It was three for the price of one on Sunday at the big top at Phare, with Dance Siem Reap unfolding featuring performances from three different troupes for Our City Festival 2014.
The Phare team produced Art and Rush, in which the circus met “the hustle and bustle of Siem Reap.” The contemporary dance piece Into My Arms saw the female trio from New Cambodian Artists perform, and 63 artists from the Sacred Dancers of Angkor troupe took to the stage for Angkor Wat Revisited, the company’s first “play/performance.”
Written by Ravynn Karet-Coxen, founder of the Nginn Karet Foundation for Cambodia, the play dealt with “the importance of the cultural and traditional considerations of the Khmer Angkorian temples as living temples, and part of contemporary urban life.”
It began with a group of tourists walking out onto stage, admiring the bas-reliefs of Angkor Wat, their guide explaining its history. They are interrupted by an explosion and a puff of smoke through which nine Apsara dancers appear. Throughout the play, more “apparitions” appear, stunning the tourists, and by the end they understand the significance of the spirits inhabiting the temples, and the respect due to them.
Speaking before the performance, Karet-Coxen said it was the first time the NKFC had had actors as well as dancers on stage.
“This will be a first to have a play performance with Khmer classical ballet,” she said. “We have 63 artists from our Conservatoire coming from Banteay Srei, who have rehearsed tirelessly since I only wrote and choreographed the play three weeks ago.”
Phare, The Cambodian Circus, also came up with a new show for the festival, exploring an ever-recurring theme in Siem Reap: litter.
“I just started by asking the students the question, ‘What does our city mean to you?’” says artistic director Gauthier Jansen. “They said it’s always the same problem – when you’re a kid you have to collect rubbish. You have to be in the rhythm of the city. In the city you just don’t think about things. I wanted to combine the two concepts of rush – because when we work in town we have no time to think about that kind of problem – and art. When we are artists the only way to create is to take time.”
For Art and Rush the stage was littered with rubbish – the artists, dressed in rags, performed clever routines sweeping plastic bags with brooms, culminating in some impressive acrobatics. The finale was the revealing of an enormous man, made of plastic rubbish and bin-liners, which was paraded round on stage.
New Cambodian Artists – formerly Bambu Stretch Project – performed a contemporary piece directed by Bob Ruijzendaal, combining Apsara moves with hip hop dance, and modern music, including French rap and the titular Into My Arms by Nick Cave.
Ruijzendaal says the theme was people in the city trying to find a connection.
“Wherever people are, you’re looking for contact, and when you find it, it’s gone again,” he says. “It’s more about how humans are in a city. It’s about people trying to find contact.”