Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
The slow, graceful movements of traditional Thai dance are fascinating to me. The fingers are curved backwards, sometimes with extremely long fingernails, and placed into precise formation to emphasize their elegance. The dancers faces are precisely made up to a doll-like image, and their clothes woven with gold-colored thread moving the viewer to believe that they are the ideal…perfection. Like a porcelain doll brought to life, the dancers are surreal in their movements and gestures. Life is at half pace urging the viewer to slow down and enjoy each movement, each tilt of the body, the shape of the toes and the form of the figure. Their fingers, hands, feet, and head are perfectly positions to tell a story through movement pulling in the casual observer to stop, watch and wait for the next movement drawing them into the dance; a perfect display of beauty. Slowly and deliberately a pose is formed and held almost begging you to take a picture since now the statue has been formed and will soon morph to another chiseled form. Time slows down.
Thesaurus.com lists some synonyms for slow as apathetic, dawdling, drowsy, easy, idle, loitering, lagging, plodding, remiss, sluggish, stagnant and slack. However many of these terms equivalate slow with laziness or lack of energy. This type of dance is completely the opposite. By defining slow as reducing the speed of the movement, you are able to concentrate the energy into perfecting each moment. Focusing on what is occurring in the present, funnels energy and intensity into the present moment.
Buddha is said to have stated: “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” The pace of traditional Thai dance does just that. The performers and audience are purposefully drawn together in a slow, almost reverent, movement, allowing both to bring their focus into the here and now.
The work of a peace-builder is sometimes like this dance, slow and precise, however, it may not be as graceful. By learning the skills of conflict resolution similar to the dancer learning the movements of the dance, a peacemaker can share their knowledge with others in order create a more peaceful world. As in dance, a missed step may be taken, but good performers will also pick up and carry on, bringing the movements of the dance back to life while at the same time reminding their audience that the dance is not easy. A forgiving audience for both the dancer and the peacemaker will allow the performance to continue towards its ultimate goal.
Irene Santiago said during week one of classes: “Everybody you meet, you need to treat with reverence.” I feel that the dance is also reminding people to include reverence in your life. Slow down, take note of what is going on around you and cherish that moment. If you take the time to cherish the peace that is around you, it may help you find a resolution to conflict as it arises. As we are near the midway point of our time in Thailand, this mantra seems to take special significance. The information and experiences thus far have at times been overwhelming and at the same time seem to have passed so rapidly. Soon all of us will be back in our home communities ready to implement the skills and theories we have learned. In order to make the most of the experience, we must think back to the dancer and remember that the work of peace is sometimes slow and that a dancer allows their audience to slow down and focus on the present moment with reverence. The past cannot be changed, the future is unknown, but concentrating energy on the present, can make a difference.
Tanya Battista Crespo, USA
Rotary Peace Fellow
June 2013 Session