Dance Performance Brings Real Life Experience to Stage

While dancers in Cambodia are taught new styles and forms from a number of visiting artists from around the world, Franco-Alg­erian choreographer Samir Akika says he is not interested in in­structing dancers.

As part of a collaboration be­tween the French Cultural Cen­ter, the Goethe Institut and Meta House, Mr Akika has been working with 13 Cambodian dancers since Oct 11 to create “I Should Be So Lucky,” an ode to young Cambodians, their lives, problems and aspirations. But to do so, Mr Akika said he had to be­come a student.

“I don’t want to come and teach them something; this is an ex­change,” Mr Akika said. “I cannot pretend to understand the culture. My knowledge is superficial so I had to rely on the cast’s experience and opinions.”

He said he asked questions about general topics such as love and the difficulties they face in everyday life, but he also included hypothetical questions such as, “If you were suddenly rich, what would you do?”

Dancer Nam Narim said it was initially odd to have Mr Akika ask her about her personal life and opin­ions. as Cambodians tend to be quite private. But over time, she said, the experience closely bonded the dancers and the director.

“I started to answer openly and share my whole life with him, my own story and dreams,” she said. “We began to think with one mind.”

From these candid answers, Mr Akika has created an ambitious performance that combines a variety of dance styles with acting, large artworks used as backgrounds and a video installation. But in addition to the large, sweeping aspects of the show, the discussion also allowed him to put in small verbal or visual inside jokes that only residents would appreciate.

The title is inspired by the numerous shops in Phnom Penh that use the word “lucky” or “heng” in their names.

Mr Akika said that when he was casting the diverse performers his only requirement was that they “would have personality on stage.”

The performers come from artistic backgrounds such as traditional, contemporary and hip-hop dance and circus and Mr Akika said the show is structured like a collage of situations and scenes of daily life, like a soap opera.

“The performance is based on the dancers’ stories,” he said. “Normal Cambodians will be able to identify themselves. You will know, care and remember” the characters.

“I Should Be So Lucky” will be performed at 7 pm on Nov 12 and 13 at Chenla Theater. Free tickets are available at the French cultural center library and Java Cafe.


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