Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ynav and Bosseba

King Norodom Sihamoni thanks Sam Savin personally on stage after the performance
Talk about rubbing shoulders with the great and the good, it was more like a who's who of the Cambodian royal family, the country's elite and the higher echelons of the foreign contingent in town, from Ambassadors to Trial Judges at the ECCC. Armed with my ticket from Sam Savin, one of the principal dancers in the Cambodian royal ballet, I arrived at the Chaktomuk Theatre around 6.15pm and was shown to a seat in the middle of the theatre, about halfway back. Not bad at all. Author and activist Theary Seng plonked herself down in the next seat and we introduced ourselves. More than an hour later, with every seat in the house taken, King Norodom Sihamoni entered alongwith Princess Norodom Buppha Devi, who had choreographed the piece we were about to see, Ynav & Bosseba. Sam Savin was the first to appear on stage, as a beautiful peacock being chased by a prince and was quickly followed by a series of princesses, kings, bandits, battle scenes, unrequited love, kidnap and happy ever after in a 75 minute performance - pretty much standard fare for the fantasy that is Cambodian classical dance. Savin reappeared later as a hand maiden to the princess and Vuth Chanmoly joined the cast as Prince Choraka. The cream of the country's classical dancers took their plaudits and individual thanks from the King, who was a dancer and dance teacher himself before he ascended to the throne, and the Princess. The television cameras were there too, so I can watch it all again on Apsara tv, maybe even spot myself in a suit for the first time in 2 years.
The King, the Princess and Sam Savin (front row, 2nd left) with her royal ballet colleagues
Princess Buppha Devi and King Norodom Sihamoni give their personal thanks to the performers
The cast of Ynav & Bosseba line up on stage for a group photo with their royal patrons
A parting bow from the King amongst the cast of the royal ballet
Three of the principal dancers with a young fan. Vuth Chanmoly is far right.
Yes that's me in a suit for the 1st time since I came to Cambodia, alongside my next seat neighbour, author and activist Theary Seng, who was great company

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Savin in all her glory

Sam Savin in all her regal glory
These photos were taken after the classical dance performance of Vong Sovann Chann Savat had ended to loud applause at the Chaktomuk Theatre on Saturday evening. UNESCO, who proclaimed the Royal Ballet of Cambodia as a masterpiece of oral and intangible heritage of humanity in 2003, were instrumental in reviving this classical dance drama. My photos don't do the work or the performers justice as I've come to realize that my Sony cyber-shot digital camera simply isn't good enough for theatre pictures indoors, so apologies for the quality. Nevertheless, it was great to see my friend Sam Savin performing the lead role of princess Tep Sokun - she's been dancing since she was twelve, she's now 29 and has performed abroad many times in major performances and tours such as Dance: The Spirit of Cambodia, Seasons of Migration, she starred as Pamina Devi in the dance of the same name and countless other productions. When she's not dancing, which is rare, she teaches dance at the Royal University of Fine Arts. Chaktomuk was full to bursting for the performance with invited guests and just a handful of barangs on view - I had intended to gripe here about the lack of publicity for the event but if its a full-house then their view is that PR isn't necessary. However, one-off performances like this don't allow a wider audience to view this important artistic display of Cambodia's culture and whilst I'm not advocating a run of shows such as Where Elephants Weep enjoyed, at least two or three performances would give others a chance to experience the grace and beauty of the show. A bonus point was the colour programme, which gave an easy-to-follow summary of the drama, which enhanced my understanding and enjoyment of the work, and other details in both English and Khmer.
The cast take their bow at the end of the performance
The principal dancers await their bouquet of flowers from the dignitaries
Sam Savin is all smiles as she receives her bouquet
Savin and Sam Limsothea as Prince Vong Sovann, pose after the final whistle
The young lady with the magic bow is Prasith Vichheka
Keo Phirum played the part of Prince Chann Savat, brother of Vong Sovann
Savin is all smiles after the performance
Savin with her sister and members of her family
Sam Savin - one of Cambodia's leading Royal Ballet performers

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Classical escapism

Sam Savin and your ballet reporter after tonight's performance
Tonight's classical dance drama, Vong Sovann Chann Savat, staged at Chaktomuk Theatre with the support of UNESCO, was another of those traditional stories in the classical dance repertory replete with a prince and princess, their love story, a battle and a happy ending, gorgeous costumes, a full pinpeat orchestra with singers and a full house of invited guests. I got a good seat as I knew one of the principal dancers, Sam Savin, who played the lead part of the princess, Tep Sokun, wooed by the prince, who had transformed himself into a seductive songbird to win her heart. Yes, you have to suspend belief for the hour-long performance but that's why Cambodians love the classical theatre, for its beauty, its drama and its escapism. Savin was resplendent in her bodice, sampot and head-dress known as a mkot, as were her fellow performers, all twenty of them. I recognised a couple of the dancers from previous performances I'd attended including Sam Limsothea, who played the prince Vong Sovann, as well as Prasith Vichheka, who was the beauty with a magic bow. I caught up with Savin and members of her family after the show for a quick chat and found out that the cast had rehearsed for tonight's performance for the last two months, and tomorrow, she's off to Siem Reap to perform at Angkor Wat amongst her ultra-busy schedule of performances.
Savin as Princess Tep Sokun leads her six servants in dance
It was during this dance sequence that the prince saw the princess for the first time
Savin in full flight as she glides around the stage
Full of grace and poise, Savin is a master performer of classical court dance
Tep Sokun's father, the Giant reacts badly to news of his daughter's new-found love
Soldiers of the Giant's army
LtoR: Magic Bow, Princess Tep Sokun, Prince Vong Sovann & Prince Chann Savat
The two lovers, Tep Sokun and Vong Sovann (played by Sam Limsothea)
This is the closing scene from the classical dance drama

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