Sunday, December 12, 2010

Absolutely adorable

Em Theay - I hope she will go on forever
Continuing the dance theme, I was fortunate to meet up with the adorable Em Theay for more than an hour this morning, in what I can only describe as a private audience with the icon of traditional Cambodian classical dance. Accompanied by Hannah from England and her tour guide, Eak, we sat in a small pavilion on the banks of the Tonle Sap in the grounds of Chaktomuk Theatre as Em Theay regaled us with tales of her childhood in the royal palace, the thwacks of her teacher's cane when she did something wrong and the long hours spent practicing the love of her life, classical dance. Despite her advancing years, she can't help herself and had to show us some of her poses, that she performed as a dancer and taught as a teacher, sang a few songs and explained why dance is so important to her. She spoke with great affection for King Sihanouk and recalled the desperately sad years of the Khmer Rouge, where she survived only because the local commander liked her dancing and singing. Now 80 years old, she is determined to reach 100 and to carry on helping others appreciate the art of dance that has brought her so much happiness throughout her own life. It is always a real privilege to spend time with Em Theay and as a memento I gave her a copy of my book, which contains a story I wrote about her. Unfortunately my camera is still playing silly buggers and ruined the picture of us together, but here are a few snaps I did manage to salvage.
Em Theay shows us a few monkey moves
LtoR: Eak, Em Theay and Hannah
Postures and hand movements are such an important part of classical dance
On her feet, she cannot stop herself from dancing and singing



Anonymous Mike Krause said...

Simply awesome...

December 12, 2010 at 1:18 PM  
Blogger janet brown said...

Oh my god I love her! You told Kim and me about this lady when we were in Phnom Penh--I knew she had to be phenomenal from your story but...she is a force of nature. Thanks, Andy--hope I meet her someday.

December 12, 2010 at 2:57 PM  
Blogger Andy Brouwer said...

I love her too. She's a wonderful woman who has done so much to resurrect classical Cambodian dance. Someone must write a book about her life before we lose this national treasure. As she says, she isn't getting any younger and her memory is playing tricks on her, though on the other hand, she is determined to reach the age of 100, in fact she's adamant about it. Sitting on the banks of the river, watching her demonstrate some of the basic classical postures and listening to her sing was just about the best way ever to spend a Sunday morning.

December 13, 2010 at 3:03 AM  
Blogger Mary Carver-Stiehler said...

She is a living treasure Andy. I have heard of her and to see her still nimble. Yes, a book should be done of her.
Brendan is on his way back to Cambodia as I type, look him up.

December 13, 2010 at 6:03 PM  

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