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Odori draws a big crowd at festival

Traditional Japanese dance helps cement cultural ties

FROM the land of sushi and kimonos came the fourth Odori dance festival at the Cambodia-Japan Friendship Theatre, with an international audience of about 1,000 watching the Sunday event. A troupe from Japan performed the traditional 17th century Odori dance, while learning some local moves as well.

"We chose to celebrate the Odori in Cambodia because we had already done it here twice. The first one was in 2002, for the 10th anniversary of the establishment of Japanese Embassy in Cambodia, and the second was in 2003 for the 50th anniversary of the diplomatic relationship between Cambodia and Japan," said Okada Koji, chairman of the Japanese Association in Cambodia.

"We noticed that Cambodian people enjoyed the celebration, and so we decided to celebrate it here again."

But the organisers conceded that learning the Khmer traditional moves was especially challenging for the dancers.

"We think that Khmer traditional dances are more difficult than ours because we have to practice many arm and body movements to fall in line with the music," said Okada.

"However, we were all happy to dance in the Khmer style." He said the success of the event marks strengthening cultural ties between the two countries and that dancers were looking forward to participating in Khmer cultural events like P'Chum Ben.

Growing business ties

Shinohara Katsuhiro, the Japanese ambassador to Cambodia, said the festival came alongside growing economic ties between the two nations.

"The cooperation between the two countries is now increasing in many sectors because Japan has supported Cambodia a lot. Meanwhile, Cambodian people themselves must try hard to take advantage of Cambodia's continuing economic growth, and we have to continue to work towards improvement," he said.

Odori fans can look forward to future performances with bigger and better festivals slated for the future. "[Next time], if there are more Japanese people in Cambodia, we want the celebration to be twice or three times as big as it is now," he said.

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