Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - ‘Disorientation’ through dance – in a good way



‘Disorientation’ through dance – in a good way

Students from the Conservatoire de danse de Bagnolet and Children of Bassac rehearse De l’ombre àla lumière at Sisowath High School on Tuesday.
Students from the Conservatoire de danse de Bagnolet and Children of Bassac rehearse De l’ombre àla lumière at Sisowath High School on Tuesday. Heng Chivoan

‘Disorientation’ through dance – in a good way

Across the tiled floors of a small room in Phnom Penh’s Sisowath High School, a group of young dancers this week stomped, pranced and swayed through a choreography set to both heavy percussion and a gentle melody from Vivaldi.

The unlikely pairing of the music in the piece – which is the finale of a six-part show premiering at the French Institute on Friday night – mirrors that of the dancers themselves. The group is a collaboration of 10 students from France’s Conservatoire de danse de Bagnolet and six from Cambodia’s Children of Bassac, all aged 12 to 17. Together their show will feature a mix of Western classical and contemporary ballet, as well as Cambodian folk and classical dance.

“Dance is a pretext to open the children to a culture that is not their own,” says Claire Baulieu, the conservatory’s director.

They’ve been rehearsing together since February 18, but the actual preparation goes back over a year, when Baulieu connected with Cambodian ballet master Voan Savay and began teaching her students Khmer classical and folkloric dance through France’s Association of Khmer Classical Ballet.

“Compared to French classical dance, [Khmer dance] is equally rigorous . . . both are extremely physical,” Baulieu says, noting that while Khmer dancing may not have big jumps, and requires dancers to keep a more “closed” posture, the movements are extremely refined and require immense concentration.

Baulieu has put together similar dance exchange programs, starting in 2012 through her project Dépaysages choréographiques – roughly meaning “choreographic disorientations”. Previous incarnations have been with the United States and Sweden. With Cambodia, they’ve gone further afield, both culturally and geographically.

“It doesn’t matter that the children cannot speak to each other . . . it shows that dance is a universal language,” Baulieu says, noting that the exchange will also take the dancers from Children of Bassac to France next month to repeat the performance.

In addition to dances from the conservatory’s classical repertoire, the show will feature folk dances from Stung Treng and Svay Rieng, the classical Tep Monorom dance (depicting the courtship of gods and goddesses), and as a finale an original choreography by Edith Bellomo, a professor at the conservatory.

Titled De L’ombre a la lumière – “From shadow to light” – Bellomo says the piece is divided into three distinct acts themed around war, followed by “questioning” and rebirth, and finally reconciliation and friendship.

The choreography is particularly relevant, she says, as 2018 is the 100-year anniversary of the end of the First World War – not to mention Cambodia’s own recent history of war.

“The ending is meant to represent the joy of exchange and friendship, and in this case, the Franco-Cambodian friendship,” she says.

Dépaysages Choréographiques premieres at 7pm on Friday in the garden of the French Institute, #218 Street 184. Free entry.

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh curfew starts today

    A two-week curfew from 8pm to 5am starts today in Phnom Penh, a day after a sub-decree detailing administrative measures to contain Covid-19 was issued by Prime Minister Hun Sen. “Travelling in Phnom Penh is temporally banned between 8pm and 5am,” said Phnom Penh governor

  • Covid in Kingdom hits ‘critical point’

    The Covid-19 situation in Cambodia has reached a critical point, the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned, as cases surge with two more deaths and 265 infections reported over the weekend. On March 28 alone, the Ministry of Health recorded 86 Covid-19 cases linked to the February 20

  • Cambodia gears up for muted New Year festival

    The recent curfew and restrictions imposed in the capital and other Covid-19 hotspots were intended to break the chain of transmission, Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine said as municipal and provincial authorities issued new directives banning certain activities during the upcoming Khmer New Year

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Time to Rise by rapper, chapei legend is viral hit with ancient-modern mix

    Kong Nay is known internationally as the master of the chapei dang veng, a traditional Cambodian instrument resembling a long-necked lute or guitar with two nylon strings that he was already playing professionally by the age of 15. Nay is sometimes referred to as the Cambodian

  • Cambodia set for large-scale vaccination campaign as Covid spreads

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has instructed all provincial authorities to get ready for a large-scale vaccination campaign, with at least one million doses to be administered per month. “We will roll out at least one million doses. The vaccines we have purchased and received as