky song that switched from rap to EDM to pop. It had elements of surprise that played with the audiences’ expectations, including a sudden stop halfway that fooled people into thinking the sound system had failed.

I’M A ROBOT BOT BOT – The cool section from our secret dance
I’M A ROBOT BOT BOT – The cool section from our secret dance

After all the highly energetic performances, Petch cooled down the atmosphere with a relaxing melody on a traditional Thai instrument called the Ranat Thum, a low pitched xylophone that has 18 wooden keys which are stretched over a boat-shaped trough resonator. It was really inspiring to see Pech transform from a hot, sassy dancer into a serious and professional musician. Without a doubt, he is a multi-talented guy.

Encore please! The crowd couldn’t get enough of Petch’s performance
Encore please! The crowd couldn’t get enough of Petch’s performance

Once all the performances were over, things started to get a little more formal and serious with the speeches, a pop quiz, a photo giving session for our special guests and the student traveller awards (Categories: most considerate won by Katherine, most friendly won by Norman, most hardworking won by Sandra, most culturally sensitive won by Shirley, most inspiring won by Parn, and most like to travel with person won by Xindy). Half way through the pop quiz session, the restaurant lights blacked out and Mali and Venus walked in with birthday cakes. It turned out to be a surprise birthday party for our beloved Ajahn Yeoh!

The surprise party reignited our energy once again, and before we knew it, we were getting “down and dirty”, turning the square empty space of the restaurant into an open dance floor. A hilarious moment occurred when  Dr. Yeoh did a jumping spin while dancing and fell flat down. He looked like a fish out of water jumping for his dear life, but aside from that, everyone who had their dancing shoes on had a blast. The night was still young and we danced till the roof fell down, creating memories that we will treasure forever.

Overall, the hard work and dedication everyone put into preparing our dance, from getting even the simplest moves right have struck me deeply, as they brought me back to the time I first started dancing. As the saying goes ‘As long as you work hard, you can achieve your goals’. I am immensely proud of how far they’ve come.

At the same time, I was slightly worried: The practices have seemed to make everyone dance and sing to ‘Pick me up’ every where, every day. I think I may have drilled it into their memory so much, they might be even doing it in their sleep!

Getting down and dirty – ending the night with a dance off
Getting down and dirty – ending the night with a dance off

Li-Sha is hard on the outside but soft on the inside. She appears fierce, but is caring and protects her loved ones with watchful eyes.

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