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Long Beach Student Show Seeks To Preserve Culture

Students at a rehearsal, about a Cambodian family living in Long Beach, California.
Students at a rehearsal, about a Cambodian family living in Long Beach, California.
Cheang Sophinarath

The Cambodian Student Society of California State University, Long Beach, has been around a long time. It was started in 1959 by a group of Cambodian exchange students.

Last week, the society hosted its 27th annual cultural show, in an effort to continue Cambodia’s cultural traditions and strengthen friendships within the communities of Long Beach, which is home to one of the most diverse populations in the US.

The show included the traditional dance styles of Chai Yam, Chuon Por, and Apsara, along with skits that ranged from the Angkorean era and modern Cambodian life in America.

Organizers said the show was made possible by a lot of planning, and a lot of help.

“With our members, we have planned since October,” said Chhou Ou, vice president of the student association. “And since ware are a community in Long Beach, we got a lot of help, like the dance troops from the community. We got a lot of help from the community.”

The show, like the association, was a reflection of the diversity in the community. The Cambodian Student Association has members from different ethic groups, including Vietnamese and Filipinos. Many of its members were born in the US, but others come from Cambodia and beyond.

Chhou Ou, for example, was born in Phnom Penh, but she immigrated to America with her parents when she was three years old. She’s been a member of the student association for the past four years.

“We welcome anyone and we welcome everyone,” she said.

Audi Fuhr, 22, is Hungarian and Ethiopian, but he teaches Chai Yam dance and focuses on Southeast Asia for his International Studies degree.

“I started getting really interested in Cambodian, Southeast Asian, culture,” he said. “And I have become so close [to it]. All my close friends, I’ve just become so close with everyone. And I’ve seen so many interesting things, I just stay around.”

The student society and last week’s show are supported by Cambodians in the Long Beach community, as well.

“I feel very happy to see Cambodian children still loving the traditions,” said Dalin Chhay, 43, whose son was one of the performers. “My son is a Krab dancer. I asked him if he wanted to join the Cambodian club, and he liked it.”

“I really support them,” said Bopha Kanharouth, who was in the audience for the show. “I never thought that they were born here, but they could speak and perform greatly in the dance and the skits. I was so excited because I didn’t expect them to do well like this.”

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