Reviving—and Reinventing—the Magic of Khmer Classical Dance - Atlas Obscura
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Reviving—and Reinventing—the Magic of Khmer Classical Dance

Cambodia’s first LGBTQ dance company has big dreams.

Prumsodun Ok is a Khmer classical dancer, choreographer, and the founding artistic director behind Prumsodun Ok and Natyarasa, Cambodia’s first LGBTQ dance company. The company began in Ok’s living room in 2015, with the goal of not only preserving a 1,000-year-old art form, but also creating innovative works that reflect the LGBTQ experience in Cambodia.

Khmer classical dance has roots in animism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Ok describes it as entertainment, worship, and education all at once. In the 1970s, when the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime was targeting elites around the country, an estimated 90 percent of Khmer classical dancers were among those who were killed. As Ok puts it, “It was a real tragic loss because Khmer classical dance is not passed on in a book.”

In the video above, Ok says that reviving and preserving Khmer classical dance is both a protest against a history of violence and a gesture of resilience. He hopes Khmer classical dance will be preserved and used to create new works of art that would make his dancers’ ancestors say, “Wow, I never would’ve imagined that.”

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