One day I sat chatting with the children at the orphanage I volunteered at last year in Cambodian I stuttered into a shocked silence as they casually stretched their fingers backwards—their fingers dipping so far back over the top of their hands with pressure that the tips could actually touch their arms. I had been at the orphanage for several days by that point, but as I acclimated to the surroundings and developed a pace and routine I hadn’t (apparently) paid attention to the casual stretches that made up a strong part of nearly every child’s life if they were one of the ones studying traditional Khmer dancing.
Just as I used to practice my Irish dance steps under the chairs during lectures in class, these kids took any opportunity to stretch their fingers and further a process that takes years—the methodical warping of their hands that will enable them to skillfully execute the intricate hand movements inherent to Khmer Aspara dancing, Cambodia’s primary cultural dance. This dancing is on display as tourist-centric shows at the pubs in Siem Reap, but beyond that it’s also a very prominent part of Cambodia’s heritage, one that is gorgeous to watch and actually quite unique from some of the related dance styles in Thailand.
I didn’t catch a photo of the kids actually in action…or any of the professionals, but this photo blog has an amazing post highlighting just what these dancers can achieve with their hands.
So I dare you, try it out and see how far you can get your fingers to bend on their own and then using your other hand!?!
How’d ya do?