On a stage reserved for the elegant ceremony of Cambodian classical dance, also known as Apsara, New Cambodian Artists (NCA) create a maelstrom of movement, reflecting the dreams of a country that’s quickly modernizing and shaking off the ghosts of the past.
Contemporary dance is rare in Cambodia, where artistic lineages were severed and nearly stamped out in the late 1970s in the Khmer Rouge’s bloody persecution of artists and intellectuals. The arts were mangled and left for dead.
The few dance masters who survived the purges have spent the last three decades trying to revive dance. And while arts funding remains scarce, one could cite NCA’s success as a return to creativity.
在专门为舞姿优雅的仙女舞（Apsara，一种柬埔寨传统舞蹈）表演的舞台上，新柬埔寨艺术舞团（New Cambodian Artists，简称为 NCA）这个舞蹈团体掀起了一场震撼的舞蹈革命，反映出柬埔寨这个国家快速的现代化进程、致力摆脱历史阴影的愿景。
现代舞在柬埔寨并不普遍。 19 世纪 70 年代末，红色高棉政权杀害了许多艺术家和知识分子，当地艺术的传承脉络被狠狠切断，几近是彻底摧毁，导致艺术发展遭受严重破坏，濒临灭亡。
Founded in 2012 by Dutch artist director Bob Ruijzendaal, NCA is now co-owned by its four female dancers and its director, Srey Neung. It is Cambodia’s first certified contemporary dance company—and such a certification exists only because they spent 2016 lobbying for it at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Art.
Their performances thrive on raw emotionality. Their limbs shake and swerve with the passion of a nation, and their hands unfold like lotus flowers blooming in the mire. It’s a completely new take on contemporary dance: unlike Western styles that grew out of ballet, NCA’s dance is rooted in Apsara.
New Cambodian Artists（NCA）舞团由荷兰艺术总监 Bob Ruijzendaal 创立于2012年，如今由四位女舞蹈家以及总监 Srey Neung 共同经营管理。他们不断向柬埔寨艺术和文化部游说，终于在 2016 年获得认证成为柬埔寨第一家现代舞公司。整个过程最困难的是，柬埔寨当时甚至不存在这种认证。
“Everything is different because of their classical training,” says Ruijzendaal. “In traditional Cambodian dance, the back is hollow. They have grounded toes and their hands are overextended. They do everything they would kill you for in a classical dance class in Europe.”
Khun Sreynoch, one of the dancers, says she’s trained in Cambodian classical dance since childhood. “We still practice the classical movements one or two hours a week to make sure we maintain the correct postures,” she says. “We base all our new movements on the classical style so we don’t forget it.”
“The contemporary style felt new and very crazy at first,” she continued. “We all came from a classical background, so it was uncomfortable at first, but we slowly got used to it. But later on, we ate it all up and we couldn’t stop because it is new and cool.”
“由于她们接受过古典舞蹈的训练，所以一切会非常不同。” Ruijzendaal 说，“传统柬埔寨舞蹈要求舞者的背要凹起，脚趾紧贴地面，双手尽可能往外伸。这与欧洲的古典舞蹈训练是截然相反的。”
其中一位舞者 Sreynoch 表示，她从小就接受柬埔寨古典舞蹈的训练。她说：“我们每周仍然要花一两个小时练习基本动作以确保姿势正确。毕竟我们所有动作都是以这种传统舞蹈为基础设计的，所以我们不能忘记。”
Cambodian dance legend Sophiline Cheam Shapiro is credited with giving the first contemporary dance performance in Cambodia in 1999, when she interpreted Shakespeare’s Othello using Apsara dancers. It was meant as a message to the old Khmer Rouge leaders, who were then still alive.
“I lost my dad and two brothers [in the Khmer Rouge years] . . . and my country was devastated,” she says. “Othello had to take responsibility for killing Desdemona . . . I wanted to use that story to say that the head of the house, or the leader of a country in this case, has to be held accountable for their actions and decisions.”
It’s a tragic history, and Sreynoch and NCA are mindful of it. Yet in a country where over half the population is under 30, the current mood is to push forward into new creations. Sreynoch is developing a solo in which she performs classical dance moves in red stilettos, an innovation unlikely to please dance traditionalists.
“The conservatives say we can’t touch traditional moves,” she says. “They will say I am destroying Cambodian culture, but I think I’m developing it and making it fresher and more special.”
相传，柬埔寨舞蹈界的传奇人物 Sophiline Cheam Shapiro 在1999年开创了柬埔寨的现代舞蹈表演。当时，她带领仙女舞者用舞蹈演绎了莎士比亚的四大悲剧之一《奥赛罗》（Othello）。这次的表演其实是要向当时尚在世的红色高棉掌权者传递一个信息。
Sreynoch 和 NCA 清楚记得这一段悲惨的历史，但是在一个30岁以下青年占去一半人口的国家，更重要的是创新与前进。目前，她正在创作一个独舞，穿着红色高跟鞋来表演传统舞步，但保守的传统舞者可能不太欢迎这种创新舞蹈。
Hab Touch, director-general of intangible heritage at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Art, is tasked with protecting and promoting traditional Cambodian art. He says it’s tough to find common ground between conservative elements and those who want to innovate.
“We want to offer modern styles, so we are trying to work with our partners and ask, ‘what is Cambodian contemporary art?’” he says. “It’s a good process and we hope to increase the presence of contemporary art.”
At NCA’s studio in Siem Reap, rehearsals go on well into the evening. Sreynoch is working on her solo, striking poses in her stilettos. Suddenly she discards the shoes and whirls, barefoot, in a series of gymnastic pirouettes and backbends.
She says the performance is about the development of a person’s character. “I use the Apsara movements to show that I am a Cambodian lady,” she says. “I put on the red shoes to show that I can be strong, but then I start to think, Why do I even need the shoes? I am strong enough. So I throw them away.”
文化与艺术部部长 Hab Touch 的职责在于保护和促进柬埔寨传统艺术。他说，要在保守人士和那些想要创新的人之间寻求共同点，并非易事。
在 NCA 位于暹粒的工作室里，彩排持续到了晚上。Sreynoch 还在排练着她的独舞表演，踩着高跟鞋翩翩起舞。突然，她脱掉了鞋子，赤着脚，就像一名专业的体操运动员旋转趾尖、后仰弯腰。
Contributor: Nathan Thompson
Photographer & Videographer: Enric Catala Contreras
供稿人: Nathan Thompson
图片与视频摄影师: Enric Catala Contreras