Three generations of classically-trained Cambodian dancers will premiere the work “Here I Stand in Time” this weekend—performing each segment of the three-part dance at a different outdoor Phnom Penh location.
On Saturday and Sunday, the 35 dancers will stage Part I in the public park across the street from Meta House. Part II will be on the grounds of the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, while Part III will wrap up at the 3G Sports Center. Each lasts 30 minutes.
Sor Sophal, front, and, from left, Oeun Sokunthea, Than Chanthakunny, Nop Samboramey and Chumvan Sodhachivy, known as Belle, rehearse “Here I Stand in Time” on Wednesday in Phnom Penh. (Emil Kastrup/The Cambodia Daily) During Wednesday’s rehearsal, the room was overflowing with energy as the performers—master dancers, students from the Secondary School of Fine Arts and dancers from the contemporary dance company Amrita Performing Arts—focused on their movements as musicians played traditional Cambodian instruments.
The dance “is about standing in the stream of history, in the stream of time, being aware of the past, being present as much as possible in the present,” said Canadian choreographer Peter Chin, artistic director of the Toronto performing arts company Tribal Crackling Wind, which produced the show with Amrita.
The dance is also about turning toward the future—each dancer standing tall, ready to play a role, he said on Wednesday. “So conviction, beliefs, a worldview: Being present not just as a technician or an artist, but as a whole person.”
Choreographed by Mr. Chin and Amrita’s artistic director Chey Chankethya, with input from the dancers, the dance—which reflects the feelings of those who lived through the war and conflicts of the 1970s and 1980s or their aftermaths—was a year in the making.
“I view it as a work taking place in a society that was torn apart and in which we now live in peace,” Ms. Chankethya said on Wednesday. “It relates very much to healing. It’s a peaceful mindedness that we would like to introduce into the world.”
As an offering to victims of past conflicts, the dance’s second part will be held at the genocide museum. The first part takes place on Sothearos Boulevard amid Phnom Penh’s bustle of today, while the third will be performed under the lights of a football field built on the grounds of the 1960s Bassac Theater.
Melding three generations of artists on diverse professional paths went surprisingly smooth, in no small part due to the dance’s central focus, Ms. Chankethya said.
“Everybody in this piece really thinks about our ancestors…about how they can contribute to people and to the world that we live in,” she said. “So all of us who joined in this piece…we actually have a common ground.”
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