Dance Performance in Capital Blends a World of Moves

It’s a show by young people for young people, filled with energy and overflowing with talent.

Entitled “Panchapor,” or spectrum, the 36-cast-member show being staged this weekend at the Cambodia Japanese Cooperation Center in Phnom Penh presents a broad sample of Cambodia’s performing arts-—from circus arts to classical dance to hip-hop.

Written and directed by Chey Chankethya, the show begins with an upbeat, live music number on traditional drums, powerful enough to bring the house down; and ends with an all-male contemporary dance piece mixing Khmer classical dance and acrobatic movements to a soft Brazilian jazz tune.

In-between, there is an exquisite classical duet by dancers Sam Sathya and Koy Sina; the folk Harvest Dance by students from Cambodian Living Arts; a piece by chapei master Kong Nay; and a choreographed martial arts demonstration based on classical dance movements by the Trey Visay Dance company.

“Panchapor” is Ms Chanke­thya’s response to a Sealnet project that had asked her to stage a show, their only requirement being to make it a great, quality performance that would celebrate the arts in the country, she said. Sealnet is an organization headquartered at Cali­fornia’s Stanford Univer­sity, which holds workshops on leadership and civic service for high-school students in Southeast Asian countries.

Ms Chankethya suggested a show that would introduce young Cambodians to various forms of performing arts in the country. “Cam­bodian youths don’t know a lot about art in Cambodia right now,” she said. “I did not want to just present the numbers one after the other—otherwise all you need is an MC,” the 24-year-old classical and contemporary dancer said. “I had to write a script, to create links between the scenes in order to make one whole show out of different kinds of performances,” which proved rather hard to do, she added.

The story starts with a grandfather, played by Chhorn Sam Ath, who separates two young men who were about to fight. He intervenes again in the show as a competition of skills between Tiny Toones’ hip-hop dancers and circus artists from the Royal University of Fine Arts is about to lead to blows.

Throughout the show, the circus artists, who portray students, tease and joke with each other, breaking into acrobatics—in a school classroom scene, they even stand on their heads when the teacher faces the board, turning into model students the moment he turns back around.

This year, the Cambodian Sealnet project has also been involved in two weeks of workshops at Phnom Penh’s Baktouk High School given by students from the US, the UK and Australia who paid their own airfares, said Zoe Ng, a UK university graduate who has been working on Cam­bodia’s Sealnet projects since 2007.

As part of the project, the Cam­bodian students have painted the 4.5-by-6 meter panel that will serve as backdrop for this weekend’s show, said Kang Hok, an architect also involved in the project. Inspired by wall carvings at Angkor’s Bayon temple, students painted it under the direction of Reyum Art School teacher Khun Sovanrith.

The show will be held at 4 pm on Saturday and Sunday at the Cam­bodia Japanese Cooperation Center on the campus of the Institute of For­eign Languages on Russian Feder­ation Boulevard. Admission is free.

The dialogue will be in Khmer and the program will contain a summary of each scene in English, although non-Khmer speakers will have little difficulty following the story.

 

 

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