European Choreographer Takes Cambodian Dancers to New Realms

A contemporary dance being created by European choreographer Arco Renz with seven Cambodian dancers will be previewed on Saturday at Phnom Penh’s Chenla Theater ahead of its premiere at the Singapore Arts Festival next year.

The work in progress, which came out of a workshop over the last three weeks and will be finished next year, maps dancers moving into new territory through introduction to Western contemporary dance techniques, Mr Renz said.

Mr Renz, who founded Brussels-based production company Kobalt Works, said that he and the classically trained Cambodia dancers come from different worlds.             During the workshop “I am trying to create an intermediate planet where we can land together,” he said. The dance “will be a strange unidentified foreign object: A Cambodian UFO.”

Mr Renz said he was touched to see young Cambodians with a drive for change despite obstacles, which would become a subject of the dance. He was careful not to impose “what is contemporary dance,” but tried to give the dancers open tools for development, he said.

Working with Mr Renz was the first time that producer NGO Amrita Performing Arts steered away from ‘safe’ choreographers with backgrounds in Asia, its executive director Fred Frumberg said.

“It was a real stretch and a real risk,” Mr Frumberg said, noting that in Asia a conflict exists between preserving traditions and moving into the contemporary. “In Cambodia especially it’s a very touchy topic because the revival and preservation process post-war is not really finished.”

However, young dancers Chey Chankethya, Chumvan Sodhachivy, Chy Ratana, Ngeth Rady, Phon Sopheap, Vuth Chanmoly and Yon Davy were now ready for this step, he said.

Dancer and teacher Ms Chankethya said that she found the new techniques used during rehearsals very interesting. “It’s about basic structures that allow dancers to develop more and more,” she said. “It can work as a process to give us tools.”

The production sponsored by the Goethe Institute Jakarta will be previewed at 6 pm Saturday at Chenla Theater and premiered at the Singapore Arts Festival on May 14.


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