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A big hello from Dance Labs! We're out of the gates kicking the year off to a great start and today marks our 5th anniversary!!!
You're receiving this message as we've shared the conversation of Dance Labs with you in some form or another whether it is in passing, through an invitation, a dance, or perhaps through volunteering over the past 5 years. Many of you have been in this conversation for the entire 5 years and wondering "when am I going to see something?" Others of you have been fortunate to get a glimpse and experience what we do.
Well - I'm here to tell a story - a story of events that have changed the face of Dance Labs in 4 short months. In the spirit of the Internet - I will play the loom and weave our creations into this story one element at a time :)
If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost. That is
where they should be. Now put the foundation underneath them.
—Henry David Thoreau
where they should be. Now put the foundation underneath them.
—Henry David Thoreau
5 years ago this day we held our first dance experiment on January 13th 2002. As I reread our original invite, I extend a special thanks for those who were there - my heart still beats and it's hard to believe it's been five years! Today is Children's Day in Thailand which could not be more appropriate given how quickly Thai children have stepped into our lives to create a foundation for us to walk upon called Dance Chalat! We are pleased to share a 1.5 minute video we released over Christmas as a means for people to get quickly acquainted to our work.
Dance Labs is my life and proud to share my commitment with friends, family, and colleagues. Through my transition to Thailand , it has been a part-time effort for well over 4 years. It's an honor to give 100% of my time, energy, and focus to Dance Labs these past 4 months. I am making a bigger commitment to this year and we have much to share in the form of stories, ideas, things to see, and things to play with everyone!
I want to take a moment to highlight 4 areas I believe contribute to our values:
- Integrity - We've (yours truly) cleaned up the integrity of our operations. We've had a breakthrough in giving up pirated software and music. We value licensed software and Mac OS X and iLife has come through for us wonderfully!
- Freedom - Our action to place Dance Labs in the commons allows our research to be publicly available for non-commercial use. We support and encourage anyone to evolve our work in a way that makes a contribution to their communities.
- Reality - We've grounded our vision powerfully in Thailand and have experiments in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Bangkok to our record. Our video is an inspiration for many - thank you for all your positive comments! While we did not receive our first grant we applied for, we've achieved a big milestone in articulating a vision for community service we believe we provide.
- Collaboration - Our vision has been shared with over 700 people worldwide. Almost half of our 70 participants are from the last 4 months alone. We have an immensely expanded presence on the Internet. We participate in the Omidyar Network, Wikispaces, and Zaadz communities and learned how to use wikis. We're busy connecting all of you together as a result.
Those of you interested learning how the tremendous leaps and strides we've made in such a short time came into being, read on!
It's fair to say in a nutshell, Chin's giving up "having [to] see what happens" before sharing his commitment - life doesn't work this way, it's the other way around! :D
I've put together some pseudo-cliff notes for those of you short on time - if you don't like spoilers, kindly skip over the bullets! :)
- If we've dropped the ball with you, please forgive us. Drop us a note if there's anything you want to say to be complete.
- Stepping stone: Chin volunteers to organize a bloggers conference at a local university and get published in the post!
- The founder of the P2P Foundation encourages me to take on my life and participate in the Asia Commons. We create a home on the Omidyar Network as a result.
- Warisara opens up our eyes that our vision has the potential to make a difference with children!
- The Asian Resource Foundation becomes our partner in peace.
- Yvonne teaches us a goodbye lesson and we have a spontaneous dance experiment in downtown Bangkok!
- Bob Niemic transforms our 1 page executive overview.
- Pech dances for happiness, our production wiki is born, and all our kids leave with big smiles on their faces =)
- Our research is put under a Creative Commons license
- We play with the kids week after week, learning to invent activities with them on-the-fly on and off the dance floor. It is a lesson in patience.
- Dance celebration is a success! 12 kids show up with moms on stage and dance breakthroughs abound!
- Thanks for a great 5 years. Our future is wide open - what do you see on our 10th anniversary in 2012?
To be complete with the past: We've been out of touch with a great number of you - at best, we've been hiding in our blog (RSS) - passively sharing. Many of you were great to share your enthusiasm for Dance Labs and ask us when the next event is only to discover not another word from us - please excuse us for that! What it comes down to is I've never embraced the unknown and encouraged others to make discovery and learning a community expedition - I'm here to complete this aspect of my leadership.
Back in March, I volunteered to help a community of online bloggers gather together at Thammasat University - little did I know we would be published in the Bangkok Post! At this gathering, I met a gentleman by the name of Michel Bauwens of the P2P Foundation. In June, Michel invited me to a conference called the Asia Commons and absolutely could not see how I could make attending happen. I admitted what bothered me most was how uncertain my life was in Thailand. We had a good chat and will never forget the hearty laugh on the phone saying "well - then anything is possible!" That statement made history. I promised to meet him before the conference with my bags packed. I am very thankful of the conference organizers for giving me a scholarship to one of the most enlightening conferences I've been to. I was able to educate myself on topics off my radar such as copyright, intellectual property, and piracy and play with innovative structures like wikis and Open Space. Little did I know I would be meeting over hundred people representing countries around the world and that I would be one of the few Thai people there! I left the conference inspired to reconnect everyone together and lead a virtual community. I fumbled around a little bit connecting this community and turned to the community I knew best - our community! Thus a new home on the Omidyar Network was born.
Now just having a new home on the Internet didn't create Dance Chalat - it was a stepping stone to fulfill on a vision that we all connect and meet each other as we play with dance on and offline. What it did result in was spending the next few weeks sharing quite passionately and openly about our work. I extend a special thanks to K. Warisara for her curiousity in our work and standing we think big and consider playing with children. She got our passion we make things happen this year out of her commitment to children and the arts! Our bamboo sprouted in its 4th year!
