Dancing in a Foreign Land

French resort entertainer Guillaume Sanchez shares how his journey to Central Kalimantan changed his way of viewing life and performing for the better.

In the world of performing arts, there is no greater feeling than being able to take centre stage and entertain an audience after committing yourself to a series of tireless rehearsals. But what happens when you are only given one week to rehearse a traditional dance in a foreign nation, where you are not only required to learn the steps but also explore the culture and bond within a local community?

Twenty-five-year-old Guillaume Sanchez has the answer to that question. In late 2015, he traveled from France to Central Kalimantan to shoot a documentary that forced him to learn Dayak dance in just five days before showcasing the piece with members of the local tribe.

As a teenager, Sanchez always had a passion for dancing. Although he was not a professional dancer, Sanchez shares a similar experience of working as a resort entertainer for four years.

“My job was literally to make people happy on their holidays by organizing all sorts of events and activities during the day and performing in dance shows in the evenings. I was pretty good at it!” he muses.

But aside from performing, the one thing that he also finds amusing is travel. Since the age of 18, Sanchez began travelling across the globe, visiting Europe, Australia, Asia, South America and more. His journey that led to dancing in Indonesia was based on his drive to travel the world and document dance.

His cousin Pierce Vaughn happens to own a film production company called Borneo Productions International with his brother in Indonesia. Eventually, they all came up with the idea of creating a web series called Dance Around the Globe and decided to start filming in Palangkaraya for the pilot episode, which shows Sanchez receiving Dayak dancing lessons directly from the locals.

A world away from the vibrant life of being a resort entertainer in France, Sanchez is immediately faced with a rare experience that ultimately teaches him the true value of dancing.

As soon as he sets his foot in Palangkaraya, Sanchez is taken into a local dance studio called Sanggar Tut Wuri Handayani to start his training. Sanchez learns the tribal dance of Pegah Penyang, which signifies the value of wisdom in the Dayak community when one must speak in front of the locals.

 

Sanchez dancing with the locals

Sanchez dancing with the locals

 

The whole process is challenging. For one, there is no mirror to help him perfect his own moves, which makes it difficult to correct himself while rehearsing. On top of that, he has to dance without any shoes on, which causes him to have huge blisters under his feet after the first three days of practice.

The local teachers are also very serious and dedicated, so there is even more pressure on Sanchez to make sure that he gets everything right by the time he performs in front of the local audience.

But what is especially valuable from his journey is not only the dancing part. The fact that Sanchez gets to interact with the locals and be a part of their lives, even for only a short period of time, instantly gives depth and meaning to his experience throughout.

The Dayaks, as he recalls, have a “very simple perception of life” and great respect for the natural world. They have a clear understanding of what it means to be in the present time and Sanchez learns a lot from the Dayaks by trading in extravagance for simplicity.

What initially started out as a quest to learn a local dance ended up becoming a journey of self-discovery for Sanchez.

There was a time when he doubted himself and thought that he could not make it. But in the end, he found the strength to complete his project. This is why his episode is titled Finding the Warrior Within.

At the end of the trip, Sanchez realizes that dancing really does have the power to change people’s lives. More importantly, his journey sums up everything that happens when we combine dance and travel for an important cause.

“I really want to go out there, discover them all and share them with the world in an entertaining way so that people may feel inspired by dance and all of its values,” he says.

To catch Sanchez’s journey of learning the Dayak dance in Central Kalimantan, please visit www.youtube.com/c/dancearoundtheglobe.

 

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Caranissa is an editor at Indonesia Expat. She occassionally writes, dances and performs on stage.


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