Sunday, February 28, 2010

Dance on display

Belle enjoying her Wat Botum park appearance
The park in front of Wat Botum came alive with dance and dance fans tonight as La rue danse was played out on eight floodlit stages offering a wide range of contemporary dance, hip-hop, juggling, and much more besides. The audience was entertained by the 20+ performers who rotated across the stages in short ten minute bursts to ensure everyone got the chance to see their offering. Judging by the size of the crowds, the applause and murmurs of approval, the show, part of the Dansez Roam! series of events, was a major success. The best known of the performers was Belle and her dance partner Chy Rothana who performed two separate pieces and wowed the crowds with two entertaining contemporary dance sequences, not usually seen by Cambodian audiences. The audience also loved the monkey antics of Phon Sopheap and the younger element enjoyed the kids from Tiny Toones. But it was the variety on offer that made it such an enjoyable event for all.
Belle and her dance Chy Rothana partner perform a flemenco inspired piece as their 2nd offering
In her 1st piece, Belle offered up a robotic or mannequin style dance
One of the few moments that Belle and her partner paused for breath

Labels: ,

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Street performance

Concluding the recent Dansez Roam! series of events by the CCF, the park surrounding Wat Botum will come alive this Sunday night (28th) from 6.30pm onwards, with over 20 performers, including Belle, who will have to battle for space with the keep-fit aerobic groups that inundate the park at that time. Under the banner of La rue danse, there will be eight dance areas dotted around the park where individuals and small groups of contemporary dancers, hip-hop and traditional performers will strut their stuff. The idea is to bring the dancers closer to the audience, with a projection screen also showing dance images by Anders Jiras. It will be an interesting experiment given that the sound systems that boom out the music which accompanies the keep-fit enthusiasts is usually loud enough to make your ears bleed. Bring ear-plugs. This afternoon (2.30pm), the Khmer Arts Ensemble are performing their very own Seasons of Migration classical dance story at Chaktomuk Theater, as part of the national performing arts festival that's taking place at the venue this week.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Solo work

Two upcoming dance events are well worth putting in your diary. This Sunday, 21st, at 7pm at Meta House, contemporary dancer Yon Davy will present her first choreography solo work, in the form of Action Wave, with two solos and two duets with dancers Yon Chantha and Choun Sovannary. Davy, who opened up the recent Suites shows at Chenla Theater, told me afterwards that she was looking forward to it, though with some trepidation as it's her first solo work, though she won't be dancing herself. A week later, Sunday 28th, also at 7pm, the Dansez Roam! events come to a conclusion at Wat Botum in the capital with a series of brief dance performances under the banner of La rue danse, with Belle headlining a total of 20 dancers. On the subject of Belle, I found this blog entry with photos by Nicolas Havette, taken last year during rehearsals with French dancer/choreographer Sébastien Ramirez. They're different to say the least.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Belle of the ball

Belle [courtesy of Anders Jiras]
She really is an exceptional talent. I know I've said it before but whenever she performs, she expands the realms of dance that no-one else in Cambodia is doing, can do, will do. I'm talking about Belle of course and her twenty minute self-choreographed solo to Johann Sebastian Bach's Cello Suite #2 at the Chenla Theater last night was an absolute barnstormer. From the opening seven minutes which she spent on the floor before getting to her feet, she had the audience in a trance, simply wondering what she would do next. The dramatic section which saw her blindfolded and cuffed as she symbolized the plight of Cambodia's past was simply stunning in its effect. Her fluidity of movement, her timing, her concentration, her expressiveness and her stamina are all key elements of every performance, and all were much in evidence last night. The evening's show was filmed by CTN and I must get a copy of the tape. I can't believe anyone else could've pulled off such a remarkable demonstration of contemporary dance allied to music that is nearly 300 years old. The first and third Bach Suites saw dancers of the quality of Vuth Chanmoly, Mom, Yon Davy and Phon Sopheap accompany the cello playing of Vincent Courtois in the opening piece, before Chey Chankethya led her vibrant team to a crescendo of movement and sound, aided and abetted by the musicians from Phare Ponleu Selpak. Wonderful entertainment, especially as a recital of classical music would usually leave me cold. The Khmers next to me in the three quarters-full theater expressed their delight at the dance but felt slightly disconnected with what the dancers were trying to represent and perhaps that's something that needs to be addressed before contemporary dance will be fully appreciated by a Cambodian audience. They understand the stories and meanings behind their own classical form of ballet, but contemporary is so new to them that it will take time to bed in and gain acceptance. But I need a similar explanation too, so we're all in the same boat. Kudos to Amrita and the French Cultural Center for hosting the performance under the Dansez Roam! banner of events. Though a few words of English would've gone down well in the opening presentation.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Birthday Belle

Belle, center, taking the plaudits at a previous Dansez Roam! performance
Happy birthday Belle, though as a gentleman, I couldn't possibly disclose her age. Cambodia's leading contemporary dancer celebrates her birthday today but has no time to relax as she's been in rehearsals preparing to perform this coming Friday and Saturday at the Chenla Theater as part of the Dansez Roam! series of events. This week will see the presentation of Suites, where seven Cambodian choreographers will interpret their impressions of the first three cello suites of JS Bach through their contemporary style. Belle has warned me to be prepared to see something very different from the norm. A French cello virtuoso, Vincent Courtois, will accompany the dancers live during the performances. They are at Chenla Theatre on 12th and 13th February, starting at 7pm. Tickets are available at the French Cultural Center and at Amrita's offices on Sothearos Boulevard.

