Saturday, February 16, 2008

Reviving the arts - with a smile

Teenage boys & girls practice a new dance based on the traditional scarf, the krama
Early this morning I visited the Bassac and Dey Krahom area of Phnom Penh. It's the slum area that has been the scene of much aggravation in recent months with many residents holding out against the efforts to remove them from their squatter community. Not too long ago, as many as 12,000 people lived there, today, it's far fewer. I was there with Arn Chorn-Pond, the founder of Cambodian Living Arts. I was tagging along as Maria Bakkalapulo, from Time Magazine, was researching an article on CLA, as it was my first opportunity to visit the Bassac and see for myself the revival of the arts, about which Arn is so passionate. We visited a practice class of teenage performers in one of the rented rooms on the fourth floor of the tenement building. It was wonderful to see how much they enjoyed their practice and how dance has given them an opportunity to escape the evils that lurk around every corner for these youngsters, all of whom live in the Bassac community. The troupe we visited were trying out a couple of new contemporary folk dances, put together by their mentor and teacher, Ieng Sithul and Nop Thida. And they all broke out into beaming smiles when they told us that later in the year they will be performing in France and England - opportunities like this are few and far between and the teenagers are putting in massive efforts to ensure they get a place in the 25-strong group that will be making the trip abroad. More on my visit later.

A passionate Arn Chorn-Pond explains his reasons for starting CLA
A small shrine against the backdrop of the Bassac slum

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Really glad to see that you are writing about this group. Ieng Sithul is one of the legends of Cambodia and the way that he mentors and supports this group is something else. If you want more information about the tour to England please get in touch. Cheers, Dickon