APPRECIATE THE ARTISTRY. Choreographer Emmanuèle Phuon delves into the ancient form of Cambodian classical dance — think elaborately codified court dance — but takes a postmodern tack, showing the audience where this form could go if given the opportunity to be influenced by new ideas.
A MEDITATION IN TWO PARTS. The first dance is a solo piece for a female dancer in the role of Apsara, who sends the prayers of her people to the gods. In the second piece, four dancers take on the traditional Khmer roles of the male, the female, the giant, and the monkey. The music is Western — there's even some rap — and the dancers rebel against their traditional roles, much to the dismay of their teacher and master, who admonishes them to fall in line with tradition.
PAINFUL PAST BUT DON'T EXPECT A PAINFUL DANCE. Cambodia is still wrestling with the legacy of the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge. During the late 70s, dictator Pol Pot wiped out the artistic community, including much of Phuon's family (she is of French-Cambodian descent). Today, the country is slowing rebuilding its traditions, but Phuon isn't interested in reliving the pain, only helping the ancient dance form evolve.