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Erak Mith (left) and Aaron Lim at the Skateistan park, where Between Tiny Cities will be performed. Eliah Lillis

Contemporary dance project tells a tale of two B-boys

Aaron Lim and Erak Mith bring their unique b-boy-ing styles to a dance-theatre performance, Between Tiny Cities, at Skateistan in Russian Market.

Standing outside of Skateistan, a skate park and youth organisation near Russian Market, Aaron Lim and Erak Mith adopt the posture one might expect from ‘B-boy dancers’ – legs spread, shoulders open while talking about their new two-man production.

Between Tiny Cities premiered last week at Dance Massive, a contemporary dance festival in Melbourne, and will be making its Cambodia debut this weekend with two shows open to the public on Friday and Saturday. The project grew out of a collaboration between Tiny Toones, the local nonprofit that reaches out to at-risk youth through hip-hop and breakdancing, and a Darwin, Australia-based dancing group called the D-City Rockers.

Choreographed by Australian Nick Power, the breakdance-theatre hybrid tells the story of Lim and Erak’s relationship. When the two groups first came together to work, the two approached each other with wariness that according to Power is typical of B-boys, the correct term for break-dancers.

“It’s always a thing with b-boys where you’re checking each other and you don’t fully open up because you don’t know each other,” Lim says. “You don’t know each other’s skills and whatnot. And then it goes from our story from there to now when we’re really good friends.”

The approximately 40-minute production, which will feature the dancing interplay of the two along with a soundtrack put together by Australian Jack Prest, will be performed in Skateistan’s park. In true hip-hop fashion, the audience will stand in a circle around the dancers.

“It didn’t make sense for me to have an audience sitting down and watching the performance over there,” Power says. “B-boying and hip-hop for me has always been about proximity and feeling a little vulnerable.”

Power says that one of the most interesting things about the show is the juxtaposition of styles. Erak, who joined Tiny Toones in 2008 after what he describes as a youth involved with drugs and gangs, and is now a teacher, has a more spontaneous and loose flair. Lim, meanwhile, uses very precise movements.

“I call them the ‘wild styler’ and the ‘technician’,” Power says. “Aaron has this linear progression that he follows, whereas Erak’s style is just – he doesn’t know what he’s going to do. He does this amazing thing and I’m like like ‘oh man, can you do that again?’ And he’s like ‘I don’t even know what I did.’”

Erak also incorporates traditional Khmer dances, like the “peacock dance” from Pailin and a version of the “monkey dance” from the Reamker. For him, the production is another reminder of the opportunities he has seized through dance, despite a tiny and sometimes skeptical local audience. He has now performed in Japan and Singapore and it appears likely that Between Tiny Cities will return to Australia in the coming months.

“Older people, when they see us, they think we’re crazy,” he says. “My mom didn’t want me to dance but I kept running away from home to go dance all the time. When I went back home my mom always yelled at me because dance cannot make money. But this last time when I came home she was just like ‘wow’.”

Between Tiny Cities is showing at Skateistan on Street 504 in Tuol Tom Poung on Friday and Saturday at 7pm. Tickets are $5 and $1 for students.

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