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New Dance Tests Classical Ideas

Emerging dance methods at Amrita Art blend international and Cambodian creativity, producing something contemporary out of traditional Khmer dance.

Fred Frumberg, founder of Amrita Art, an organization based in Phnom Penh, has worked in Cambodia for 12 years, preserving classical dance. But showcasing the new ideas of a younger generation is important for the development of modern dance, he told VOA Khmer in a recent interview.

“I feel now it is also important that the young artists start to show their own creative skill,” he said. The new performance was not a matter of changing what they had done before, he said, “but we’re sort of adding new layer, like any dance at any place around the world.”

Emmanuele Phoun, a choreographer, is half Cambodian and half French. She learned Khmer dancing and ballet in the 1970s, and is now interested in contemporary dance to increase the range of artistic vision here.

“I want to come back to it, and because I don’t have the knowledge of the classical form I can only look at it with the eyes of someone who has a contemporary background, but I love Cambodian dance,” she said. “I love Cambodia and this is the way for me to connect with the past.”

Amrita Art was established in July 2004. Over the past five years, Amrita has led a lot of traditional dances. In late February Amrita cooperated with the Document Center of Cambodia to show “Breaking the Silence,” a play about the Khmer Rouge.

Sam Satsya, who has strong classical experience in Cambodia, said contemporary dance is different, because it can show daily life.

“The contemporary dancers are kind of focusing more on their feeling and their body movement,” she said. “The classical dance is to respect the original.”

Kang Rithisal, a production manager for the contemporary dance performance, said creative ideas come from a combination of old forms and imagination. Keeping only the old forms might actually bore today’s audiences, who have now seen a lot of classical performances.

“So if the dancers could move a bit beyond the borders, in order to try something new, but be based on its old dance form, it is a great test,” he said.