Each year, our studio chooses a cause to support and hosts a benefit concert to raise funds for our chosen focus. This year, we selected the Esther House – a home for children in Cambodia. This cause was an incredible opportunity for our dancers to be reminded of how fortunate they truly are. Without focusing on the horrors that happen to children throughout the world, and certainly in Cambodia, suffice to say that our dancers have no concept of that level of need.
Throughout the process of creating a concert, we discussed themes of poverty, need, neglect – and also hope, love, inclusion, and compassion. We presented our dancers with a breath-taking hip hop piece that had been performed by another group as a social commentary on orphans. It began with the astounding statistic that every day 5,760 more children become orphans. This reality is heart-wrenching. We tasked our dancers with creating a contemporary piece using the same movement motif in honor of the orphanage they were supporting. In a few hours of rehearsal, these dancers created a moving piece of art to present in their benefit concert. The results of the concert and their hard work was a record-breaking $ 3,000 raised for the Esther House.
Most dances performed in our benefit concert never see the light of day again, but our girls connected to this particular piece and asked if they could perform it again at a local dance competition. We agreed. A few days ago, we received the devastating news that the husband of the husband/wife missionary team who runs the Esther House died unexpectedly of a heart attack. Stefan was not only an amazing man, who did incredible work, he was also the best friend of one of our studio families. One of our dance moms, Lara, immediately booked a flight to Cambodia to provide comfort and mourn her friend. She took along with her our thoughts and prayers, and unexpectedly was able to hand deliver our donation to the home.
Lara asked if there was any way she could share the benefit concert with the Esther House children and we hastily loaded videos to YouTube for her to access over the weekend. She wanted the girls who were in the home to feel the time, love, and artistry that was created in their honor. At the same time, back in Eugene, our dancers took the stage to dance the piece “Putting Down Roots” one more time. This twist of fate joined these two groups of young women in a way that I hope each will remember far beyond this weekend. Our dancers danced a piece that was never intended to be performed again, as the Esther House buried their leader and mentor. Feet on the stage in Oregon and hearts half a world away in Cambodia.