ALTHOUGH lots of people, especially teenagers, are dismissive about their own culture and prefer to keep abreast of cultural trends from other countries, 19-year-old Khat Sophanny has chosen traditional dance as her career.
In contrast to other young Cambodians, her world revolves around studying, teaching and performing traditional Khmer dance.
Arriving at a birthday-party tent at 5pm, I went straight to talk to Khat Sophanny. I saw Phanny and members of her musical group having a meal at a circular table. After she had satisfied her hunger, she shared some make-up secrets.
“As a dancer and also a singer, I have to know how to use make-up,” she said.
By then, it was 5:30pm and Khat Sophanny’s work was about to begin. Standing on the stage, this elegant young woman looked really cool.
I couldn’t help staring at her movements and listening to her bird-like voice.
After Khat Sophanny had finished each song, I asked her a few questions and let her share some of her experiences.
“I began to love, and perform, traditional dances when I was six years old,” she said. ”I was blamed by my mother and others for learning such a skill, because most people believe that being a dancer or singer is bad work for a person.”
Khat Sophanny joked that she needed to hide from her mother to learn dancing. At the same time, she had to help her mother with housework.
At the age of 17, Khat Sophanny began earning money from dancing because she could dance in public with an organisation she did volunteer work for. She jokes that now she is earning some money and can help her family, she can easily change her mother’s mind about dancing.
Khat Sophanny told me she was not only helping her family but also helping Cambodia to show off its brilliant culture by being given the chance to go to Vietnam to perform Khmer traditional dance and sing Khmer traditional songs.
“I won’t give up Khmer traditional dance, even though recently I’ve been singing more than dancing. I will promote Khmer traditional dance as much as I can,” she said.
“My fiancé and I are also going to start a small business by creating a group of musicians.”
I suddenly noticed that the time was 8:15pm. Even with interruptions, it had been a fascinating conversation with a gifted performer, and it had given me a lot of insight into the difficulties a dancer can experience before he or she achieves success.។