27 May 2019
Named after Cambodia’s national flower and inspired by traditional Khmer dance, the new contemporary dance known as romdoul premiered at the 6th Khmer Cultural Festival in April, receiving rapturous applause for its creativity and liveliness.
Choreographed by classical dance expert Hang Phumra – also known by his stage name Yey Kantere – romdoul is garnering a lot of interest from both locals and foreigners.
Phumra is director of Khmer Art Reek Sai – a group dedicated to the preservation of Khmer culture through art – and is also head of dance performance group Lakhaon Khaol Youth of Cambodia.
With his expertise in traditional dance, 32-year-old Phumra believes the art form can be re-imagined to fit the modern age and attract a wider audience.
He chose romdoul as the name of the dance as the flower symbolises his and Cambodia’s commitment to environmental preservation.
Phumra says that he aspired to create a modern dance which is lively and dynamic to attract a diverse audience.
“I want to enrich our cultural dances, so we have to diversify it in various forms, with some traditional dances remade into contemporary ones,” he says.
His idea of modernising classical Khmer dance is supported by the government.
“We need to preserve our culture, and develop and promote it in the modern day. I consulted and got approval from the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts before I created the romdoul contemporary dance. The dance is inspired by traditional Khmer dance,” Phumra says.
He spent about one month choreographing and designing the props for the new dance, before spending another month training his students.
The remake still bears traditional elements, but it was intentionally energetic to appeal to younger audiences.
“I maintain the traditional costume and the structure of the performers, but I also injected some dynamic choreography into it to make the show more rich and lively,” he says.
Dressed in traditional costume, the team of male and female dancers performing at the 6th Khmer Cultural Festival held six giant petals of the fragrant romdoul flower – officially recognised as Cambodia’s national flower by King Sihamoni in 2005.
The performance represented the growing allure of a contemporary Khmer dance, which is attracting more attention from local audiences than never before.
Previously, contemporary dance was regarded as a foreign influenced art form, occasionally frowned upon by traditionalists and conservation groups.
One example of this is the Siem Reap based all-female troupe New Cambodian Artists, who say they have often been regarded as harming Cambodian culture.