Concurrently, I explored the art of community building by assisting the Asian Resource Foundation with their Amana Media Initiative website. It became a great opportunity to learn about web development at a whole new level and make a difference bridging Asians and Muslims - a thread that later came powerfully to us as Bob Niemic realized his vision for peace while volunteering to rework our executive overview. Bob has a vision for the capacity children of different cultures have to dance with one another outside of the societal rules that dictate their parents be separate - beautiful!
A spirited woman by the name of Yvonne was on her way back to Canada and thought it might be nice to spend some time with her before she left. I went to the local park, shared some of the exercises we do, and we had fun playing around with movement! She was so excited about this experience she immediately called her friends and suggested we all meet in Lumpini Park downtown. Morn, my Dance Labs partner in Thailand, got dragged to come with us and had a pivotal moment encouraging a friend who originally was not interested in dancing with us to dance with us! Before going home, he wanted to know when we would be getting together again - he said it was a lot of fun! Quite a few of you can relate to this situation - the difference being - the park is our new home and gives us to freedom to take one big step closer to Dancing Like Nobody's Watching!
I shared this story with Pech, a woman I met in Thailand purchasing IT hardware. How I really know Pech is through her passion to dance for happiness - it's what lights up her life! She committed to make Dance Labs a reality and she was great to help produce our next event the wiki-way!
The idea of bringing together the kids from the neighborhood was born. Morn took the initiative to invite my niece, Moo, and they in turn invited another boy on the same street, Puoh to join us on a Sunday morning on Aug 27th. Unplanned, it happened to fall on the night of the burn - Burning Man would be holding its ritual and burning a wooden effigy to signify completion and letting go in life and at the same time, we would be dancing in nature in a park in Bangkok - a green burn in Thailand!
Everyone had such an amazing time in the park and the kids loved it - they asked to meet again next week! We weren't prepared for this request and I froze - I could not possibly commit to another week and my mind was racing - I made it mean "another week? we'll have to commit every week for the rest of the year!" Well - that didn't stop Morn - she was great to get the excitment the kids had, make a commitment to "not know" and make a promise - Dance Chalat was born!!!
"Play is the child's royal road to intelligence, creative thinking, and joy. The child who can play will play skilfully and successfully throughout life."
—Magical Parent Magical Child
—Magical Parent Magical Child
Chalat - what is Chalat? "ฉลาด" means intelligent in Thai. We believe dancing is something that pulls out the creativity in all of us. Call it spatial, creative intelligence if you will - we soon discovered we provide soooo much more than one could imagine!
We continued to hold sessions week after week - tried to take a monthly break before we realized that taking even a 1 week break really introduced continuity issues. Morn was really great to invent sessions with the kids to come back to our apartment and work on "generating" them - cause their leadership to come forth by working on their expression not as dance but through introducing themselves, their presentation, their voice - it was really great - we had no idea where this would take us - we were breaking new ground!
This is the kind of momentum that gets the creative juices going - I soon found myself documenting our experiences in a research wiki which technically started out as a program dashboard to coordinate all aspects of what we were creating - it suffices to say it's turned into the kitchen sink. The Asia Commons came full circle and within weeks, a Creative Commons License would protect our work and yet give the rights for anyone to use, modify, evolve our work for non-commercial use - the power and spirit of Open Source is now with us!
From my training in a Self-Expression Leadership Program, I got the importance of building a community display and we encouraged the kids to create this:
It was a real success as the kids could see the growth of the community over time! We invite everyone to play a game! We now want to put this structure in the hands of the children and have them develop their own community display in their own way in the next program we launch.
The kids kept inviting new kids and we weren't quite sure how to handle new people but we figured it couldn't hurt! It got quite chaotic sometimes and Morn & I certainly learned how to be with kids - we taught them how to cook, get along, clean up, and take care of themselves. It was not a role we anticipated - it felt like daycare! :-o We learned how to build our patience and really get kids have the best of intentions.
Sometimes we found ourselves educating parents and sharing the transformative process we wanted them to support their children though. We learned to set expectations and clearly learned where we did not! One of the most surprising aspects of the program is its ability to connect parents, parents who have seen each other but have never technically met and spoken to each other - this was a nice side effect!
From day one, we envisioned a dance celebration at the end of our program. Our original plan was to host our own celebration and when we couldn't get all the details together quickly enough - it was serendipitous for a party thrown by Landmark Education International to show up with such impeccable timing - just one day after plan on Christmas!
We embarked on an adventure to put all the elements we thought were necessary to share our project in 30 minutes. It was a very intensive period of time each learning to generate ourselves, coordinating preparations, and learning to show up the way we wanted to show up in front of hundreds of people. We believe it is essential the crowd witness the children express themselves newly whether it be speaking, dancing, or spontaneous creation - an acknowledgment of their freedom brings out to a whole new level of connection with the people all around them - especially their parents!
It was a successful event. We produced our first tri-foldout handout and we learned how to create an introductory video to build up momentum for the kids. 12 of our kids showed up on stage and we managed to have 50 people up on stage playing games we usually play in the park - all we were missing were trees and grass! It was touching to have moms join their kids on stage and to cause dance breakthroughs for guests - precisely our mission here at Dance Labs!
That wraps up the first chapter in our Dance Chalat story - a community project born and executed organically over the past 9 months.
With a great success under our belts - I declare we are complete with the past - there is only room for expansion.
So what do you see in our crystal ball? What do believe we will share as a community on our 10th anniversary on January 13, 2012?
Thanks for your listening and for those of you who are in, take a leap of faith with us and embrace anything to happen this year - we're all in for a ride and the kids are coming along with us - time to dance! =)