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[Video] Revitalizing Traditional Khmer Arts With Cambodia’s First Queer Dance Company

When the Khmer Rouge took power in Cambodia, their assault on the elite including murdering 90% of the country’s traditional dancers. Therefore, it’s astounding that only 40 years later a group of native queer artists are performing the elaborate routines.

With origins in 9th-century Ankor, the complex and physically rigorous routines, which share many similarities with western ballet, often tell mythic stories of kings and gods, demons and phantasms. At times, they functioned as prayers to the gods for rain and prosperous harvests. 

Recently people inside and outside Cambodia have been making efforts to preserve and revitalize the art form, including Long Beach California native Prumsodun Ok who recently moved to Phnom Penh and helped found the first gay dance group committed to the ancient art. 

Watch the below Atlas Obscura video on what the Mekong Review describes as “a dance that conjured the flow of rivers and the tight precision of a plant’s minuscule growth. It was both intimate and transcendental,” and learn more about the groundbreaking group via Prumsodun’s Ted Talk.  

Video via Atlas Obscura.

Related Articles:

– Urban Art Flourishes in Cambodia Despite Challenges

– The Battle Is on to Save Cambodia’s ‘New Khmer Architecture’ Legacy

– Inside THE BOAT: Phnom Penh’s Floating Art Space 

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