Dance is all monkey business for experimental performers

Dance is all monkey business for experimental performers

130227 17
Three dancers rehearse for Khmeropedies at the Department of Performing Arts. Photograph: Ruth Keber/Phnom Penh Post

SEVEN young men prance onstage, jumping and climbing on each other. They move gracefully on their hands and feet like monkeys on the move, periodically letting out melodic howls.

The performance is an inventive reinterpretation of traditional Khmer dance. The dancers have spent the past three weeks perfecting their routine at the Circus Centre and the Department of Performing Arts, for Khmeropedies III: Source/Primate, a new dance performance piece produced by Amrita Performing Arts set to go onstage in Phnom Penh on March 1 and New York in April.

Choreographer Emmanuele Phuon said she decided to focus on the role of the monkey in traditional Lakhaon Kaol dance for the final instalment of three shows which blend modern and traditional performance.

The monkey plays an integral role in Lakhaon Kaol, which gets its narrative from the Reamker, a Khmer adaptation of the Hindu Ramayana epic poem. Among the Reamker’s prominent characters is Hanuman, a deity in monkey form who helps the prince Rama rescue his wife Sati from the wicked Ravana.

Since Hanuman is depicted as having a large army of monkeys at his disposal, a large ensemble of monkey characters often feature in Lakhaon Kaol productions. Consequently, monkey behaviour proved to be a source of inspiration for early choreographers.

“The masters probably looked at how the monkeys behaved and moved. They took some movement and infused it in the role, and made it something very codified [in dance],” Phuon said.

Phuon enlisted the help of a primatologist in order to incorporate monkeys and apes into the dance routine. As a result, chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos and lemurs make an appearance.

“How can we infuse Western ideas into something classical and traditional? Can it evolve using Western ideas? That is the theme,” Phuon said.

Khmeropedies gets its name, as well as inspiration, from the three Gymnopedies piano compositions written by French Erik Satie in 1888.

“Satie’s idea was to do three exercises on the same theme, and this is the same thing,” Phuon.

The past two Khmeropedies also broke down choreography conventions, introducing Western classical music and rap.

Nget Rady, one of the production’s seven dancers, said that he likes the approach behind Khmeropedies III.

“We’ve learned a lot about the monkey world, and we hope we can combine this into our classic dance.”

Rady and his troupe will be among 125 Cambodian artists flying to New York for the Seasons of Cambodia art festival. Organised by Cambodian Living Arts, the festival will showcase contemporary Cambodian art.

Khmeropedies III goes on stage at the Department of Performing Arts, located behind Sparks Entertainment Centre at 12304 Mao Tse Toung Boulevard, at 6:30pm, March 1. Tickets are $2 and can be purchased at the door or from Amrita Performing Arts.

MOST VIEWED

  • EU parliament’s 13-point vote to decide on possible sanctions

    The European Parliament is due to vote on Thursday on a 13-point resolution on Cambodia – which includes a call for the treason charges against bailed opposition leader Kem Sokha to be dropped – a threat that could see the EU enforce a range of sanctions against

  • Government hits back at threats to pull EBA, suspend UN seat

    The spokesman for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) has said the government is in no way concerned after the European Parliament gave it three months to reverse what it called the “systematic repression of the political opposition”. Ignoring the ultimatum could mean facing

  • Sar Kheng: Sokha requested security

    Interior Minister Sar Kheng on Sunday revealed the story behind the transfer of former opposition party leader Kem Sokha from Trapaing Phlong prison in Tbong Khmum province to his house in the capital. Speaking at the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) headquarters in Prey

  • PM vows to ‘protect’ Chinese interests

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday told Chinese companies investing in Cambodia not to worry about contract cancellation in the Kingdom. Speaking at a roundtable meeting with business executives in China as co-chair of the China-Asean Expo, the prime minister told six Chinese conglomerates with