July 8, 2013

Intern Update!

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This is the first post in a new series of occasional updates from previous interns! Below is a letter from Gillian Rhodes, who interned at PlayCo in 2012, and is now working in Cambodia!

Today marks one year exactly since I arrived in Phnom Penh. It’s most certainly been one of the most challenging years of my life, both personally and professionally (and any other “ly” you could probably come up with).
Last time I wrote, I’d just starting working for Cambodian Television Network, choreographing the backup dancers for their weekend live concerts. That has been its entirely own adventure — working in a Cambodian corporation for Cambodian bosses with Cambodian dancers, and, as far as I can tell, a history of badly prepared dancers. The first few months were pretty rough, but in the past month things have begun to turn around. After splitting off from my original team of dancers due to some issues of professionalism and overwork, I now have an excellent team of 6 guys. I’ve gotten some great reviews on their work and we’ve been asked to perform the opening show for the concerts — no singer, just dance — every 2 or 3 weeks, or however fast I can come up with and teach a 3-5 minute dance performance.
It’s incredible experience, and sometimes I have the feeling that I’m completing my master’s in choreography, just not in school and with workshops on live television instead of in a friendly studio. But I’m very much looking forward to where it can go. The YouTube videos attached are the sample we made to try and convince CTN to hire the dancers and gives a good idea of what we do.
I’m still working as an assistant to the director at Cambodian Living Arts, which is still one of the coolest organizations I’ve ever run into. If you haven’t heard of it, google “Season of Cambodia,” one of their biggest projects to date — a two month festival of cambodian arts in NYC. I’m working on some professional development workshops as well, and was just project manager for a benefit concert series, which was fun.
The past six months have also included a wonderful 3 weeks at home catching up with friends and family (highlighted by a rocking 60th bday party for my Dad) and 10 days in Paris (which of course reminded me how much I adore that place…). Upon returning to Cambodia, I decided to make some changes to my lifestyle and moved into the downstairs apartment of the local community movie house. It’s an active, social household, with volunteers in and out, a very friendly cat, and when I want, movies upstairs.
I also bought a motorcycle — a picture is attached — and that has made commuting around Phnom Penh much easier (and no, I would not be caught dead on that thing without a helmet.) It’s not the newest motorcycle on the block, but it runs and it was about 400 dollars, so I can’t much complain.
While there have been moments when I’ve almost gone to the airport and bought a one way ticket to anywhere but here, I’ve also really started to settle into my life here and develop friendships with more local people. My Khmer is better than it used to be and I can carry on basic conversations. I can read a bit as well, and in fact got a tattoo in Khmer script on my calf, which reads, in English “Without dance, life is meaningless.” (the picture is attached).
My life these days consists mostly of balancing my 3 jobs (I went back to help at the visa consulting office in an attempt to save some money). I’m looking forward in the next six months to going forward with my work at CTN and gaining, as always, a deeper understanding of the culture and language. I’m also gearing up for a 2014 opening of my contemporary dance company and am busy writing business plans and investigating how one would go about doing such a thing here.  But, I’m sure we’ll talk before then. 🙂
With all my best wishes and love,
Videos and images of Gillian’s choreography!
Gillian’s Khmer tattoo: “Without dance, life is meaningless”
Gillian’s Motorcycle!
Gillian at Glamazon, “a crazy fashion hair show that I performed a contemporary dance piece in — and one of my students, too!”
Author: buzzadmin
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