Moving Tales

The contemporary dancers of Amrita Performing Arts presenting three of their latest works Saturday night have turned daily-life themes into dramatic pieces that appear effortless and are beautiful—as well as being profoundly Cambodian.

The dances also feature unusual elements. In “Journey,” for instance, movements based on Khmer classical dance are performed at an accelerated pace as if the male dancers had suddenly stepped out of the traditional masked-dance “lakhaon kaol” tableaux and were filled with the vitality of our fast-moving world.

From left: dancers Khon Chansina, Khon Chan Sithyka and Soy Chanborey rehearse on Tuesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
From left: dancers Khon Chansina, Khon Chan Sithyka and Soy Chanborey rehearse on Tuesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Choreographed by Khon Chan Sithyka, who performs along with Soy Chanborey and Khon Chansina, the work’s main theme is that one should make the most of one’s youth.

“In our journey, we always go forward, constantly meeting change: different emotions, different feelings, different places,” Mr. Chan Sithyka said. “No matter the challenge, we have to face it and learn, work and do all while we are still young.”

In one touching scene, two dancers lend a hand to the third, carrying him to a safe haven. But friends can only help to a point: It is up to each person to rebuild themselves and get on with their lives, notes Mr. Chan Sithyka.

So in the dance, Mr. Chansina is left on his own to recover, lying flat on the stage. He begins lifting his body from the ground in bursts of straight horizontal movements as if he were levitating, without supporting himself with his hands or legs—a feat requiring tremendous strength and control.

The three dances, each about 18 minutes long, presented during Amrita’s “Contemporary Dance Platform” Saturday night focus on fundamental issues with which we can all identify.
In “Rank 21,” which was inspired by the Khmer traditional tale “Chuch ning Trey” (Trap and Fish), Chumvan Sodhachivy, also known as Belle, dances inside a large fishing net complete with ballast weights around its edge.

“This talks of freedom and space,” she explained. In this mesmerizing work performed at a slow pace, the fishing net virtually becomes a partner with whom the dancer must learn to cope as it is light yet heavy because of its size and weights.

“I can’t say it’s difficult, but it’s challenging,” said Ms. Sodhachivy, who also choreographed the work. This dance explores the idea that something as essential as a fishing net in a country where fish is a staple can also turn harmful, she said.

Chumvan Sodhachivy, also known as Belle, rehearses the dance ‘Rank 21’ on Tuesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Chumvan Sodhachivy, also known as Belle, rehearses the dance ‘Rank 21’ on Tuesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Ms. Sodhachivy plays the role of a cat caught in a net in water. “At the end [of the dance], I ask myself: Am I going to survive or die?”

In the third dance entitled “I in Mine,” choreographer Yon Davy delves into the relationship between one’s body and mind. She illustrates this through the use of two dancers—herself and Yon Chantha—one impersonating the mind and the other the body of a woman.

During the dance, the body faces the issue of being told by the mind all that he cannot do regardless of its actual abilities, Ms. Davy said.

Body and mind can never be free from one another, she explains. “No matter how much she tries to get away from that problem, she cannot: It’s like her shadow.”

This dance was inspired by a person of Ms. Davy’s acquaintance who was struggling with psychological problems, she said. The message of her dance, she says, is that whatever the challenge, “You will find the answer within yourself.”

Amrita Performing Arts holds dance-platform events twice a year as an opportunity for young Cambodian choreographers to showcase their works.

For the previous one, held in November, choreographers used mainly prerecorded Western music, said Chey Chankethya, Amrita’s artistic director.

But this time, she said, “The three choreographers sat down with [Cambodian] composer and sound designer friends, and came up with original music.

“They revisited how traditional music instruments can support their contemporary ideas,” she said. For example, Ms. Sodhachivy turned to Cambodian gongs and bamboo instruments to recreate water sounds.

“They’re trying to go beyond what they have learned and at the same time revisit what they have learned,” Ms. Chankethya said.

The dances are followed by a question-and-answer session between the artists and the audience. The performance, which starts at 7 p.m., takes place at the theater of the Department of Performing Arts. Located behind the Spark Club, it is reached through Street 173 off Mao Tse Toung Boulevard.

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