A friend of mine has travelled to The Gambia to teach contemporary dance.
She has been over there for a month now and already she is saying it’s changed her life.
Here, in London, she teaches dance to little ones, mostly private classes filled with privileged children.
She’s always telling me horror stories: How Jude screams at the top of his lungs if he can’t stand in the middle of the circle; Lottie throws herself to the floor, kicking and screaming if they don’t play her song; and Isla simply shouts “No!” every time she is asked to follow anything. The mums of these little darlings sit on the sidelines, smiling and cooing.
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My friend was in tears when we last Skyped, when she was telling me how different the children were, how appreciative they were of the opportunity to learn.
Unlike the swanky mirrored dance studios in London, my friend is teaching dance outside in dust-covered playgrounds. With on-the-hour power cuts, she cannot rely on her Boombuster to provide a regular beat.
Yet, the children don’t complain. When the wind whips up the dust, they simply laugh and pretend they’re genies dancing out of a magic lamp. When the music stops, they sing to keep the beat going.
They are thrilled to be learning so nothing is going to stop them. They arrive for their lessons almost an hour beforehand, practise the routines late into the evening and hoover up any piece of knowledge that is imparted. They are always smiling – and laughing.
My friend says she has never encountered anything so refreshing or joyful.
I hear what she is saying. Master A has everything from the latest Xbox to Banana Man in Series 15 of Lego MiniFigures. He is growing up in a culture that is disposable and materialistic, a culture that has little concept of value, one from which it is difficult to escape.
Do the simple things in life make him smile? Does he appreciate all the opportunities he has?
I’ll ask him next time I prise him away from his iPad.