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Tradition Endures in New Generation of Dancers

Classical dance has endured as Cambodia's most resilient art form. Transferred from generation to generation, mostly through women, it is for Cambodians a powerful source of identity, rebirth and vitality.

It survives still in an upcoming group of young dancers.

No one knows this better than Thong Kim An, a master dance instructor, leading a troupe of 21 dancers through an episode of the Ramayana at the Sovannaphum Theater in Phnom Penh this weekend.

"Ms. Thong Kim An specialized in the Yeak (Giant) figure and is a member of a family where Yeak dancing has been passed on for four generations," said Suon Bunrith, cultural coordinator of the Amrita Performing Arts School.

Thong has been dancing since age 6 and now teaches at the Royal University of Fine Arts.

She spent 47 days recently training dancers for the upcoming performance, including Panh Sibxy Na, a 16-year-old who will make his debut at this weekend's performance.

Panh Sixby Na, who has a natural ability in combative dance, will "capture the imagination and leave the public gazine with emotion at his movements," according to the Bosbapanh dance company.