Saturday June 26, 2010 - At the Baryshnikov Arts Center a packed house watched the last in a series of performances of Emmanuele Phuon's Khmeropédies I & II in which Ms. Phuon presents a fusion of contemporary choreographic ideas and classical
Khmer dance. Using elements of Khmer court dance vocabulary as a base she
incorporates contemporary Western movement and techniques to explore
how and where these different styles and ideas can meet. Beyond that, the work resonates with deeper meanings relating to the breakdown in performing traditions caused by the fatal rise of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s.
solo performed by Chumvan Sodhachivy,
seen above in a Julieta Cervantes photo, in which the expressive dancer seldom rises from the floor. She enacts a long mono-drama in which she communicates with god.
explores the master/disciple relationship and is created with and
four dancers: Sam
Sathya, Chey Chankethya, Phon Sopheap, and Chumvan
Sodhachivy. The music for Khmeropédies II ranges
from the German
industrial band Einstürzende Neubauten to Yves Montand to Tiny Toones (a
Cambodian rap group formed by street kids), all interlaced with Satie, Ravel and Debussy. Sam Sathya as the teacher tries to help her three young pupils find ways of bridging the
In that final solo, the dancer seems to be longing to return to the days prior to the bloody regime of the Khmer Rouge (late 1970s) during which 2,000,000 Cambodians lost their lives to genocide, famine and disease. That enormous human tragedy is all-but-forgotten in our world today.
Another casualty of that era was the performing tradition of classical Cambodian dance which older artists are now seeking to restore and instill in younger generations. Tonight's performance showed us the possibility of developments in that cultural restoration while evoking deeper thoughts on the perpetual human tragedy of man's inhumanity to man.
About the choreographer: Emmanuèle Phuon began her dance training at the Royal Ballet of Cambodia at age five, and continued her dance education in Thailand and France before moving to New York in the late 1980s. In New York, she performed with a number of independent choreographers and companies, including Elisa Monte Dance Company and White Oak Dance Project. She is currently based in Brussels, and began working on Khmeropédies in 2007. Over the past two years, she has worked in Cambodia with dancers trained in classical Khmer dance, sharing her experiences as a contemporary Western dancer and continuing to develop the project with dancers there. Khmeropédies I & II are products of this exploration and collaboration.
Photos: Julieta Cervantes