Championing Diversity, Dancers Move to Their Own Stories

The music should be familiar to most in the audience—pop tunes known the world over—but not so for the dance, “Re/Play Dance Edit,” which was choreographed over the past week by Cambodian and Japanese dancers.

Cambodian dancers Sor Sophal, front, and, from left, Chey Chankethya, Nam Narim, and Japanese dancer Kitamari. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

As the artists perform in Phnom Penh on Friday and Saturday, they will gracefully move across the stage without interacting with each other, adding to the unexpected challenge presented by the work, Cambodian choreographer Chey Chankethya of Amrita Performing Arts said at a rehearsal on Tuesday.

Japanese theater director Junnosuke Tada, who conceived the 85-minute work, made an unusual demand of the dancers: that they be human beings instead of dancers on stage, she said.

“It’s very difficult for a dancer to do that, trust me,” Ms. Chankethya said. “When you’re on stage, your every impulse is to turn yourself right away into a dancer…who thinks about movement, energy and spacing.”

An award-winning theater director, Mr. Tada came up with the concept following the earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan in 2011. The goal was to express, he said, “the idea of interruption and disruption, and also that time cannot be replaced, that we cannot repeat time.”

First conceived for theater, Mr. Tada later turned the work into a dance.

“Through the performances in Japan, we found out that the more diverse the dancers’ bodies and physicalities were, the more interesting the piece became,” he said.

This gave him the idea of producing the work with dancers from different countries and dance traditions, which he did in Singapore last year, is doing this week in Cambodia—where the Amrita dance company artists have trained as Khmer classical dancers—and will do in the Philippines in the future.

The dance that will be presented this week was shaped through days of brainstorming sessions, during which each artist had to develop his or her own story to stage while harmonizing with the other dancers’ performances. The result is a profoundly intimate work.

“I hope that people who come to see the dance…will discover something in it that can take home with them,” Mr. Tada said.

Dance: Re/Play Dance Edit

Where: Theater of the Department of Performing Arts off Street 173 near Mao Tse Tung Boulevard

When: Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m.

Tickets: adults $5, students with IDs $2.50

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