Indagare contributor Tiffany Schauer recently traveled to Cambodia, including Phnom Penh (read her city highlights), where she saw rehearsals for a new dance piece by pioneering Cambodian dance troupe Amrita Performing Arts. The troupe will be visiting New York in June, and will perform Khmeropédies I & II, choreographed by Emmanuèle Phuon, at the Baryshnikov Arts Center (for more information, visit the Center’s Web site at: www.bacnyc.org). Here Schauer describes the experience of watching this special piece take shape.
“Recently, independent filmmaker Douglas Varchol invited me to Phnom Penh to see the development of a dance performance to be put on by Amrita Performing Arts. Amrita was founded by our friend Fred Frumberg. Fred has a long history in the world of the performing arts. He’s worked with the Paris and Netherlands Operas and is currently working with the New York’s Metropolitan Opera on the upcoming Nixon in China production. During his illustrious career, he has supported such artists as stage directors Peter Sellers, Francesca Zambello and Deborah Warner. (Fred is also the most humble being will you ever come across.)
Fred’s other karmic passion is Amrita. Since 2003, Fred, an American, has lived full-time in Phnom Penh running Amrita to help Cambodians reclaim and heal their ancient heritage of dance and theater. Fred is providing a safe place and the support for the Cambodian dancers to begin the process of expressing themselves through modern reconstruction or deconstruction of those historical forms. And its something to see. I sat in a rehearsal of the latest piece to be presented in New York in June. The piece was stunning. The art of dance seemed to be the perfect way to reflect the resilience of the people and energy of Cambodians then and Cambodians now. Culturally, Cambodians are respectful and reverent people. The country’s history remains present and palpable. Yet the more painful past seems to be starting to subside slightly from the cultural consciousness. There are spring-like signs of new life and energy poking through with a vibrancy that seems like sparks right before a glorious warm fire. If you get a chance to see them, you are lucky indeed, as we were!
The dancers are physically beautiful and classically trained. Yet while watching the dance, I was able to see the individuals’ personal triumphs breaking through, bringing the modern back to the traditional with elegance, refinement, mischievousness, bold confidence and finally celebration. There were also some really cheeky monkey moves and rock star rappin’ too. (The rehearsal made Douglas cry, and he can be a pretty cynical journalist sometimes!) If you are based in New York, you cannot miss this extraordinary troupe and performance.
The opening night gala, followed by a receptions with the artists, takes place on June 24 in New York City. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.amritaperformingarts.org or the box office at the Howard Gilman Performance Space (Baryshnikov Arts Center; 450 W. 37th St.; New York, NY; 212 868 4444).