Peter Chin, creator of the contemporary dance piece, “Transmission of the Invisible,” believes his fascination with Cambodia began in childhood when he owned a book filled with illustrations of children from around the world dressed in traditional costumes and posing in front of their countries’ most iconic place.
“I can only remember the Cambodia one,” he said.
Now “Transmission” will make its Asia debut at Phnom Penh’s Chenla Theater with free performances tonight and Sunday before being staged in Singapore.
“It started here and the opportunity to perform it here first is really significant,” Mr Chin said. “It gives us an opportunity to share with people who have shared with us.”
Although “Transmission” has toured through Canada, audiences this weekend will be treated to a new show as Mr Chin said he changed a couple of things, from the brightness of the stage lighting to the ending of the show.
“It’s living and breathing,” he said of the show. “It’s becoming a different thing ;and you have to allow it to become what it wants to be.”
Mr Chin’s interest in Cambodia combined with his passion for ritualistic dance led him in 2003 to a five-month residency at the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh, where he started developing the ideas that would become “Transmission,” a piece about communicating or sharing information, knowledge and experience between people.
He added that he was inspired by the plight of surviving Cambodian artists trying to rebuild the country’s cultural arts after the Khmer Rouge era. The piece also looks at the country’s culture through the eyes of a foreigner.
“My purpose was to create the deepest sharing possible that could happen between people,” he said.
The creation of “Transmission” mirrors Mr Chin’s purpose as three Canadian dancers share the stage with two traditional Cambodian dancers. Mr Chin said the two Cambodian dancers spent two winters and a summer working on the show in Toronto, Canada, where his dance group, Tribal Crackling Wind is based.
“Transmission” includes small hints of traditional dance, but it is thoroughly contemporary. The dancers move abstractly yet gracefully and become storytellers who convey the idea of sharing and culture shock through their movements. All five dancers worked well together during a rehearsal on Wednesday, and it was easy to forget the Cambodian dancers do not have an in-depth background in the more conceptual style.
Transmission” debuted in February 2008 at the Harbourfront Center in Toronto ,receiving positive reviews in the press and earning some awards.
Fred Frumberg, founder of Amrita Performing Arts, said Mr Chin bridges the world of traditional Eastern art forms and modern Western styles perfectly. He added the two started talking about a collaboration in mid-2006; and “Transmission” fit perfectly with Amrita’s goal of preserving and reviving Cambodia’s art history; but it also provided the perfect transition to contemporary dance.
“There is a new generation of performing artists,” Mr Frumberg said. “Revival and preservation need to be present and honored but Cambodia should not only be known for its tragic past, we have to open up the stage for dialogue.”