This Saturday (13th) at 4pm, the Bophana Center (Street 200) will host a screening of The Continuum: Beyond the Killing Fields, directed by Ong Keng Sen, in Khmer but with English subtitles. In 2002, The Asian Theatre Journal described The Continuum as:
‘a moving exploration of the ability of traditional art forms to speak to new realities. Continuum is part documentary and part experimental performance about Cambodia’s recent past and the process of four Cambodians using their art to come to terms with that past today....The Continuum weaves together stories of life and death under Pol Pot as told by three classical dancers and one shadow puppeteer with excerpts from the classical Cambodian dance repertoire, dance training exercises, shadow puppetry, evocative music by Japanese musician and composer Yen Chang, and documentary video by Noorlinah Mohd. The performance features the extraordinary artistry of master dancer Em Theay, her daughter Thong Kim Ann, principal dancer for the Royal Government of Cambodia Kim Bun Thom, and shadow puppeteer Mann Kosal.’

Yesterday Cambodia launched its Red List of Cambodian Antiquities at Risk at the National Museum in Phnom Penh, in a bid to assist museums, collectors, art dealers and law enforcement officials in recognizing objects that may've been looted and illicitly exported from Cambodia. You can read more about the Red List and download a copy at

Labels: ,

Friday, January 29, 2010

More dance for your delectation

Belle in the 2009 Dansez Roam! performance at Chenla Theatre
Dansez Roam! will hit the stage again next month. This is an on-going series of events produced by the French Cultural Center and Amrita that provides a platform for young contemporary Khmer dancers to express themselves, often in collaboration with foreign artists. It was last April that Belle took the Chenla Theatre audience by storm with her Hope of Tomorrow show and she'll be part of the forthcoming Suites (original music and choreographic piece based on the Bach Suites 1, 2, and 3) and La rue danse (small choreographic) performances, that are scheduled for Chenla and Wat Botum on 12/13th and 28 February respectively. It's not a one-woman performance though as the cream of Cambodia's artists will be joining her including Phon Sopheap, Chey Chankethya, Mom, Yon Davy, Vuth Chanmoly and many more. In March, Belle and the cast of Khmeropedies take their show to Hong Kong and Singapore and to the United States in June.

Tomorrow at Olympic Stadium will see the first matches in the Hun Sen Cup last 16 knockout stage with Phnom Penh Crown and Wat Phnom looking likely to succeed against lesser opponents. Games are at 2pm and 4pm and there are two more matches on Sunday, when BBU and Naga will progress. However, cup football has a way of bringing the big boys to their knees on occasions (just ask Man Utd), so fingers crossed we'll see some giant-killing. Though if PPCrown are losing, they'll probably walk off the pitch, as they did in last season's CPL third place play-off!

Labels: , ,

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Breathing new life into dance

Belle, with flowers, and Chankethya take the plaudits from the audience
Contemporary dance, so popular in the West but practically unheard of in Cambodia, is beginning to make its mark slowly but surely, through the energy and vision of dancers like Belle (Chumvan Sodhachivy) and Chey Chankethya, who brought their new style of dance to the stage tonight at the Chenla Theatre in a performance titled Dansez Roam! With both dancers schooled in classical Khmer dance, they included elements of what they know best but much of the performance would've been the first time many Cambodians in the packed auditorium had seen such freedom and unrestrained movement on a stage before. Chankethya began the evening seemingly locked within a mosquito net before bursting out to glide and skip her way around the stage with three fellow dancers. They were followed by Hang Borin who used a chair to center his dance movements, all the while accompanied by both classical style and loud, westernised music. After a short break, the extraordinary Belle, who is carrying the banner of the new contemporary style almost single-handedly if you believe the press, almost brought the audience to its feet with her opening segment, again producing an array of dazzling movements and ingenious variations of the accepted norm. Joined by a group of her peers, they told the story of her mother's life under the Khmer Rouge, combining expressive dance moves, music, singing and story-telling all rolled into one. All in all, a fantastically successful show, leaving the Khmer audience with plenty of food for thought about what they had just witnessed.
A segment from the opening part of Dansez Roam!
Belle opens her half of the show by putting on her dress
Belle uses classical postures in her dance
The cast of Dansez Roam! take their bows

Labels: ,