Through Dance, a Journey Through Cambodia’s Recent Past

Having weathered the political storms of the past six decades, Cambodia’s arts scene has grown vibrant in recent years. A product of that transformation, the Kampot-based organization Epic Arts, will tonight stage a new dance performance that attempts to capture various eras of the country’s past.

Since 2003, Epic Arts has run a performing-arts program as part of its efforts to help physically hand­icapped people better integrate into society. Beginning tonight, the 60-minute show “Come Back Brighter,” will be performed eve­ry Friday through May 6 at the Old Royal Cinema.

From left: Epic Arts dancers Bunroath Tov, Mary Yoem and Sopha Sut rehearse in Kampot City in December. (Hayley Holden)
From left: Epic Arts dancers Bunroath Tov, Mary Yoem and Sopha Sut rehearse in Kampot City in December. (Hayley Holden)

“This show is very special,” said dancer Po Sakun, who will perform from his wheelchair.

“This is a show about Khmer culture, Khmer arts and Cambodian history. When people come to see the show, they will be entertained, learn about four eras of Cambodian history, and, especially, they will see people with disabilities perform on stage—classical and contemporary dance with emotion.”

“Come Back Brighter” will be­gin with a 15-minute dance performed by young students from the Kam­pot Traditional Music School and accompanied by Khmer classical music. A 45-minute contemporary number performed by Epic Arts’ eight dancers will follow.

The show has been choreographed around music and video clips that illustrate the events of Cambodia’s past, said Anthony Evans, an Epic Arts manager who worked on the show’s concept. The young classical dancers will depict age-old traditions, while the Epic Arts dancers will convey the wind of creativity that blew during the 1960s, the darkness of the Pol Pot era, and the economic development of today, he said.

Conceiving a 45-minute dance for Epic Arts’ performers—during which they express themselves in three very different ways—was ea­sier said than done, said Nam Narim of the contemporary dance company Amrita Performing Arts, who was brought in to choreograph the show.

“Since it’s three separate concepts with different styles…I

needed to create moves for each segment, but also had to connect them with each other,” Ms. Na­rim said.

The performance is also hard work for the dancers, who must switch between rhythms and moods, she said.

“I see professional artists: They are deaf or with other physical handicaps, but they are such strong performers.”

Tonight’s show starts at 7:30 p.m.

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