BY BUTH REAKSMEY KONGKEA
A total of 30 Cambodian artists have performed dance routines influenced by the rhythms of African drum. The one day event was held January 23 at the Gasolina Restaurant in Phnom Penh, according to Preap Chanmara, Research Coordinator with the Reyum Institute.
Chanmara said the African dance and drum performance was organized by the Reyum Institute, with financial support from the Albert Kunstadter Family Foundation and the Rockerfeller Foundation.
“This is the first time that the Institute has organized African traditional dancing in Cambodia,” he said. “The purpose of the performance is to facilitate exchanges between international artists and encourage an appreciation for different cultures. Dialogues are encouraged on subjects such as tradition, innovation, and the role of the arts in fostering change,” he told the Cambodia Weekly during interview on January 21.
He said the event will promote traditional and contemporary arts and culture in Cambodia. He added that through the dance performance and drum training, Cambodian artists can gain a deeper insight into the importance and the values of African dances and culture. It will also strengthen the cordial relations that exist between African nations and Cambodia.
The event included performances from 30 Cambodian youths including 15 female artists from different artistic schools and organizations. There was also a chance to see models displaying African and Khmer traditional dresses. He added that Cambodian artists were taught by Geromanine Acogny, the artistic director of JAN-BI/ L’Ecole des Sables which is an international African Dance Center in Senegal.
Geromanine Acogny, a veteran dance teacher with over thirty years experience in performing and teaching in Africa, said that she arrived in Cambodia on January 19 under the auspices of the Network Partnership Program of the Prince Claus Fund and the Reyum Institute.
She said that during her one week stay in the country, she conducted a Modern African Dance and Drum training program for a group of 28 Cambodian dancers. They are already skilled in different forms of dance including Khmer classical dance, contemporary dance, drumming, and circus.
“I note that during my five days of teaching, all Cambodian dancers worked very hard, and performed well. I am very impression that I saw from all of them and I found them to be enthusiastic pupils capable of dancing to an African beat.” she said. “I hope that they can gain a deeper insight into the importance and the values of African dance and culture,” she added.
She also provided a short presentation on the history of African dance as well as demonstrations of her own dance steps. The smile on her face suggested that she was very happy to share her experience with Cambodian dancers.
“I am happy to teach African dance in Cambodia and I have had a very interesting experience,” she said. “There are many similarities between African and Cambodian dance and each and every gesture has a meaning.” she added.
Yiv Chhoy, 22, another Cambodian student from RUFA who participated at the African dance and drum performance, said that he enjoyed learning about traditional African dance.
“This is the first time that I have been exposed to the African form of dance.” he said. “The basic routines are a lot faster than I am used to but I enjoyed the experience and learned a lot”.