The girls sit in a line in front of me, eagerly watching the instructor as he starts to explain the task. He walks around the open hallway in front of them carrying a handful of items that the girls know well, such as an embroidered scarf, a ceramic round water jug and a metal plate. He demonstrates the activity to the girls, “Interact with the object and feel the rhythm of the music to turn the everyday into a dance.”
We are sitting in a care home for teenage girls in the rural outskirts of the Kathmandu valley. The girls have come here from all over Nepal, removed from environments where their childhoods and innocence have come to a stop too soon. The home has offered them solace, and care and at this point in time the opportunity to fulfil every nepali girls dream, to dance on stage like a bollywood starlet. The girls listen intently to every word the instructor gives, and excitement radiates from their eyes. They have never had this chance before, and they all seek the opportunity to feel special, to feel like the women they dream of being. Earlier during the day, the girls took us on a walk through the rural village where they now live to show us their beautiful Nepal. They hold our hands, and play with our hair and ask questions to learn of another world outside of their own, one that they have only seen on American sitcoms and movies. Some have also shared their story with us, which is in stark contrast to the hollywood blockbusters discussed. Their stories bring images of dark rooms, mistreatment and yet these girls as they talk to us also emit something else, a strength, resilience and wisdom whilst reflecting on where they now find themselves and what the world awaits. Perhaps we are a sign to them that they are now in a better place, a sign that a different world has now opened up to them.
They have brought us to their dance practise. The home has organised dancers to choreograph a dance with the girls, to be performed in the heart of Kathmandu. The girls line up outside the hall everyday before the practise starts, hoping to get a seat in the front, to have a chance to perform in front of the group. We all watch as the instructor places the items around the room in front of us. He surveys the group to see who might be the first to attempt the dance, and he calls a name aloud. The chosen girl leaps to her feet and runs to the front, carefully observing each object as she walks around the room, already pointing her toes, already creating a dance, a new step forward. She chooses the water jug and immediately swings it above her head in a graceful arch before lowering it down to the ground, bending her body onto one knee with the other leg stretched out to the side. She has begun her dance, and another girl is called forward to join her and they may work together to create the steps.
Gratitude is not enough to describe how the girls feel as each stands up to take a turn, to join the dance. Their movements are guided by their past, but also by their passion to engage in this new life, this new experience. Gratitude is what I feel as I witness this before my eyes, as I realise what an honour it is to watch these girls as their hearts unfold before me.
About the Author: Sarita Slater is an avid adventurer and budding travel writer. Sarita has spent the last year traveling some of the world’s most beautiful areas. Her favourite travel destinations so far have been Antarctica, Cuba and Nepal. This article was written whilst trekking through the Annapurna region of Nepal.