‘Bamboo Shoots’ Move to Make Classical Dance Relevant

The performance that choreo­gra­pher and dancer Prumsodun Ok will present at the Khmer Arts The­ater in Takhmao City on Sat­­urday night is grounded in Khmer classical dance, but with a twist.

“The movements I’m using are strictly in the traditional style. But the costuming is different and, very im­portantly, the music is different: The music that I’m using is actually a pop song by Sam Smith,” Mr. Ok said on Wednesday.

Dancers rehearse Chao Socheata's 'Hait' in Takhmao City earlier this month. (John Shapiro)
Dancers rehearse Chao Socheata’s ‘Hait’ in Takhmao City earlier this month. (John Shapiro)

“So, through that contrast—and the union of that contrast—it will al­low for Cambodians to see Khmer dance in a new way. And it will allow for audiences that have nev­er seen Khmer classical dance but who know…pop music to have an awareness of Khmer classical dance.”

Mr. Ok’s fourminute dance, a tale of longing and courtship performed by two male dancers, will be one of five works presented by dancers trained by Khmer classical dance choreographer So­phi­line Cheam Shapiro.

The program will include a new mu­sic composition by master mu­sicians in the traditional pinpeat style, three new dances, and two traditional dances that are rarely performed.

“We encourage excellent danc­ers and great musicians to create their own works,” Ms. Cheam Sha­piro said Tuesday.

The name of the show is Tom­peang Snong Russey, Bamboo Shoots, as the young artists are preparing bamboo shoots to re­place trees one day—that is, they are getting ready to take the helm of the country’s arts scene in the future, she said.

One of the dances will be a nineminute work entitled “Hait.” In­terpreted by six dancers in contemporary costumes, the dance is mainly a Khmer classical dance but focuses on a decidedly timely theme, said dancer and choreographer Chao Socheata.

“My dance is about traffic accidents and is meant to encourage everyone to join together to re­spect traffic regulations,” she said on Wednesday. “A lot of people die in the streets and many others are in­jured in road accidents every day.”

Since the late 1990s, Ms. Cheam Shapiro has choreographed new ballets for Khmer classical dance that have been performed throughout the world.

Her dance company, Sophiline Arts Ensemble, is based at the Khmer Arts Theater off National Road 2 outside of Phnom Penh. The performance on Saturday starts at 7 p.m.

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