A one-off performance by New Cambodian Artists’ dancers on the rooftop at the Amansara Resort next Thursday promises to be special, with a powerful blend of classical Khmer and contemporary dance, beautiful costumes by Eric Raisina and the unique atmosphere of the venue itself.
New Cambodian Artists is a dance troupe founded by Dutch theatre director, Bob Ruijzendaal. Originally based in Phnom Penh, the troupe moved to Siem Reap three years ago. Now it consists of four dancers, who all trained at the Siem Reap School of Fine Arts which was demolished in April this year.
Next Thursday’s performance brings together three different dances with quite different expressions, though each has firm roots in the Cambodian tradition of classical dance, with its austere elegance and precision that contrasts dramatically with the bold exuberance of more contemporary styles.
This contrast is particularly effective when telling a story about how girls growing up in Cambodia, under so much pressure to obey strong traditional roles, can help each other to break free of the rules that bind them and be themselves if they dare.
With an eclectic, and by turns haunting and powerful, sound track coming from Indonesia, West Bengal and Germany, the work, titled Growing up in Public is an intense performance that will captivate audiences from the first motion.
That work, and another titled Spaces, were both choreographed by Ruijzendaal, though this is not his background.
“Actually, I’m not a choreographer, I’m a theatre director,” he said. “But I think this is good because I don’t arrive with preconceived ideas. I bring in some music and we work together, building the performance.
“The dancers respond to the music with their ideas and then I organise what comes out of that. It’s quite unique, and none of these pieces would be the same if created with different dancers.”
The opening performance for the evening, Dao Roung Dao Roi, was choreographed by one of the dancers, Son Srey Nith, and is inspired by the devatas of Angkor, whose graven images serenely guard the temples.
Colourful layered costumes worn by the girls for the performance of Growing up in Public are the creations of Siem Reap-based designer, Eric Raisina. This is not their first collaboration, and when he was asked to contribute designs for next Thursday’s performance he was happy to take part.
“I’ve been so busy this year, but I was more than thrilled to freely create the costumes for this show,” he said. “They danced for my Valentine exhibition show, and it was really beautiful.”
For Ruijzendaal, the collaboration for this occasion was a natural choice. “This piece seemed so perfect for him [Raisina] because it is so colourful and expressive,” he said.
The unique opportunity to see this performance at the normally private and exclusive Amansara Resort came about after general manager Sally Baughen invited the group to make its inaugural performance of these dances at the resort as she hopes that they may work together in the future.
“I invited them to come to introduce the show as part of our focus is on how we support the arts,” she said, adding, “It’s going to be a fabulous evening.”
The doors will open at 7.30pm, for a performance start at 8pm. Tickets will be available at the door for $25 which includes wine and canapés. Places are predicted to be limited. Proceeds from the evening will support New Cambodian Artists.