Siem Reap’s former Art School has reinvented itself as The Music and Art School of Siem Reap and, while previously specialising exclusively in music classes, the school will teach 20 different disciplines of music and dance, including salsa, hip hop and afro dance.
A taster of what’s available will be presented at a special performance by teachers at 6pm on August 30 at Hard Rock Café.
Director Alexandre Scarpati says that the school was founded on the idea that “exposure to art dramatically enhances learning, life skills, cognitive development, social awareness and problem solving.”
French conservatoire trained Scarpati, who also plays the trombone and is artistic director of various bands around town, strives to give each student “the best art education possible.”
Classes are open to both children and adults. There is a Kids’ Art School aimed at children from grades six to twelve, teaching dancing, circus skills, capoeira, drawing and music. Adults can unleash their inner artist at the Fine Arts Studio, guided by Yim Maline who studied visual art at Phare Ponleu Selpak, and École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in France.
“We have three departments: Khmer, traditional and classical,” says coordinator Fred Breerette, who formerly ran his own art school in Bordeaux.
“I teach batucada – Brazilian drumming. In the classical department we teach music the same way you would in a conservatory in France – you learn how to read and do musical notation.
“We have both private and both group classes. We wanted to have the conservatory method in Siem Reap – there is nowhere like that here.”
The traditional department focuses on salsa, capoeira and afro dance, and djembe, conga, and batucada drumming, while the Khmer department is staffed by teachers from the Tlai Tno Association (performers of classical Cambodian dance) who run classes on Apsara and folk dance, plus traditional Khmer instruments such as the roneat ek (wooden xylophone) and the tro Khmer (bowed stringed instrument).
“We expect to have a lot of interest in Latin dance and African dance, especially salsa,” says Breerette. “There are no other salsa teachers here.”
Teachers come from as far afield as Japan, Russia and Columbia, with many having had a classical training. Breerette says most were already living in Siem Reap.
“There are some people here who have skills,” he says. “But they don’t use them because they have some other job. For example, Matéo our salsa and capoeira teacher, is a photographer but actually he’s also a tightrope walker. He can do many things, and can also play drums and sing.”