If you’ve not heard of Ben Hammond yet, then you soon will! This 33-year old London teacher is on a mission to raise funds for Burma by dancing his way around the country.
We at Just Jhoom!were lucky to meet Ben when he came to a Just Jhoom! class here in Guildford. The session was the very first leg of his 131-day “Funkathon” during which time Ben will dance with 131,000 people around the country. Ben has set up Free to Dance, a national charity campaign in aid of his charity LearnBurma: dedicated to opening the eyes of young people to the story of Burma.
Ben says: “Free to Dance is about using the freedom we enjoy here in Britain to support those without freedom in Burma. And dance is the perfect vehicle to do it – it’s fun, motivating and there’s no better way of expressing freedom!”
In October he hopes to break the world record for the world’s longest ever dance– 131 hours – taking place from 11th to 16th October at The Scoop at More London on the banks of the River Thames.
Ben absolutely loved Just Jhoom! “I was really excited to be visiting Just Jhoom! for the first dance of my tour. It’s the perfect mix of dance, exercise and fun, so for someone like me who isn’t the best dancer it’s a confidence-boosting way to kick off my training. I really enjoyed trying out some iconic Bollywood and yoga moves. It’s brilliant that Just Jhoom! invited me along and are so supportive of what I’m doing – I hope I did them proud during the class!” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FtyVrRVU7Mc
It was fantastic having Ben Jhoom! with us – and we had a lot of fun. But, it did get me thinking about the wider issues that Ben was raising – namely FREEDOM.
I remember a few months back watching a documentary on Channel 4 called the Dancing Boys of Afghanistan. I won’t go into the details here, the programme is widely available online to watch – and read about and I have blogged about it before http://justjhoom.wordpress.com/2010/10/11/the-dancing-boys-of-afghanistan/
but in a nutshell, Bacha Bazi – or ‘Boy Play’ is a tradition that was outlawed by the Taliban and has since re-emerged in the Afghan society. The boys are taken from their families when they are about ten or eleven, with families being paid to let the boys go. The families are often so poor that they feel they have no choice and think that the boys will get better lives with these rich men looking after them. The boys learn dance and music for a year before they are then thrown into a room full of men for whom they dance – and then are used for other sexual activities. The boys lose their childhood, their innocence and their freedom. They are sexual slaves kept as status symbols.
Dance is my life and I’m very lucky that my passion is what I make my living through. But when I come across a story like the one about the young Afghan boys it fills me with despair. I think it is important to be reminded of stories like this because it shows those of us who live in a free society how lucky we are.
By choosing dance as a means of expression, Ben Hammond has indeed chosen an excellent vehicle to spread his message about freedom.
Dancing can be a joyous thing. It can be positively life-changing. So once again, I urge you to turn up the music, come to a Just Jhoom! dance session or put on a dance DVD and let yourself go! Dance with no inhibitions, dance as if your life depended on it – dance with freedom – and spare a thought for those people who aren’t as lucky as us.
For more info on Free to Dance visit www.free2dance.com