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Dancing Cambodian street kids share stories with Auckland youth

Cambodian dance troop Tiny Toones have been touring around Auckland this week. Photo: tinytoones.org.nz

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By Melissa Low

Former Cambodian street children are breakdancing around Auckland this week as they share their life stories with New Zealand’s youth.

Cambodian dance group Tiny Toones is currently touring Auckland high schools with hopes it will inspire students.

Based in Phnom Penh, Tiny Toones is a charity that runs as a youth drop-in centre, offering creative and education programmes to children from the poorest neighbourhoods and slums in Cambodia.

Many of the 11 performers, aged 16 to 24, were forced to drop out of school and work on the streets before they became part of Tiny Toones.

Tiny Toones’ New Zealand tour organiser Lisa Ho says the troop wants to share stories about what life is like in the developing world and how members have been able to move forward.

“These kids have struggled through drug and alcohol addiction, exploitation, neglect, dysfunctional families, gang violence, domestic violence,” she says.

“All those issues we know are relevant to the youth of New Zealand as well.”

Inspiring stories
She says they want the youth in New Zealand to be inspired by their stories and know that no matter what their background, they have a chance to better their circumstances.

“Even though [the performers] live in a country with no government support, with no welfare support, they still have been able to turn their lives around and make some changes in their lives.”

Tiny Toones’ only female breakdancer, 25-year-old Diamond, says she’s been enjoying Auckland’s “nice but cold” weather, and getting to perform at the different schools.

“All the students at the school say ‘Tiny Toones! Tiny Toones!’ So fun, it’s cool, they like Tiny Toones.”

Diamond was invited by Tiny Toones’ founder KK (his real name Tuy Sobil) to join the group when she became interested in breakdancing after watching one of their performances.

“When I first went to KK, I was shy and scared because I didn’t know how to breakdance.”

New skills
Despite first being nervous about dancing with a male-dominated group, Diamond says now the boys are impressed she can breakdance and “pop and lock”.

Tiny Toones will hold a public performance at Auckland Girls Grammar school tomorrow, when dancers will perform a 90-minute show that will take the audience into a journey of Cambodia’s history, culture, and personal life stories through breakdance.

All funds from the show will be given back to the charity which hopes to further develop its education programme and offer more scholarships to their students to fund them into university study.

Melissa Low is a third-year Bachelor of Communications Studies student majoring in journalism at AUT University.