Lights, stages and thousands of onlookers, all of whom came to see young Cambodians do what they love to do – dance. The event included traditional Cambodian styles of dance, hip-hop and everything in between. The people participating had a wide range of experience in dance, with some participants having practiced dance for just over a year and others for well over a decade, but they all had one thing in common, a passion for movement.
While an enthusiasm for dance brought them together, the dancers had a wide range of reasons for embracing dance in their lives. Hon Sopheap, an 18-year-old who performed what he called a “new-fashion” dance that drew much of its inspiration from French styles, said that he likes dancing because, “I look cool and I like having lots of people watching me. I feel happy when I dance.”
Other dancers seemed to have a deeper purpose to their work. Twenty-two-year-old Noun Sovitoo, who choreographed and performed an interpretive dance with two other young men, said that he hopes to use dance to send a message to other teenagers and young Cambodians. “I want to show that all people, whether they are ethnic Cambodians, farm boys or fisherman, are part of the same group of people,” he explained. In his dance, the three men wore very different outfits, each representing one of the aforementioned groups, and at the end they all march together under the command of their general. “I want people to realise that we are all different but we have the same purpose in serving our country,” said Nuon Sovitoo.
As far as making a career out of dancing, the people involved in the event admitted that it is nearly impossible to earn a living only through dance. Sodha Chivy, 25, who has been dancing for 16 years, explained that “in Cambodia you can not make a living through dancing”, adding that her only steady income from dancing comes from teaching private lessons. While Sodha Chivy has not made a lot of money from dance, her experiences are worth millions of dollars. She has been able to visit America, India, Europe and many other places to present Khmer dancing to international audiences.
Flip, an 18-year-old break dancer who has been studying at Tiny Toones dance centre for three years, says that he is still holding out hope for a dancing career, but does not expect it to sustain him forever. “I think I will dance until I am 30 and then I will become a businessman. If you are old, nobody wants to watch you dance,” he explained. While dancing may not make you rich, it can certainly make you happy, so even if you don’t want to be a professional, strap on your dancing shoes and have a good time.