Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Khmer boxing inspires contemporary dance show



Khmer boxing inspires contemporary dance show

Dancer Nget Rady rehearses ahead of the premiere performance of Brodal Serei tomorrow night.
Dancer Nget Rady rehearses ahead of the premiere performance of Brodal Serei tomorrow night. Lin Chih-Yu

Khmer boxing inspires contemporary dance show

Brodal Serei, a contemporary dance piece based on the style of Khmer boxing of the same name, premieres tomorrow evening at Phnom Penh’s Department of Performing Arts.

The work – still in progress – is the result of a nearly two-year-long collaboration between French-Cambodian choreographer Emmanuèle Phuon, Malaysian dramaturge Lim How Ngean and Amrita Performing Arts.

Phuon was initially inspired by an exhibition in Brussels almost 10 years ago of photos of traditional Khmer boxing by photographer John Vink (appropriately, Vink has been documenting some of Brodal Serei’s rehearsals).

She said she wanted to explore an aspect of Khmer culture through contemporary dance, and one with a narrative thread. Boxing as a “popular” sport appealed to her.

“It’s a very physical sport, and culturally, it’s also very Cambodian,” Phuon explained.

The piece features three Amrita dancers, Khon Chansithyka, Nget Rady and Noun Sovitou, and two musicians, Keo Dorivan and Khon Chansina. Phon Sopheap, a senior artist, works with Phuon as rehearsal director.

To prepare for the performance the dancers learned real boxing techniques, working with a boxing trainer at the Olympic Stadium.

Dancer Chansithyka said learning to box was difficult.

“We need to run and fight to get stronger and more powerful,” he said. “While boxing is not my profession, I like it.”

A significant part of the research, Phuon said, was “getting to know the people we were training with”, and the experiences of the trainer, professional boxer Hem Saran, became an integral part of the work, which features a series of narrative scenes.

Phuon said the choreography was based on the “physical language of boxing”.

“I’m stylising it a little bit, but I’m not mixing it with anything,” she said.

However, the choreographer said the performance was “very different from real boxing”.

“They’re able to convey this idea of maleness and physical strength while maintaining the qualities of dancers. They have to remember the movements.”

Only local performances of Brodal Serei are planned at this point – with funding from private donors and a grant from the Asian Cultural Council.

However, Amrita has already seen interest from international theatres.

Brodal Serei will run tomorrow and Saturday at 7pm at the Department of Performing Arts, Street 173 (behind the Spark and Tawandang Microbrewery). Tickets $5 or $2.50 for students.

For more information telephone: 077 945 015.

A previous version of this article misstated the names of photographer John Vink and dancer Noun Sovitou.

MOST VIEWED

  • Siem Reap drain canal now ‘mangrove’ promenade

    A more than half a kilometre long stretch of canal in Siem Reap has been covered and turned into a promenade to attract visitors, said Ly Rasmey, secretary of state at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, on September 16. The new pedestrianised

  • Final verdicts for Khmer Rouge leaders ‘vital’ for next generation

    Nearly a decade after the commencement of Case 002/02 against Khieu Samphan back in 2014, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) is now set to deliver its final verdict for the former Khmer Rouge head of state. The Supreme Court Chamber of the ECCC,

  • Angkor wildlife, aquarium park still to open October

    The Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium complex about 30km southeast of Siem Reap town with initial total investment of more than $70 million is reportedly still on track for an end-October opening. The park is located on a 100ha plot along National Road 6 in Kbon village, Khchas

  • Defence minister reaffirms Kingdom’s staunch support for One-China policy

    Minister of National Defence General Tea Banh has reaffirmed Cambodia’s unwavering support for the One-China policy. Tea Banh was speaking at the September 20 ceremonial handover of 117 vehicles and other military equipment donated by China’s defence ministry, held at Phnom Chumreay International Military Training

  • Deaths due to ‘lifestyle’ diseases rise in Kingdom

    The Ministry of Health has called on people to pay closer attention to their health to protect themselves from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) which it said have caused high rates of deaths in the country. Ministry secretary of state York Sambath made the call at a

  • Textile industry minimum wage now $200

    The official minimum wage for workers in textile-related sectors including garment, footwear, and travel goods for 2023 was pegged at $198, with Prime Minister Hun Sen stepping in to add $2 to the total, making it $200 per month. The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training made the announcement