Country’s Young Choreographers Back on Platform

The dance “Tension” that Nget Rady will stage Saturday night during Amrita Performing Arts’ third biannual Contemporary Dance Platform has been a year in the making.

“Every person has a different kind of tension in life,” the 26-year-old dancer said. “It can be a small problem or a big one….due to society, or the family, or the community.”

Dancers rehearse a scene from the dance 'Tension.' From left: Soy Chanborey, Nget Rady, Khon Chan Sithyka and Sam Sathya. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Dancers rehearse a scene from the dance ‘Tension.’ From left: Soy Chanborey, Nget Rady, Khon Chan Sithyka and Sam Sathya. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

To handle it, Mr. Rady said: “We come together as a community to explore and find new ways…[to achieve] freedom in our lives.”

But turning this sort of insight into a dance was not an easy undertaking, he said. “I mean ‘Tension:’ the title itself is difficult to explore, to express.” And yet he has succeeded, creating a powerful and intriguing dance. The group of Amrita’s star dancers—joined by Khmer classical dancer Sam Sathya—manage to pull the audience in, giving this abstract piece, set to electronic music, a surprising warmth.

Mr. Rady’s dance is one of three works that will be presented Saturday during Amrita’s event. Held twice a year, the platform is meant as an opportunity for the company’s dancers to stage their own works.

What has so far come out of it is Cambodian choreography that speaks to the experience of the country’s increasingly connected youth while remaining firmly anchored in the country’s dance tradition—performed by dancers trained in Khmer classical dance since childhood.

“These people are willing to go to places they’ve never been to,” Chey Chankethya, Amrita’s artistic director, said about the dancers who will be taking the stage this weekend. “They’re very brave and they’re willing to take risks.”

The program will include dancer Yon Davy’s autobiographical work “Knot,” which explores the relationship between mother and child.

The third dance is “Transformation,” created by Hou Cheychanrith, known as Pov, in which he looks into the issue of garbage accumulation and recycling in Phnom Penh. “He takes inspiration from the city itself,” Ms. Chankethya said. “He really cares about its people…about its environment.”

Launched last year, the concept of the Contemporary Dance Platform is part of Amrita’s efforts to support the emergence of contemporary dance in the country.

With Ms. Chankethya as artistic director, Amrita has a new asset to accomplish this. The first Cambodian dancer to receive a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship, she just returned to the country after completing her master’s degree in dance and choreography at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

In addition to teaching classical dance at the Secondary School of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh, she now will choreograph works for Amrita as well as assist its contemporary dancers who are eager to create dances, said Kang Rithisal, Amrita’s executive director.

“This is something that needs to happen…these young people will be the creative force in dance in this country,” he said.

Ms. Chankethya, who trained in Khmer classical dance, has been a dancer for two decades. The 30-year-old wrote her thesis at UCLA on preserving Khmer classical dance—a feat she said will be accomplished by staging classic dances and creating new choreographies for classical dance, but also by creating contemporary dance based on the Khmer dance tradition. “For real, this is one approach in preserving classical dance because this is how we can communicate with the classical form but in a refreshing way,” Ms. Chankethya said.

“To create is…revisiting yourself, it’s the process of reframing your thoughts,” she added. “So choreography for me is not only about making dance but it’s also…to question oneself and to question the things that one has never asked before.”

Which is what the three dancers have done in the works they will present Saturday, Ms. Chankethya said.

The dances, which range in length from 12 to 20 minutes, will be followed by a question-and-answer session between the artists and the audience.

Starting at 7 p.m., the performance is taking place at the theater of the Department of Performing Arts, located behind Spark Club, on Street 173 off Mao Tse Toung Boulevard.

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