Santepheap – The Cambodian Children’s House of Peace

During our lack-lustre lunch, for which we waited about an hour and a half, Rich and I were handed a small flyer for a traditional Khmer dance show that was being held at a local children’s home that evening. Admission to the show was free and we didn’t have any other plans so we decided to check it out. We journeyed the four or so kilometers by tuk tuk and it was pretty easy to find, despite the heavy traffic. I found myself thinking ‘oh no, we’re going to be late if we get stuck in this traffic jam’….. until I remembered we were in Cambodia and our driver just swerved off the road and went round it, dusty pot hole after dusty pot hole. It never ceases to amaze me what people can do with one moped. So far, on the back/side/front of a fast moving moped I’ve seen a lady breastfeeding a newborn baby (whilst driving), two adults and three children (5 people!), four single mattresses tied on with rope in a tower above the driver, three women with 25 coconuts,  a sweetcorn stand complete with BBQ, Rich and his bicycle, grandmas riding side saddle and the list goes on.

Anyway, back to the story….. We were greeted at Santepheap with a round of applause and cheers from some of the children and volunteers who live at the home. As the first audience members to arrive, we were given a tour of their classroom and their new kitchen (under construction) before being seated at the awesome outdoor stage area. When the other guests had arrived, we were served tea and coconut biscuits while the live Khmer music commenced. We were welcomed to the show by the eldest girl who explained a little about her life, the home and her aspirations for the future. The children went on to perform four separate traditional Khmer dances, each preceded by it’s story and significance. While the dances themselves were very entertaining (especially the high energy ‘coconut dance’) and executed with skill, passion and  precision, you never lost the sense that these were children. Children who were excited to be getting dressed up, showing off their skills, performing for their friends and loving every minute of it. They were serious about the performance but never let themselves get too serious. They encouraged and laughed at each other when giving speeches in English even though they were all fantastic.

After the last dance, we were all invited on to the stage to take pictures with the dancers before engaging in some seriously embarrassing dancing ourselves. The night concluded with a hilarious group circle dance to Gangnam Style and we left with smiles all round.

The Cambodian Children’s House of Peace invites you to attend their free traditional dance show, every Sunday night at 7pm. Located just off the main road between central Siem Reap and Angkor it’s well worth a visit and you can be back in town by 8:45pm. For more information about Santepheap, the dance show or volunteering, please visit their website here.

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