Disabled dancer Poan Nadenh, 23 (centre), aims to break down barriers while on an Epic Arts tour of England. Photo by: EPIC ARTS
FOUR disabled dancers who starred at the recent Cambodian Youth Arts Festival are now touring in the United Kingdom until October.
And, said wheelchair-bound dancer Poan Nadenh, 23, the tour makes him feel proud that disabled performers can join in various art forms.
“I want to show disabled people all over the world that they have the ability to perform on stage. But it’s also a chance to learn many other art forms while I’m there, and help pass them on to other performers in Cambodia.”
He and the other dancers are from a nongovernmental organisation called Epic Arts, which was established in 2006 in Kampot province by British charity Epic Arts.
Roat Leakhena, the programme manager of Epic Arts, said the group aimed to put disabled and non-disabled people together to spark creativity and empower them through the arts.
“Epic Arts seeks to promote the integration of people, of all abilities and disabilities, through utilizing the art as a form of expression and empowerment.”
Under the programme, nine deaf mutes and two paraplegics have become the first disabled dancers in Cambodia.
Their dance work 4D was devised by two disabled dancers and two non-disabled choreographers, and has been performed around Cambodia during the past year. Now they are taking the performance to audiences in Britain.
That collaboration sparked a new performance called Flying Future, devised by the dancers themselves, said art trainer Nut Samneang, 31.
“All the dances are not from us but from each disabled performer. They showed us how they conforted their body, how they moved their body, and how they lifted someone. All their actions sprang from their own emotions.
“We noted their movements, and we included some of them into the performance Flying Future,” she said.
But to train disabled people, especially deaf mutes, has particular difficulties, Nut Samneang explained.
“First of all I have to learn how to communicate with them, especially their hand signs, before I can start the lessons.
“The paraplegics are fine because they can understand us, but we have to make sure mute people understand us and we have to understand them too. We mostly use hand signs or body language to show them dancing styles,” said Nut Samneang.
“The work also requires patience as well as good communication,” she explained. The pace of lessons is kept slow enough that each dancer can fully understand the steps.”
And she also has to worry about their physical strength, making sure the training is not too long or difficult.
They made her especially proud during their youth festival performance at Chaktomuk Theatre, because they all made the right jumps, moves and steps while on stage.
“I heard some people wonder what our performance meant, but it doesn’t stand for one specific story. Its message shows that the disabled can also perform like able-bodied artists,” she said.