It started as a joke. Myself and three other volunteers (one from Korea, Russia, and the Czech Republic) were supposed to be making a presentation about our countries for the kids at camp. We had originally intended to make a simple powerpoint with photos of our countries, their youth, and their nature. But the night before, there had been a concert with the theme of fairy tales, and the winning group had somehow turned that into a singing/dancing variety show.
“You know what we need…we need to add singing and dancing to our presentation.”
“Yeah, that’s how concerts work in Kazakhstan. You always have to do just random stuff.”
“What could you teach them from America?”
I thought for a second. I had already tried to do the electric slide. It was a little too complicated. The Twist too easy. The Macarena? Already known. What is something utterly American, that nearly everyone in America knows and does….
“I can teach them the YMCA.”
And with that idea, the second session of camp in Tau Samal was changed forever. We decided to put the song at the end of the presentation. We’d finish our photos, then I’d say that I wanted to teach them a song everyone in America does at nearly every dance event. I taught it to the other volunteers (who were unfamiliar with it) and we rehearsed it a few times.
Honestly, I was nervous. The dance was really simple. And sure, in America, it’s fun, but is it just cultural? Or is the dance actually fun? I could never detach myself to know.
The presentation went well. Some problems with the Russian, but nothing too much. Time for the dance. I introduced it. Got all the kids to stand up. The DJ started it. And the familiar beats came out of the speakers on stage. Da dadada da. “Young man….”
Our fingers started pointing. Our hips started shaking. And I looked out into the crowd. The kids were loving it! They were imitating all of our moves. Their faces were full of smiles. And then “Y---M----C----A!” Their hands weren’t quite in sync with the letters (for most, they had no association that they were supposed to be spelling out letters), but they were getting the general idea. 3 minutes later it was over. But oh, it wasn’t. They DJ played it again immediately. And we do it again.
Then every disco we do the song at least 3 times. In between the discos, we do the song. And each time I get up on stage, huge smile on my face, and soak up the joy. The kids are so excited every time we do it. Even the camp directors were getting in on the fun. It’s stuck in their heads for week.
There’s no feeling quite like being up on stage and watching 200 hundred Kazakhstani children imitate your every dance move with absolute joy. Absolutely awesome.