How do you respectfully preserve a dance tradition that is more than 1,000 years old while recontextualizing it for 21st-century audiences? Perhaps no one has done it so well in recent memory as Prumsodun Ok, the founder of Prumsodun Ok & NATYARASA, Cambodia’s first gay dance company.
Ok, a Long Beach, California, native whose parents were Cambodian refugees, not only restages traditional works of Khmer classical dance but also uses the stories and vocabulary of the ancient style to create new works that center LGBTQ+ characters and perspectives. In the process, he’s helped to revitalize and bring global attention to an art form that was nearly wiped out with the vast majority of its practitioners in the Khmer Rouge genocide of the late 1970s. We caught up with him via email.